How to Hit Bunker Shots

There are many different shots to hit from a bunker and many types of bunkers from which to hit, as well as different types of sand in the bunkers that need to be taken into consideration.

The first step in hitting bunker shots is getting fit for the proper wedge, with the correct bounce for the type of condition that you will be playing from. With the heavier, or course, sand, you will be looking for a wedge with less bounce or a sharper leading edge. This will help you “dig” into the sand. If you are playing in soft, or fluffy, dry sand, you will need to get a wedge with more bounce to prevent “digging” and to prevent leaving the ball in the bunker. The wedge also needs to be fit to your swing type?steep swings for the player that digs more at the ball compared to the player who sweeps or picks the ball. The bounce can be correctly determined by a professional fitter (try Golf Galaxy) by hitting off a lie board with lie tape and striking different shots.

After you have been fit for the proper wedge, it is time to learn how to execute the correct shot from the bunker. There are two basic approaches from a green-side bunker:  a “V-shape” and a “U-shape” angle of attack.

A short-side bunker shot is a “V-shape” angle of attack and will promote a more up-and-down shot (or a shot with very little roll). This is better for a deep bunker or when you are looking to stop the ball quickly. The first step to hitting this shot is taking an open stance, which is pulling your left foot back from a square stance position, while keeping 70% of your weight on the front foot (or the foot closest to the hole). Next, you aim the club with the leading edge while adding loft (or opening the face of the club head). This will increase the bounce of the club, which will allow you to hit steeply at the ball without digging into the sand. In turn, this will allow you to hit a high, soft shot.

Now, let’s move to the back swing.  You need the back swing to be very up and down (or V-shaped). The length of the back swing will help to determine the distance, along with the club face angle.

The impact position for the down swing is similar to a slicing movement with the palm upward. It is like trying to hit at the ball with an open back hand without touching the ball, while hitting five to six inches behind the ball and allowing the sand to throw the ball out. Remember that you are hitting “down” at the ball. You want to continue through, swinging left or along your body line, leaving the club face open which will result in a soft, lofted bunker shot.

The next bunker shot that is used is a long bunker shot, or a U-shaped stroke. This is used with a shallow bunker or a long green when you have plenty of room for the ball to run out. This a shot where you may choose another club other than a sand wedge. For example, you could use a mid-wedge, which is either 50? or 52?, or even a longer club such as an 8 iron.  Next, you will be taking a stance which will be squarer, keeping the ball more centered and your weight more balanced.  The back swing for this shot will be lower (or U-shaped) with very little hand-set, much like a chip shot. Then you will hit the ball with a square club face, taking very little sand. This will allow the ball to come out lower and release, so it will run further, which is much easier to judge the distance of the shot, as opposed to a full, steep bunker shot.

The final bunker shot to discuss is the fairway bunker shot. This is an easier shot to hit, much like a full shot from a tight lie. The first step is to take a normal, square stance, making sure your feet are firmly planted. Then you’ll need to grip down on the club (as much as you planted your feet in the sand, usually ½ inch).  Generally, you will want to grab one club longer (because you’ll be choking down on the club), while taking a ¾ swing to promote a clean hit with less lower body movement. You need to be sure that you lead with your hands through the shot, hitting the ball before the sand (or almost hitting the shot thin). This will help to achieve long fairway bunker shots.

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