How to Improve Your Bunker Game

By Steve Silverman

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Few things intimidate high- and intermediate-handicap golfers more than playing from the bunker. Greenside bunkers are usually deep and treacherous, while fairway bunkers are flatter and the ball tends to sit up nicely. Golfers can learn how to get past the high edges of the greenside bunker and explode the ball out and have it land on the green. The process is quite a bit different for fairway bunkers because there is usually no lip that prevents the ball from flying out.


Difficulty: Moderate
  1. Anchor yourself securely when playing from the greenside bunker. The rules prevent you from taking a practice swing or grounding your club when you take your position in the bunker. To prevent slipping around in the bunker, take a firm grip with your feet in the sand. Do this by digging in with your heels and making sure your feet are shoulder width apart.
  2. Take your sand wedge when you are in the greenside bunker. The loft on this club will help you get the ball over the high lip of the trap. Grip down on the shaft of the club, about 6 inches below the top of the grip. When you swing the sand wedge, you are not going to hit the ball. That would cause the ball to go flying out of the trap with too much force. Instead, you hit the sand behind the ball and the sand explodes into the ball and sends the ball out of the hazard. Hit the sand about 3 to 4 inches behind the ball and make sure you follow through to drive the ball out of the greenside bunker.
  3. Open your clubface if your ball is buried in a greenside bunker. If you are a right-handed golfer, opening your clubface means turning it more to the right. An open clubface will get the ball up in the air more quickly, and that's what is needed when the ball is below the level of the sand.
  4. Take a medium-length iron if you are in a fairway bunker. This hazard usually is much flatter than the greenside bunker, and you will not have much of a lip to get over to get your ball out of the hazard. If the ball is sitting up nicely, sweep it out of the bunker with a clean stroke. You will not use the "explosion" technique, as you do with a greenside bunker. You want to hit the ball just as you begin your upswing. Take one club length longer than you would if your ball had been in the fairway. If you normally use your 5-iron from 150 yards out, use your 4-iron when you are in the fairway bunker.
  5. Use your sand wedge if your ball is buried in a fairway bunker. Your ball will usually sit up nicely in that hazard, but there will be times when you find that your ball is buried. In that case, you cannot try to hit the ball out of the hazard with a normal stroke. Instead, you must hit an explosion shot and worry about making up the distance on the next shot, once you have gotten out of the hazard.

Tips & Warnings

  • Practice hitting the ball from the bunker when you go to the driving range.

About the Author

Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman authored The Minnesota Vikings: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Who's Better, Who's Best in Football -- The Top 60 Players of All-Time, among others, and placed in the Pro Football Writers of America awards three times. Silverman holds a Master of Science in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism.