When most golfers see their ball flying toward a greenside bunker they begin to panic. Why? Because the greenside bunker shot is one of the most intimidating shots for most amateur players. On the other side of the coin, better players actually prefer to be in a greenside bunker than chipping from rough around the green. Why? Because they do not fear the bunker shot and they use the sand to their advantage.

All good bunker players do the following:

• They open their stance and open the clubface as they address the ball. This allows them to cut across the ball (swing from outside in) upon impact. This helps slide the club head under the ball which pops the ball out of the sand.

• They concentrate on striking the bottom of the club head approximately two inches behind the ball (they hit the sand behind the ball, not the ball). This allows the sand to lift the ball out and up out of the bunker.

• They release the hands through the impact zone and follow through. To be a good bunker player you need "speed" during the swing to propel the ball out of the bunker. Most times a poor bunker shot is the result of slowing your swing down as you hit the sand. This results in the sand stopping the club head which leads to a chunk, leaving the ball in the bunker.

A practice drill for improved bunker play:

Remember, a sand wedge was designed to slide under the ball, you don't need to try and lift the ball out, the club head will do it for you. A drill that will help is to draw a line in the sand approximately two inches behind the ball and practice taking a sand divot under the ball. Be sure to release your hands through the impact zone and follow through, don't hit the sand and stop, swing the club head through at a good speed.

Do these things and you will never fear a bunker shot again!

Steve Nixon is the head golf professional at Chockoyotte Country Club in Weldon. Call the Club at 252-536-3166.