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Bunker Tips

Video Tips on Bunkers

I have trouble with bunker shots around the green where I have to carry the ball a long distance. What is your advice?
I have a problem with bunkers. I hit fat shots.
How do I consistently get out of green side bunker?
Should your clubface always be open in a bunker near the green?
I am hesitant to really hit the ball when the bunker is close to the green. Not sure how to get the ball out without flying the green. Any suggestions?
How do I hit a completely buried bunker shot?
When hitting from a fairway bunker, should I always club up?
Should the rake in a bunker be left in the sand our outside of the sand? If outside of it, what is the best place to leave it?
Is there a reason to use a different lofted club (besides sand wedge) if in a green-side bunker?
If your ball plugs in a bunker, can you move it or do you have to play it?

Premium Tips

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  • Stay Aggressive on Bunker Shots

    When hitting sand shots be sure to stay aggressive and swing hard. Remember, as long as you hit sand, the shot will come out short so you won't over shoot the green. Decelerating is a killer in the sand. It results in chunky shots that don't leave the bunker or skulled shots that fly over the green. Make sure you accelerate all the way to a finish that is at least as high as your shoulders.

  • Play the Ball Forward

    When hitting out of the sand play the ball forward of the center of your stance to catch it on the up swing. Catching the ball on the up swing results in a shallower angle of attack which will help prevent digging. If you play it back and catch it too much on the downswing you will actually push the ball down into the sand. This holds true for both greenside and fairway bunker shots.

  • Open Your Face to Prevent Digging

    When your ball lands in a greenside bunker, open your club face to use the bounce on the bottom of the club. The bounce is the back edge of the club. When you use the bounce it will prevent digging and help you skid through the sand. If you enter the sand with the leading edge of the club head it will dig and cause your club to get stuck in the sand. The result is a ball that doesn't come out of the sand or comes out short with little backspin.

  • In Sand You Get 50%

    When you are hitting greenside bunker shots, use this trick to help determine distance and the length of your swing. Expect the ball to go about 50% of your normal pitch shot with the same swing. If your half swing sends a pitch shot 50 yards with your sand wedge, then expect it to send a greenside bunker shot 25 yards. The loss of distance is the effect the sand has when it gets caught between your clubface and the ball.

  • Foot Depth Affects Distance

    When you are in the sand the depth of your stance will directly affect your distance. If you want to take more sand, dig your feet down deeper. This will force your club into the sand behind the ball (similar to hitting a fat shot off of the grass). If you want to take less sand feel like you are standing more on top of the sand. This will allow the ball to travel further.

  • Get the Right Tool For Your Sand

    For greenside bunker shots, make sure to use a sand wedge that is made for the type of sand you most often play. For firm sand you will want a wedge with less bounce. For soft sand, play a wedge with more bounce. The bounce is the back edge of the club head and sits higher than the front edge when you are looking at the clubhead upside down. The bounce edge enters the sand first and prevents you from digging so with super soft sand you will want quite a bit more.

  • Swing From 10 to 2

    For the typical greenside bunker shot use the face of a clock for the length of your swing. Swing from 10:00 on your backswing to 2:00 on your follow through. This will help ensure that you are making a big enough backswing to get some acceleration and that you accelerate all the way through to the finish. Obviously for very short or very long shots you may have to adjust the length a bit.

  • Strike Close for More Spin

    For sand shots, to control the distance of your shot and the spin on the ball, you can alter how close to the ball you enter the sand. The closer you hit to the ball and the less sand you take, the more spin you will get and the further the ball will fly. The more sand you take and the further you hit behind the ball, the less the ball will fly and the more the ball will release on the green.

  • Make Shallow Dollar Bills

    When you are in a greenside bunker make a splash that is shallow and about the size of a dollar bill. It should feel like you are smacking the sand with the back of the clubhead and then coming right out. If your splash feels heavy or digs down too much, you are taking too deep of a splash. To practice this try putting a tee in the sand with just the top of it showing. Then hit balls trying to pick the ball off the top of the tee. This will get you out of digging and teach you to make a shallow splash.

  • Square Up For Firm Sand

    When you are in a greenside bunker and the sand is firm set your club face more square. Setting it open will use too much of the bounce on the back of the clubhead. This can cause you to bounce off of the sand and skull shots over the green. If the sand is really hard or wet, you will need a little more dig. You might want even want to use a pitching wedge or lob wedge to cut down on the bounce and be safe.

  • Use Your Normal Club From Fairway Bunkers

    When you are in a fairway bunker, use the club that you would normally use for the distance facing you. If however you have a high lip or mound to shoot over, you may need to sacrifice distance so that you have enough loft to clear everything. If you have struggled here in the past and often come up short take one more club and choke down a bit until you gain confidence.

  • Dig in Only For Stability

    When you are in a bunker it is important to dig in for stability as you want a strong, stable lower body. Be careful not to dig in too much or you will hit too deep into the sand and the shot will come up short. Choke down on the club approximately the same amount that you dig in to help prevent fat shots.

  • Shorten Your Swing In Fairway Bunkers

    A 3/4 length swing is often best for most players out of a fairway bunker. This affords a good amount of control while allowing the player to stay long enough to accelerate. Swinging too long often allows swing faults to break through and it is more likely that you will have inconsistent contact.

  • Keep Left When in the Sand

    For all bunker shots keep your weight on your front foot. When you back up or fall backwards during the swing you will bottom out too soon and get your club head stuck in the sand. Do this in moderation though, because the more you lean forward, the more you will dig and that will cause the ball may come out shorter. Just remember you don't want all your weight on your back foot at impact.

  • Open the Face First; Grip It Second

    When setting up for a greenside bunker shot, you should lay your clubface open first, then place your hands on the grip. Golfers often make the mistake of taking their normal grip and then twisting their arms until the face is open. This will affect the direction of your takeaway and force the club inside too much. Instead, lay the club open and then take your normal grip and arm position as you set up.

Bunker Tips from the Ask Maria Archive

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