5 Tips & Drills to Master the Bunker Shot

, GolfLink Editor
Updated August 28, 2023
Golfer hits a greenside bunker shot
    Golfer hits a greenside bunker shot
    Getty Image license

Have you ever noticed professional golfers on TV root for an errant approach shot to end up in a bunker? Meanwhile, most amateur golfers dread the greenside bunker shot. That's because once you learn how to play from greenside bunkers, it can actually be easier than many chip and pitch shots from the greenside rough.

Once you practice playing from greenside bunkers, you too can be relieved to see your misses end up in the sand. Here are five drills and tips that will help you become a strong bunker player.

Golf Umbrella Drill to Improve Your Greenside Bunker Play

Here is a technique that can be very helpful to make you understand how to get the ball to stop right away.

  1. I am going to draw in the sand and umbrella, there is the canopy arcing around the front of my body and there is the handle drawn from the top of the canopy even with the ball down to my left heel.
  2. You are going to make a few swings on purpose at first from a practice standpoint where you make your divot too early, behind the handle of the umbrella, where you feel the weight really going on to your back foot.
  3. Now we do the opposite, make a few swings where on purpose you make the divot start on the front or target side of the handle.

What you will find when you do that is that your weight is more on your forward leg and your chest is going to turn through the shot as a result of the swing. In other words you are not trying to move your chest or shift your weight, it just happens as a result of the swing. The swing was in a more rotary fashion or more along an arc.


Adjust Your Golf Swing Length for Successful Bunker Shots

In greenside bunker play there is no club-ball contact, so we are hitting the sand, knocking the sand out of the bunker, and the ball with it. What we need is a big enough arm swing to propel the sand and the ball to the target. What I am talking about in a big enough swing is your arm swing on the backswing should be at 10 o'clock, not the club but your arm. On the forward swing it is going to go to two o'clock.

A lot of times players make good bunker swings but they do not make long enough swings and the ball stays in the bunker. They get frustrated because they think they did a good job but they just did not have enough energy to know the ball out. Let me show you what it will look like. Take my address and stance. 10 o'clock to two o'clock. Ball got up and out relatively close to the hole.


Golf Divot Drill to Improve Your Greenside Bunker Play

I have drawn two lines in the bunker about a foot apart, you can do this in a practice bunker. I often see one divot start on the back line way early and one divot start way up on the front line and then maybe I will see one in between the lines.

The object is to have the divot happen between the lines and the ball would be between that divot right in the middle. That is going to help you be extremely consistent in your greenside bunker play, but when your divot entry point is different each time the result of your shot is going to be different each time.

Tips for Hitting Good Golf Bunker Shots

The best bunker shot to master at first is the 15-20 yard bunker shot, which will get you to the middle of most greens. Here are some tips to help with this shot.

  1. Play the ball forward in your stance
  2. Open the club face
  3. Keep your weight balanced or slightly favoring your front foot
  4. Make a big, non-violent swing

Golf Tips: Plan Your Bunker Shot

Bunker strategy is just as important as bunker technique. I like for my students to think of three strategies every time they get into the bunker.

  • The first is the easiest out. You just want to get the ball out of the bunker and you do not want to hit anymore shots.
  • The second is to go for the fat of the green where you have to most green to land and stop your ball.
  • The last one is to take dead aim.