When most golfers climb into a greenside bunker, it’s like an out-of-body experience. They lose all sense of what they need to do, fear takes over, and a few hacks later… triple-bogey.

The good news is, most of the mistakes I see come at address, and those are the easy ones to fix. A lot of golfers play the ball back and push their hands ahead. Typical miss: chunk. Others set up tilting away from the target. Typical miss: skull.

Resist the urge to dig.
Ball forward, and slide under it.

So let’s check your setup:

First, open the clubface. That adds loft and helps the club slide through the sand. Rotate the face open, then grip with your top hand, setting your thumb on the top of the handle. Add your bottom hand. Opening the clubface before you grip helps keep it open during the swing.    

Second, play the ball forward in your stance, in line with your front foot. That pre-sets hitting the sand a few inches behind the ball. The shaft should be straight up and down or leaning slightly away from the target – another key to maintaining loft and promoting that sliding action.

Third, dig in your feet a little and lean your body over your front foot. That’ll give you the descent you need on the downswing to drive the club through the sand and under the ball. Focus on a spot a few inches behind the ball, that’s where you want the club to touch down in the sand.

Now you’re in a great position to hit the shot. All I want you to think about is spanking the sand and keeping up your speed to the finish. You’ll be amazed how your fear disappears after you see a few good ones.

Bunker buster:  make it routine

Crazy as it sounds, most golfers ignore the parts of the game where they struggle. Just go to the practice bunker at your course. Who’s there? Nobody. If you just take 10 or 15 minutes a week in the sand, using the keys we discussed, you’ll see big improvement. And hit the shots like they really matter; don’t just rapid-fire them. Go step-by-step through the setup points, and think positive: spank the sand, and follow through. In no time, you can turn one of your worst shots into one of your best.

Read here for more instruction from Butch Harmon and New Zealand Golf Digest.

Butch Harmon is a Golf Digest Teaching Professional and he spoke with Peter Morrice