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Bunker Basics - get out of the sand EVERY TIME


Bunker Basics - get out of the sand EVERY TIME

Get out of the sand EVERY TIME!

In 2019 the highest percentage of sand saves on the PGA Tour was 67% from a greenside bunker. On the LPGA Tour it was 63%. In other words, the top male and female players in the world get up and down from a greenside bunker 6 or 7 times out of 10. Now that’s not a bad statistic is it?
Sarah-Jane Shepherd
Sarah-Jane Shepherd
PGA Coach
Jealous of how easy pros make bunker shots look – you can do it too!

The reality is that for the majority of amateur golfers, finding a greenside bunker can lead to dropped shots and high scores. I am sure everyone can think of a time when the ball hasn’t even come out……and we have had to repeat the same shot again, whilst also trying to control our frustration. This is not fun!


You may get unlucky with a poor stance or bad lie once in a while. But assuming that our stance and lie are reasonable, there are just two simple objectives:

  1. Get the ball out of the bunker
  2. Get the ball as close to the hole as possible

How do I make it look as easy as the pros?

Back to Basics

Although a greenside bunker may not be a long shot, it is the only shot in golf where your aim is not to hit the ball. The club must strike the sand first and be travelling at a high speed, especially if the sand is deep.

Your club needs to be approaching the sand on a shallow angle too. Anything too steep will cause the clubhead to dig and it is likely that the ball will not come out.

Solid Setup

Set up with your feet a little more than shoulder width apart and the ball 2 or 3 centimetres ahead of centre as I have in the image above. This encourages:

  • The club to come down on a shallower angle
  • A sand first contact
  • Better balance as you blast the ball out of the sand

Wriggle your feet into the sand in your set up. You may not be allowed to test the sand with your club but there is nothing stopping you from assessing the depth with your feet as you set up.

Flex your kneesa bit more than you would normally too. This will help with the shallow contact, as well as giving you more lower body stability through the shot.

Open up the club face (adding loft to the club face)open your stance and then take your grip. Grip down a little for some control.

The length of shot, amount of green you have to work with and how high you need the ball to fly will dictate how much you open the face. The more you open the face, the higher and shorter the ball will fly, assuming the same swing speed.

Digging and Decelerating = DISASTER

Two common problems I see in the sand are

  • golfers who keep their weight on the back foot and try to "lift" the ball out
  • golfers who decelerate through the shot

Both of these faults cause inconsistent strikes and no control over distance.


If you struggle with consistency from greenside bunkers, here are a couple of practice drills you can try to get sharper from the sand:

1. Weight forward

Hit a few shots with your right heel off the ground (for a right handed golfer), so that the majority of your weight is on your front leg at set up. Keep your right heel up through the entire shot, do not fall back. You will discover that you do not need to lean back to lift the ball out of the sand – the loft on the clubface will do that for you.

Keeping your weight on the front foot throughout the swing will improve your strikes and allow the club to "splash" through the sand.

2. Hear the "thump"

For those of you who have the tendency to decelerate, practice making your follow through longer than your backswing. This encourages acceleration in the downswing and you will hear the club "thump" through the sand.

For instance, imagine a clock face and swing back so that your left arm (for a right handed golfer) points to 9 o’clock. Accelerate through to 2 o’clock and make sure that your chest is pointing left of the target as I have done in the images below. Notice that the wrist hinge in the follow through is the same as in the backswing. Arms, hands and body must all accelerate through the shot!


3. Determine the distance

Once you are achieving some consistent strikes, start to experiment with the distance and height of your bunker shots.

Experiment with a more open or less open clubface and with a shorter or longer backswing.

Try the ladder drill

  • Hit one shot high and short
  • Hit your second shot a few metres longer
  • Try to land the third ball in between the first two

Short and long targets

Give yourself a short target and a longer target and hit 10 balls, alternating between the targets on each shot – how many sand saves can you make? Can you make 6 or 7 like the tour players? Challenge yourself when you practice and have fun!

Remember that you can contact me at sj@dkga.dk with any questions, and you can book your next lesson using the link below. Good golfing!

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