Ahead of the English Senior Open at Rockliffe Hall, europeantour.com's Will Pearson caught up with Zimbabwean sand master and television pundit Tony Johnstone to get his quick-fire lowdown on bunker play…
The European Senior Tour is awash with legends of the game and the array of golfing talent on show week-in week-out is as plentiful as it is impressive.
From the huge driving Argentinian rookie Cesar Monasterio, to the revered putting stroke of Gary Wolstenholme, to The Ryder Cup pedigree of Messrs Mark James, Barry Lane, Sam Torrance and Ian Woosnam et al., there are few better at escaping the grainy clutches of golf’s sand traps than Tony Johnstone.
Rockliffe Hall, the stunning County Durham venue this week hosting the English Senior Open for a second successive year, is well-known for its abundant use of mesmerising bunkering so Johnstone’s proficiency with a wedge should come in handy.
But you too could have the silky smooth bunker play of Mr Johnstone with these ten quick tips:
TONY JOHNSTONE’S TEN KEYS TO GOOD BUNKER PLAY
1. Bunker play is the one shot where you don’t actually watch the ball. Pick a spot in the sand around half an inch to an inch behind the ball and make a mental line behind it (or a physical one if you are just practicing!)
2. Forget about the ball, imagine it’s not there, and concentrate only on that spot, that line in the sand, that one grain
3. Set up with your stance open to the target
4. It’s a personal preference but I use a slightly narrower stance to allow for a greater range of movement with the club
5. Set the face of your club open slightly. That does three things: Helps you get the ball up slightly quicker; compensates for the fact you are aiming left; enables you to use the bounce on the sole of the golf club to stop it digging into the sand
6. Swing the club from out to in along your toe line – not in line to the flag. A lot of people set up open then swing to the target line and that inevitably leads to a fat or a thin every time
7. Let the club-head go past your hands and down into the sand on the way through
8. Hear the ball land before you look up. That sounds very easy but let me tell you it is not
9. Watch the greats. Gary Player, Seve, the perhaps lesser-known likes of Simon Hobday, were all fantastic players from the sand with exemplary technique that anyone can learn a lot from
10. Don’t listen to new theories! If anyone tells you that bunker technique has evolved into something even slightly different to the above, grab your clubs, look for the nearest exit and then run like hell
To watch a video of Johnstone’s bunker tips, tune into the highlights show from the English Senior Open next Tuesday night.