Many weekend golfers hate hitting from greenside bunkers. If that’s you, you’re not alone. We all do to some extent. Unfortunately, it’s not something you can stop. Sooner or later, you’ll hit into a greenside bunker. So you need to learn how to hit from them if you’re going to break 80 and shrink your golf handicap.
The key to beating greenside bunkers is confidence. If you lack confidence hitting from bunkers, chances are good you’ll mishit the shot, leaving the ball in the hole. And that can wreck a hole—maybe even the round. Fear is another factor that can prevent you from being aggressive when hitting a bunker shot.
Below are 7 golf tips that build confidence in hitting bunker shots and help boost your game to the next level:
1. Use your regular swing
You don’t have to change your swing to escape a greenside bunker. You can use your normal swing. Align yourself left of the target, play the ball forward in your stance, and open your clubface. Now make a normal, three-quarter-wedge swing and you’ll hit out.
2. Learn how far your sand shots drift
Practice teaches you your drift angle. That’s how far your shots go right as they come out of the bunker. Aim your stance left of the target by different amounts and then hit out. Note where the ball goes. Keep at it until you learn how far your ball drifts right from each position.
3. Master your pre-shot routine/ritual
Your pre-shot routine/ritual prepares you mentally and physically for hitting a shot. Don’t waste it here. Evaluate your lie, note the height of the bunker’s lip, and review the carry distance you need. Then take your stance and swing away. Commit to your swing. It’s vital with these shots.
4. Know your wedge bounce
Hit all your wedges during practice. Doing so teaches you to understand your wedge bounce. You want to know which wedge has the most bounce (for normal fluffy sand) and which wedge has the least bounce (for firm/wet lies).
5. Consider the pick and clean option
In addition to basting from the sand, you can also chip from a bunker. It’s a bit of a challenge doing this, so practice the chipping technique in a practice bunker before trying it in a round. Chipping takes very little sand compared to a normal bunker blast.
6. Accelerate the clubhead
Decelerating is a key mistake students in our golf lessons make all the time. Accelerating thorough impact helps you “slice” through the sand under the ball. Keep your backswing short and your follow-through long to produce smooth out acceleration through the shot.
7. Practice. Practice. Practice.
Practice will help you build confidence. Try both short and long bunker shots. For longer bunker shots, try using the same setup and swing with different clubs. See how far each club takes you. An 8-iron works well with shots about 30 yards or so.
A good bunker drill to practice greenside bunker shots is the Line Drill:
Set up in a practice bunker. Then draw a straight line laterally in the bunker at the correct ball position. Now take 10 practice swings. Imagine a ball on the line each time as you move down the line. Repeat this drill until you can create 10 divots right on the line. Then place some balls on the line and practice hitting out with the same setup and swing.
You can also create a swing area in your backyard to practice hitting bunker shots. Use a mat, piece of carpet, or bunker board, and some plastic balls. Practice hitting bunker shots with different clubs for maximum benefit.
You can’t prevent it. Sooner our later, you’ll hit into a greenside bunker. To escape greenside bunkers in one, you need to build your confidence in hitting the shot. You can only do this by practicing these shots—something we encourage students in our golf instruction sessions to do all the time.