Official website of Boulder, Colorado PGA Teaching Pro RJ Wiegand / (303) 808-9355 / Contact

Bunker Play

WHEN
– Three types of bunker shots will be experienced:

  • Greenside bunker
  • Greenside bunker buried
  • Fairway bunker

– The goal is to get the ball out of the greenside or fairway bunker in one shot stopping the ball on the green. The goal for proximity to the hole will depend somewhat on your level of play.

SET UP

Greenside Bunker

  • Ball position forward of center in stance. To find this ball position consistently, dig your feet into the sand with extra knee flex and width of stance. Shifting your weight to favor your left side (for right-handed players) play the ball directly off your sternum.
  • Open the clubface so that the face is pointing to the sky. Once this has been done, place your hands on the grip. A weaker grip or open face grip in both hands will allow you to better keep the clubface open through impact utilizing the bounce in your sand wedge. Right-handed players rotate both your left and right hands counter clockwise or to your left.
  • Align feet, hips and shoulders to the left of your target and swing the club along your body’s alignment. The clubface will be pointing toward your intended target if the clubface is open.
  • Your hands should be even to slightly behind the golf ball, definitely not in front of the ball. You may also lower your hands slightly on the grip for added control.

Greenside Bunker Buried

  • Ball position center to just forward of center.
  • Depending on the distance from the pin you can square or slightly close the club face resulting in a shot that will come out hot with topspin or you can open the clubface if you need the ball to pop out high with very low spin.
  • Align feet, hips and shoulders more along your intended target line.
  • Weight will be predominately on your front side (left) at least 70%.
  • Dig your feet into the sand and lower your hands on the grip for added control.
  • Lift the club straight up and chop down on the ball. If you want the ball to come out hot, put the clubface on the ball or where the ball is under the sand without hitting too much behind the ball. If you need the ball to come out without much spin, chop down on the ball literally trying to make contact on the hosel of the club. The ball will pop out high with almost zero spin, much like a knuckle ball in baseball. The club will be digging deeper in the sand; therefore, a shortened follow through will be experienced in both types of buried lies in the bunker.
  • Be happy with getting the ball out and on to the green.

Fairway Bunker

  • Ball position slightly back of middle (one or two ball rotations at most) from where you would normally play the same shot out of the fairway.
  • Dig your feet in for better stability and place your hands slightly further down the grip to make up for the distance your feet have been lowered.
  • It is imperative that your head and lower-body remain quiet for this shot to insure solid ball contact.
  • All you want to do is make sure you hit the ball first prior to striking the sand.
  • Some people like to take an extra club for this shot; be smart and experiment to see what works for you.

TECHNIQUE

  • The arms move up and down more than they move around with minimal hip rotation and weight transfer during the back swing.
  • The back swing is generally longer than the forward swing. The best bunker players lift the club high into the air and then simply let the club drop into the sand behind the ball resulting in a splash than pops the ball up and out on to the green.
  • For added height and spin, following contact with the sand, allow your left wrist to break or cup bringing the clubface back toward your body. Continue rotating your shoulders through the shot however, this is different than simply flipping your hands at the ball.
  • Just like putting, hearing is essential to good bunker play. You want to generate a thump-like sound, accomplished by slapping the sand with the trailing edge of the sand wedge.
  • The overall tempo should be smooth and steady, not fast and jerky.
  • Control your distance by the length of your forward swing.
  • Angle of approach is steeper than a normal shot.

STRATEGY

  • Move the sand, not the ball.
  • Move the sand out of the bunker.
  • Use the same swing tempo for each shot.
  • Focus on the spot in the sand you want the club head to enter.
  • Shots typically fly higher from uphill lies and lower from downhill lies.
  • Tilt your shoulders to match the slope of the hill
  • Taking less sand is sometimes desired, resulting in more spin.
  • Practice the club head entering the sand at a consistent point with the peak drill (simply try to shave off the top of a particular mound or “peak” of sand representing where you want the club to enter the sand). Listen for a “thump”.
  • Don’t try to hit it farther with your hands, take less sand and or increase the length of the forward swing to get the ball to fly farther.
  • Believe you are an excellent bunker player. Confidence is important in golf but confidence is everything in executing solid bunker shots.