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The Bunker Shot Blueprint: 10 Pro Tips for More Up and Downs

The sand trap on a golf course is an amateur’s worst enemy, with players losing strokes and struggling to escape.

In this post, I reveal the top 10 tips for bunker shots to help you escape the trap and get up and down consistently.

At the end of this post, you’ll understand how a weaker lofted wedge, a high bounce sole grind, and an open clubface can promote consistency.

In addition, you’ll learn how to position your weight forward, extend your lead wrist, and hit the sand before your ball.

How to Hit Out of a Bunker (Key Takeaways)

  • Select a lofted club to launch the ball high and out of the bunker.
  • Play a high bounce sole grind to increase glide through the sand.
  • Open your clubface for added loft.
  • Position the golf ball forward to promote striking the sand first.
  • Lengthen your backswing to prevent clubhead speed loss through the sand.
  • Extend the lead wrist to add more loft to your clubface.
  • Hit the sand before your ball to get under it and launch it out of the bunker.
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1. What do you want to improve in your full swing?

10 Golf Tips to Hit Better Bunker Shots

1. Select a Lofted Club

The first undertaking for a bunker shot is to identify the ideal club to execute your task.

When trapped in a greenside bunker, I suggest using a minimum of a 54-degree sand wedge.

In my case, I prefer swinging a 60-degree for maximum loft from the beach.

Hitting a higher lofted club from the bunker makes it challenging to get the ball airborne immediately and land it softly on approach.

Given the elevation of bunker lips in most cases, you have limited time to get the ball into the sky.

Otherwise, it catches the lip and rolls back into the sand.

golf player trying to make bunker shot

2. Play a High Bounce Sole Grind

Besides club selection, ponder the bounce profile of your wedge’s sole grind.

The average amateur is better equipped with a high bounce and forgiving sole grind that halts your clubhead from digging into the sand and losing speed leading into contact.

I find that mid and high-handicappers are best equipped with a design like the K-grind sole, which optimizes bounce and forgiveness in the sand.

The expertly crafted sole grind causes the club to glide through the dirt instead of digging in, improving your chances of delivering a clean strike.

However, high-bounce grinds can prove challenging to get under the ball from the fairway for a flop shot.

This may prompt some players to select a less bouncy grind but leaves the risk of digging your clubhead into the sand when you strike significantly behind your golf ball.

3. Open the Clubface

The loft is essential in your quest to send your ball airborne immediately before encouraging a steep descent and a soft landing.

Besides playing a lofted club, it is up to you to adjust the dynamic loft of the wedge by further manipulating the clubface open at address.

I find it easier to prop the clubface open with my right hand before I employ my desired grip to maximize the angle.

Once I am satisfied with the clubface position, I grip the club with my other hand and keep the clubface open.

Although occasionally it feels awkward, I prepare myself to generate the optimal dynamic loft for a high launch, spin, and control of my shot.

When I grip my club before opening the clubface, my hands assume their neutral position, which can cause the clubface to square at impact, reducing loft.

Luke Donald employs the Dumping Sand drill to master the clubface position in the bunker.

Add sand to your clubface at address and take a few swings, stopping at the top of the backswing.

If the dirt falls off before the top, your clubface is too closed, and you’ll struggle to produce sufficient loft at impact.

4. Position the Ball Forward

Contrary to other short-game shots, you want the ball forward in your stance for a bunker strike.

Chris Ryan recommends placing your wedge a blade length from your front foot to give you time to open the clubface, catch sand and launch the ball out of the trap.

With the ball positioned forward, you can open the clubface at address with the shaft almost leaning backward.

This exposes the bounce of the wedge and pushes the trailing edge lower than the leading edge.

I find this simplifies propelling the clubface to the ball after entering the sand.

When you place the ball too far back in your stance, you leave yourself limited time to open the clubface into impact.

Plus, you often take no sand and strike the ball cleanly with a delofted club, resulting in a low launch and the potential of catching the lip of the bunker.

5. Place Weight on Your Front Foot

Positioning additional weight on your lead leg combines with a front ball position to power your clubface through the sand and into impact.

The incorrect mass distribution causes the club to enter the sand early, prompting a shot out of the teeth.

Often mid and high handicappers set up with extra weight on their trail leg, thinking it will help them lift the ball out of the sand and into the air.

However, nothing good ever comes from leaning back on a golf shot. Your clubface will enter the sand too early, bounce up, and catch the ball in the teeth.

Ryan suggests placing as much as 75% of your weight on the front foot, which is not the worst advice to eradicate the habit of leaning back.

However, do what is most comfortable for you as long as more weight is on the front than the back.

6. Dig Your Feet Into the Sand

I have long corkscrewed my shoes into the sand at address to maximize traction and stability during my golf swing.

