7 Essential Bunker Game Tips

If you are anything like other amateur golfers, you probably hate the sight of your golf ball dropping into a greenside bunker. Most players hate to see their ball wind up in the sand – despite the fact that playing from the sand is often easier than chipping from the rough. Once you know how to handle greenside bunker shots, you may find that most of your fear fades away. The average professional golfer doesn’t really mind playing from the bunker, as a skilled player can control the ball nicely from a clean lie in the sand.

The tips below are meant to help you conquer your fear of greenside bunker shots. Once you have reviewed these tips, head to your local golf course to work on your technique in advance of your next round. Between the advice below and the practice time you are going to invest, it is likely you will improve your performance from the sand in your very next round.

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#1 – Swing Hard

This is a point which is difficult for many amateur golfers to grasp. Yes, you do need to swing hard when playing a greenside bunker shot, even though you may be only a few yards from the target. Why the hard swing from such close range? Simple – it all comes down to physics. The weight of the sand is going to drastically reduce the speed of your club at it approaches the hitting area, so you need to start with plenty of speed if you are going to have anything left when you reach the ball.  If you learn nothing else from this article, at least remember the lesson that you need to swing hard when playing from a greenside bunker. This single tip alone can help significantly improve your performance.

#2 – Lay the Face Wide Open

Here we find another tip that seems to give the average golfer quite a bit of trouble. When playing from the sand, you need to lay the face of your wedge wide open in order to cut under the ball successfully. You aren’t actually trying to hit the ball – you are trying to hit the sand behind the ball, which will propel the ball up onto the green. To make this work, it is essential that the face is laid open. While it might look ‘weird’ at address, trust this setup tip and your bunker shots will take a step forward.

#3 – Open Your Stance

The ideal path through the sand when playing a greenside bunker shot is from outside-in, so setup with an open stance to promote such a swing. Open your body up to the target at address and play the ball toward the front of your stance to give yourself plenty of room to get the club into the sand before you reach the ball. As you are building your stance, make sure to flex your knees sufficiently as well – flexed knees with an open stance will make it easy to perform the kind of swing needed for explosion shots.

#4 – Use Plenty of Wrist Action

When playing a shot from the grass, you usually want to keep your hands and wrists relatively quiet during the swing. It is the big muscles which are in charge of those kinds of shots, so your wrists need to mostly stay out of the way. The story is different, however, in the bunker. When blasting the ball out of the sand, you want to set your wrists almost immediately upon starting your swing. Doing so will elevate the club head and set your swing on a path which will allow you to hit down effectively at the bottom. Also, this type of wrist hinge will help you produce a bit more speed throughout the swing. As you practice your bunker shots prior to your next round, be sure to focus on using plenty of wrist action.

#5 – Evaluate Your Lie

As is the case around the rest of the course, the lie you draw in the bunker will have a lot to do with the kind of shot you can play. If you have a clean lie on top of the sand, you can proceed with your basic explosion shot technique. However, if the ball is buried in the sand, or if the sand is wet and firm, you will need to square up the face and play a chipping-style shot. Trying to play a shot which is not going to work based on your lie is always a bad idea, so don’t even go down that road.

#6 – Pick a Specific Target

Many golfers simply climb down into the bunker, aim in the general direction of the hole, and hope for the best. Obviously, this method is somewhat less than desirable. Instead, you should be picking out a specific target for each and every one of your bunker shots. Decide where you want the ball to land and then focus all of your attention on that spot. You aren’t going to hit your spot every time, but centering your focus on a landing spot will improve your consistency overall.

#7 – Swing to a Full Finish

It is important that you finish your swing when playing from a greenside bunker. It might be tempting to let the club stop as soon as it hits the sand, but doing so could cause your shot to come up short. Instead, think about swinging up to a full finish just as you would when hitting a regular shot off of the grass. For a standard explosion shot, try to follow through far enough to have the grip end of the club at least above your waist – if not up around your shoulder. A full follow through may seem a bit odd at first when you are playing from just off the side of the green, but the speed that comes with such a follow through is crucial to get through the sand cleanly. Good luck!

Golf shot from sand bunker golfer hitting ball from hazard — Photo by Daxiao_Productions/Deposit Photos

Matt Ristine

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