Like any player who relies on the short game to score, you've probably grooved a pretty good sand technique: Open the clubface, open the stance, play the ball forward, and make a three-quarter swing. The club throws out a pillow of sand which floats the ball onto the green. Having developed a feel for this basic shot, it's simple and easy to repeat-that is, from a flat lie. This procedure isn't as effective from an uphill or downhill lie, however, when a few significant alterations are required.
A slightly uphill lie is a blessing. It's easier to cut under the ball and send it up and over the bunker lip. But if the slope is more severe, adjustments are necessary to keep the ball from flying straight up into the air.
Dig your feet into the sand as you normally would, but with more emphasis on your back foot, your anchor. Don't aim left of the target; instead, keep your feet square to the hole because the ball will tend to go left off the slope. Play the ball forward in your stance and open the clubface slightly; remember, the slope will send the ball high, so there's no need to dramatically open the clubface. From there, make a full backswing with the arms and think about swinging through impact with the club moving along the slope. Expect to fall back a bit at the finish. The idea is to take less sand than usual; if you chop down into the bunker, you'll take a big divot and the ball won't fly as far as you need it to. Keeping wrist action to a minimum also will help.
This is the toughest bunker shot because it requires a severely steep angle of attack to make contact behind the ball, while the angle of the hill makes it tough to gain much height. If the hole is cut near the edge of the bunker or the green runs downhill, chances of getting the ball close are slim. But if you have some green to work with, there's hope.
To handle the downhill lie, reverse the technique used for the uphill lie. Anchor yourself with your front foot and open your stance, because the ball will want to go right. Position the ball an inch farther back than normal and lay the clubface open. You'll need all the loft you can get to counter the effect of the hill, which delofts the club. Start back with a full wrist cock to create a steep clubhead path. To ensure that you swing down the slope, try to cut a long divot of sand while still making contact an inch behind the ball. The shot will come out low, so play for roll.
Sidehill lies from a bunker aren't too tough because the technique is close to that used for a level lie. Don't alter the steepness of your swing, but do take into account how the slope will affect the flight of the ball. If the ball is above your feet, it will want to go left; if it's below your feet, it will tend to go right. Adjust your stance accordingly, and, as always, swing along the slope. To make this easier, flex your knees more and stand closer to the ball when it lies below your feet; stand straighter and farther from the ball when it lies above.
Private Lessons 1999 Times Mirror Magazines, Inc., used under license by GolfServ Online, Inc. Instructional information provided by Golf Magazine.