In past experiences, I slipped on soft sand during my transition, leading to a loss of power and a clubface that bounces off the sand earlier than intended.

Address your golf ball and gently corkscrew your feet into the sand until you are firmly rooted to the ground.

Rotate your hips back and forth two to three times to double-check your traction, and if your feet remain stable, you are ready for the next stage.

golf player ready to hit bunker shot

7. Aim At the Target

For most of my golfing career, I aimed to the left of the target in the bunker, accounting for my open clubface.

It worked, and I always generated sidespin to bring the ball back to the cup, but it was a nightmare for my distance control.

Whenever I faced long bunker shots, I always left the ball short.

My loss of power stemmed from swinging outside in and cutting across the golf ball, which also produced the odd shank.

However, the most consistent evil is clubhead speed drop-off as your club skids diagonally across the sand, and you struggle to make clean contact with the golf ball, inducing a weak strike.

I eventually sought the assistance of an expert, and my instructor altered my set-up, encouraging me to aim directly at my target.

When I did this, I optimized my entry point into the sand and bulldozed through to produce a clean strike and maximum power and distance control.

Take a 2-minute Quiz and Step Up Your Game!

1. What do you want to improve in your full swing?

8. Lengthen Your Backswing

Sticking with the theme of distance control, I often see golfers misjudging the power of their strike because of the proximity of the flagstick.

If the pin is 15 yards away, the average golfer feels they need to induce a shorter backswing, akin to the requirements for a chip shot.

Chip shots are often struck with a lower lofted face than out of the bunker, as you don’t have to navigate sand.

As a result, you can accelerate into impact to ensure optimal energy transfer, compression, and spin.

However, when your ball enters the bunker, it slows down clubhead speed leaving you to account for it on your backswing.

You can see in the video above that Coach Ryan takes a full swing, and the ball only carries approximately 10 yards.

Following this trend, he would likely only strike a half swing 5 yards, which may prove insufficient to reach the dancefloor.

9. Extend the Lead Wrist

Up until this point, my tips on how to hit out of the bunker traps have revolved around easy tweaks you can employ in your swing.

Now we get to the nitty gritty diving into lead wrist extension, which is imperative for prompting an open clubface into impact.

Fredrik Lindblom from Short Game Gains explains that an extended lead wrist at the top of the swing helps induce wrist hinge.

In other words, the logo on your glove is pointing toward the sky.

When I hinge my wrist, I find it easier to open the clubface as required on the downswing and get under the ball for a high-launching shot.

Given the discomfort of amateurs swinging an open clubface, many alter course on the backswing and produce a bowed lead wrist.

This position sees the logo on your glove facing the floor, and it restricts wrist hinge and forces you to close the clubface too early.

Unable to open the clubface, you commence your downswing with a delofted face and hit down on the ball.

The result is a low-launching, overpowered strike that smashes into the lip of the bunker.

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The HackMotion swing analyzer trains you to produce the prerequisite lead wrist extension on every bunker shot to help you escape the sand and get up and down.

HackMotion golf training aid wrist sensor
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10. Hit the Sand Behind Your Ball

You’ve heard coaches harp on about following through after impact.

However, I still see the average golfer frequently making this mistake. My playing partner does it on average three to five times per round.

He stabs at the ball in the bunker, causing the club head to dig into the sand and experience a significant velocity drop-off.

He fears cooking his shot and sending it yards over the other side of the green.

However, this is counterintuitive, as he needs to follow through to power through the sand to get the clubhead under the ball, to get it airborne quickly and land softly.

player hit bunker shot

Why do I Struggle with Bunker Shots?

Amateurs struggle with bunker shots because they do not catch enough sand before the ball.

Or, they produce a short backswing and lose clubhead speed into impact.

In addition, amateurs place the ball too far back in the stance and fail to extend their lead wrist during the swing to deloft the clubface.

Final Thoughts

My tips for bunker shots stem from years of gathering advice from my coaches and other players who were more talented than I am.

I adopted all these tips in my game to bring consistency to my setup, ball position, sand entry point, and the cleanliness of the strike.

Every tip is designed to supplement the next piece of the puzzle to ensure you escape the sand trap every time and improve your sand saves record.

Most of my tips are elementary and can help mid and high-handicappers enhance accuracy and distance control from the sand.

However, the tip that totally changes your bunker play is extending your lead wrist.

It is incredible how a simple wrist tweak can optimally position the clubface for a clean, high-launching bunking shot.

Learn more about the importance of wrist angles with HackMotion.

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Matt Stevens
written by Matt Stevens

Matt Callcott-Stevens hails from South Africa and has written for golf equipment manufacturers and blogs since 2015. He first swung a club 29 years ago, and his love for the game shows no sign of fading. Matt holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Marketing and is committed to growing the sport and making it more enjoyable for the average player.