Many golfers struggle with the bunker shots area of their golf game. But the good news is that with a few swing adjustments, you can easily hit bunker shots from the sand that get close to the pin to help you save more pars on your scorecard.
In this how to hit a bunker shot guide, we’ll give you tips and drills to help you quickly assess the type of bunker shot you’re facing and what you need to do to save your score.
5 Tips on How to Hit a Bunker Shot
Finding the Right Club
When facing a bunker shot close to the green, you need a club with plenty of loft to easily lift the ball from trouble.
Grabbing a sand wedge with a 56-degree loft is always a good place to start, but sometimes you’ll need the 60-degree lob wedge if you are looking at a close range play where you need golf balls to stop quickly.
As you first walk into the bunker, assess the distance to the target and how much putting surface you have to work with for your shot. By factoring in the distance and necessary speed, you should easily find the right club selection.
Pro Tip: If you are facing a bunker play where there’s a low lip on the sand trap and relatively no elevation to overcome, consider using a pitching wedge for your shot. The strike will come out lower, so you can exercise more control over your shot.
You also don’t need a complicated golf swing with this approach. You can simply take the club back and through the impact zone.
Placing Your Feet Into The Sand
You’ve probably seen many professional golfers enter a sand trap and immediately dig each foot into the sand. The reason they do this is for traction.
Also, when they dig deeper, they place their foot line lower than the golf ball because they want to hit behind the ball to lift it with spin quickly.
Your stance should be open with the toe of your lead foot, creating a direct line with the midsole of your back foot.
By having the clubface slightly open, you can sweep the golf ball with more control, allowing the leading edge of the club face to easily get underneath the ball to create spin.
The correct ball position demands you place the ball forward of your center line. Some golfers like to adjust the location based on the length of the shot.
If you are striking a short bunker shot, the swing thought in your head should imagine a steep swing with the impact point positioned just inside the front foot, for example.
Positioning the Club
After your front foot and back foot is set with an open stance, you want an open club face at address with the golf ball. Even though the face is open, you want it facing the target area for the shot.
Sand shots from medium distances think 10-20 yards, need an open club face that allows the golf club to get under golf balls with minimal effort.
Each wedge has something called “bounce,” that’s the distance between the front edge of the face and the end of the sole. You want wedges with a high bounce to make your short game easier from the sand.
Pro Tip: If you are wondering “how much sand do I hit behind the golf ball?” the answer is roughly one inch before where the ball lies.
If the sand is fluffy and soft and you need to stop the shot quickly, striking the golf ball further behind it will help you hit high for a soft landing.
Striking the Sand First
When you are analyzing your upcoming bunker swing, a good bunker shot utilizes a steep angle swing path that directly strikes the sand behind the ball.
By impacting these bunker shots with the sand first, you are using the sand to create spin and add softness to the flight. Once the ball lands on the green, you’ll experience damped bounce and more spin to gain better control.
Pro Tip: If you are facing a “fried egg” situation, where the ball sits in a small crater, approach these sand shots differently on the golf course.
Rather than opening the face and your feet to play the ball, close your stance, add knee flex, and make a straight-forward swing with your wedge into the sand to lift the golf balls onto the putting surface.
How to Hit Fairway Bunker Shots
If you find yourself in sand traps alongside a fairway, shots like these demand a completely different approach. In this predicament, distance matters so you’ll need a club that matches the length to reach the target or the green from the sand.
When facing a fairway bunker shot, you need to approach the play like you would a normal shot from the fairway. Simply put, you want to hit the ball first before the sand with minimal club dig.
You’ll want to position your feet into the sand but not nearly as deep as you would in greenside bunkers.
Unlike a greenside bunker shot, you aren’t striking behind the ball, but instead you want to hit the ball first before the sand, so keeping each foot even and not open when addressing the golf ball in the sand remains incredibly important.
Pro Tip: If you struggle with striking the soil before the ball on the fairway, only dig the lead foot into the sand into the bunker. This slight nudge forward will produce a downward trajectory on your swing path that will strike the ball first.
With a little practice, you’ll find this tip will have you hitting crisper shots from the bunker than the fairway.
If you are looking for a drill, take a can of spray paint into a practice bunker and draw a straight line where you’d typically address the ball. Take your stance with the lead foot dug in, and then practice hitting shots with the divot taking place after the ball.
Check this video to learn more about the 5 bunker play common mistakes and fixes: