How To Hit A Bunker Shot – A Step-By-Step Approach

Have you ever hit a ball in the bunker and got excited about the shot you would get to hit next?

Chances are, the answer is no.

Most golfers hit their approach in a greenside bunker, and the panic of what comes next starts to settle in. If this describes your current relationship with bunker shots, you are in the right place. Our guide featuring how to hit a bunker shot will give you a step-by-step method that is guaranteed to get you out of a bunker (the first time!).

Step By Step Guide on How To Hit A Bunker Shot

All golfers should know how to hit bunker shots, so let’s break it down into simple steps. If you can remember your steps and the checkpoints, you will be able to repeat the shot. It’s as simple as that, make bunker shots routine, and you can pull it off every time.

1. Club Selection

The first part of how to hit sand shots in golf is to choose the proper club. Many golfers automatically grab their sand wedge, but you should give it a bit more thought than that. If you have a high lip in front of you and not much green to work with, a lob wedge may be a better choice.

For greenside bunkers that are more than 30 yards to the pin, there are times that it may make sense to use your gap or approach wedge. The key takeaway is to be open-minded about the golf wedge you use when you hit a bunker shot.

Looking for a better wedge? Here are our favorite wedges this year.

2. Setup

The setup for bunker shots includes how your feet are aimed and how the clubface is aimed.

For the average bunker shot, you will need your clubface open slightly. When this clubface opens, it is essential to turn your feet open so that your clubface lines up with the hole again. If you only open your clubface and never adjust your stance, you will miss the shot to the right of the pin.

The fluffier the sand is, the more you will open your stance. If the bunker is more of a hardpan type, don’t open the face much at all.

3. Dig In

Golfers almost always dig themselves in for a greenside bunker shot. This is a good idea as it will help give you some stability and control as you swing through your shot.

Keep in mind that the digging in of your feet helps with greenside bunkers, but it is not necessary with fairway bunkers. In fact, you will typically want to avoid doing this on a fairway bunker.

At this point, you should have your clubface slightly open yet aimed at the pin, your stance aimed somewhat left of the pin, and your feet slightly dug into the bunker.

4. Steep Swing

In a greenside bunker, the swing path should be steeper. I’m more of a shallow swinger, and I constantly have to remind myself in a bunker that the club needs to come a bit more upright to get the ball out of the trap.

The steeper swing in a bunker may feel a little as though you are taking the club back with your hands and arms, more than your core and legs. The swing does not need to be long, and there will still be a body turn; just try to feel the club on more of an upright plane.

With the bounce on your wedge and the grooves on the club face, you will be able to launch the ball out of the bunker when you have a more steep swing. Players who struggle with a line drive bunker shot took the club back too shallow.

5. Hit The Sand Hard

One of the most critical factors of hitting out of the bunker is to ensure that you take some sand with your golf shot. Most of the time in golf, we want to hit the ball first and then take a bit of grass with us. We must hit behind the ball in the bunker and launch some sand up into the air.

If you hit the ball first in the bunker, expect your shot to fly over the green.

As long as you are swinging through the ball with acceleration and speed, the bounce on the golf wedge will cut through the sand and carry your ball right out. This is the proper way to hit a bunker shot and the method that results in the most spin and control.

6. Finish High

One of my favorite swing thoughts in a bunker is to finish high. Finishing high is not just about looking good for the photographers; it has everything to do with acceleration through the ball. If you aim to get the ball out, finish up high, and go.

Beginners and those who struggle with the sand sometimes swing the club into the sand, then stop. The club gets buried, and the ball advances a few feet. Think of your wedge as carrying the ball out of the bunker, and it will help you finish high.

Bunker Shot Tips

When you open the club face in a bunker you must then aim your feet slightly left of the target.

Most of the time, golfers overthink bunker shots. One of the best things to do when overthinking your golf swing is to come up with a simple tip, swing thought, or trick to help you get out of the sand trap. Here are a few of our favorite sand shot tips.

