Sooner or later you’ll find a greenside bunker. Even great shots can find the sand. Some days it feels like all you do is find he sand. Escaping a bunker is a challenge for many weekend golfers. Botch a shot in a greenside bunker, and it’ll cost you. Those extra strokes add up. That’s for sure.
Sound technique (and experience) can help you escape bunkers in one. But developing a good technique takes work. That means ironing out any flaws in your bunker swing. Below are five golf tips to help you eliminate common errors weekend golfers make in bunkers. Use the tips to help you rid yourself of deadly swing flaws and create a swing that enables you to escape the sand in one.
1. Place hands behind the ball
Your setup on bunker shots is critical. It provides the foundation for making solid shots. But setting up in a solid foundation is a challenge. Start by opening your clubface first before grip your sand wedge. Then, open your stance when hitting from bunkers and play the ball forward in your setup.
Also, place your hands behind the ball. That’s critical. Failing to do that is among the biggest errors weekend golfers make when hitting from bunkers. It stops you from getting the ball in the air and out of the bunker in one.
2. Align your shoulders with your slope
Another common error with bunker shots is not aligning your shoulders to match the bunker’s slope:
- On uphill slopes, raise your front shoulder above your back shoulder. Play the ball more in the center. And rest more weight on your back foot. Also, don’t open the clubface as wide you would with a level lie. Expect higher shots with more spin with uphill lies.
- On the downhill slopes, align your shoulders to match the slope. Rest more weight on your front foot than your back and swing more vertically than usual. Also, keep your clubface open and slide your clubhead under the ball through impact. Expect lower shots with more roll with downhill lies.
Here’s a golf drill that teaches you to slide your clubhead under the ball when blasting one out.
Drop a ball down in a practice bunker. Then, set a quarter down an inch in front of the ball on the target line. Your goal is to hit both items out of the bunker together. To do it, you’ll have to enter the sand as close to the ball as possible without touching it. You’ll also need to slide your wedge far enough toward your target to catch the quarter.
- Keep wrists firm at impact
Often, weekend golfers want so badly to get out of the bunker, they flick their wrists when swinging. Flicking comes from letting your wrists breakdown at impact. That increases the upward arc of your swing. This miscue often results in missing the sand altogether or thinning the ball. Instead, keep your wrists firm at impact as you go down and through. In other words, don’t try to lift the ball out of the sand. Then loft on your sand wedge will do that for you.
4. Hit behind the ball
You want to hit the sand about an inch behind the ball. That enables you to take sufficient sand with the shot to throw the ball out of bunkers the first time. Not taking enough sand out of the bunker, however, causes several different problems that can keep you in a bunker.
One problem, for example, is hitting the ball before the sand. Do that and you’ll probably hit the ball over the green. Or, you could thin the ball and lose control of the shot. Focus on going down and through the sand behind the ball, and you’ll blast both the ball and the sand out of the bunker.
5. Commit to the shot
Quitting on a bunker is the most common mistake golfers make in bunker play. I’m sure you know what I mean. Fearing the shot is what causes golfers to quit on it. As a result, they hold back on the shot and slow downswing speed just when they should be accelerating through the shot.
That results in a heavy strike of the sand and the ball being left in the bunker. To help avoid this flaw, hold the club high on the handle. The added length on the club you gain by doing that adds extra clubhead speed, increasing acceleration just at the right time.
Here’s another golf drill that teaches you to get out of the bunker in one:
Golf Drill: To judge the speed of bunker shot, you first need to pick a landing spot. That spot must match up with the line and speed of the ball. To practice hitting your landing spot, put a towel down in the area where you want the ball to land. Then hit bunker shots towards the landing spot/towel trying to hit it every time. Hit the towel and the ball will stop close to the hole. Work on this golf drill until you can hit the towel more often than not.
Even great shots can roll into greenside bunkers. Failing to get out of bunkers in one costs you strokes, preventing you from going low. If you’re serious about breaking 80, you’ll ingrain the golf tips we discuss above and practice the golf drills described in our article. They’ll help you escape the sand in one and cut strokes from your scores.
Learn to Stick Greenside Bunker Shots with These Golf Tips
How do you hit greenside bunker shots? Do you use the traditional method? You know, the greenside splash shot they teach golf lessons—stand open to the target, open the clubface, then swing along your foot line? This approach works for some but not all. If it doesn’t work for you, you need to up your game.
Below are five golf tips that will help you stick greenside bunker shots when the pressure is on:
- Open the clubface first
- Play the ball forward in your stance
- Grip down the same amount as you dig in
- Set your feet to anticipate the shot
- Swing along your stance line
You need a level lie where the ball sits cleanly on the sand here. Assuming you have that, make sure you open the clubface before you grip the club. Then, rehearse the shot a couple of times before jumping in the bunker.
Play the ball forward in your stance. Then, grip down on the club the same amount you dig your feet into the sand. Set your feet slightly open for a cut shot swing along your stance line. And hit down on the ball about an inch behind it.
To ingrain the feel of a great bunker shot, try this: Stand closed to the ball, open the clubface to the right even more than usual, and then swing back down to towards target. Note how your release feels on this shot. That’s what it feels like to hit a great bunker shot.
Here’s another golf drill that can help you master greenside bunkers:
Draw a line in the sand perpendicular to the target line about 15 feet long. Place 10 or 15 balls about 3 inches apart on the target side of the line one foot apart. As you hit shots, walk down the line and examine where, relative to your line, your club enters the sand and how the shot responds. This golf drill will help you learn where to place the ball in your stance to achieve the most consistent results.
Keep practicing these two golf drills until you’ve mastered the art of escaping a bunker in one.
Get Out in One with this Simple Golf Bunker Drill
Getting out in one. That’s your goal after landing in a bunker. But that’s easier said than done. Often, weekend golfers aren’t sure where to position the ball in bunkers. It’s among the biggest mistakes they make—and it can cost them.
If you’re not sure where to position the ball when in a bunker, try the drill below. It teaches you where to position yourself to get out in one:
Three Line Golf Bunker Drill
Find a practice bunker. Drop a ball down in the bunker. Then draw three lines in the sand using the ball as your focal point.
Draw one line through the ball to show the direction you want the ball to go. Point the line slightly left of target to allow the ball to break down. (If you’re left-handed the ball should point slightly right of target.)
Draw a second line on the stance side of the ball at 90 degrees. This line should point directly at you when in your stance. Draw a third line two inches behind the second line. Position your front heel opposite the second line.
Now take your swing. Focus on the third line. That’s where you want your club to enter the sand to get the ball out in one. But be careful. Hit too far behind the line, and you catch too much sand between the ball and the clubface, leaving you in the bunker.
Some golfers practice this shot without a ball. Instead, they work on hitting the sand going down the third line. After doing this a few times, they then drop a ball down and practice hitting the shot some more.
This golf drill is a great way to develop consistency when hitting bunker shots. Hit the third line and you’ll get out of the bunker in one every time. It’s a great golf drill to practice if bunker shots kill you.