Lob Wedge vs. Sand Wedge

If you struggle with hitting shots out of the bunker, try changing up the club. Some golfers tend to have better luck with the higher lofted lob wedge in play.

The lob wedge vs. sand wedge bunker debate will probably never come to an end. Some golfers prefer the lob and others the sand, but they are both capable of doing what you need them to do. The lob wedge is a bit more open, to begin with, and can make it easier if the bunker has a high lip in the front of it.

Fairway Bunker vs. Greenside Bunker

The fairway bunker shots will play differently than the how to hit a greenside bunker shot. Don’t dig your feet in quite as much, and you can hit almost any club out of a fairway bunker as long as you have enough clearance.

For fairway bunker shots, try to clip the ball clean without taking hardly any sand. The shot may feel a bit thin, but you will end up getting the distance you need to advance the ball forward. Golfers tend to have fewer issues with fairway bunkers than greenside bunkers.

Weight On The Left

When hitting a greenside bunker shot, it can help to put a little extra weight on the left side. You don’t need to transfer quite as much of your weight back to your right side on this shot. In addition, starting with a little weight on the left ensures that you are hitting down and through the sand.

How To Hit A Bunker Shot Video

Frequently Asked Questions

Now that you are eager to head out to the practice bunker to work on your game, here are a few last things to consider and think about. Take our word for it; getting good out of a bunker is something that takes a bit of practice initially, but it will be a worthwhile skill long term.

What is the easiest way to get out of a bunker?

Knowing how to hit out of a bunker is important. The easiest way to get out of a bunker is to open the clubface, aim your feet slightly left of your target, and hit down and through the sand with a descending blow. Many golfers exaggerate the move in the sand trap, and they almost try to lift the ball out with the club.

Trust in the bounce on your wedge and the mechanics of your bunker swing to get the ball headed toward the target.

Is a bunker shot like a flop shot?

A bunker shot can be very much like a flop shot. However, you will typically have a much more open club face and stance with a flop shot. When you are hitting out of a bunker, the open face is minimal. You would only have your stance and clubhead quite as open in a bunker if there was a very high lip in front of you.

How can I practice bunker shots at home?

Bunker shots are hard to practice at home because there won’t be too much that feels like the sand on the course. If your kids have a sandbox, that could be an option!

The good news is that if you have a practice mat, you can still practice the motions, setup, and overall technique of what a bunker shot takes before heading out to the course.

What type of club would a golfer mostly use out of a bunker?

The sand wedge is the most common type of club for a golfer to use out of the bunker. Most of the time, having 56 degrees of loft or more is a good amount for launching the ball from a sand trap. Some golfers have perfected putting out of a bunker, but that is not conventional.

Do I need a sand wedge?

Yes, all golfers should have a sand wedge or a wedge with a loft around 56 degrees. Hitting out of a bunker with a pitching wedge can be very difficult. The ball will not have enough loft to carry the lip, and as a player, you won’t have the control you need to stop the ball on the green. A sand wedge is a smart investment in your golf game, one that is worth making.

The Cleveland CBX 2 Sand Wedge is a great option for most players and is forgiving and effective where and when you need it most.

Final Thoughts

We hope that our comprehensive guide on how to hit a bunker shot has helped you feel a bit more confident in your abilities. Bunkers look much scarier than they are. When you get these basic tips down, you can make great strides towards becoming a better player. Find a practice green and set to work; this is not something you can learn on the course. Once you feel confident, it will change how you view the entire golf course.

Britt is a Class A PGA Professional and golf membership director who decided a career in golf writing was the perfect fit. She's been playing golf since she was seven years old, graduated from St. John's University with a bachelor's degree in education, and played Division 1 golf with a +1 handicap. Today, Britt plays more golf than ever with her husband and two children near Savannah, Georgia, and still loves connecting with golfers worldwide. You can connect with Britt on IG, LinkedIn, or FB.

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