Tips for Hitting Good Golf Bunker Shots

By Sandy LaBauve

Playing a Basic Golf Bunker Shot

Let's go through how to play a basic bunker shot. The basic shot you should learn first is probably the 15- to 20-yard shot, which will get you to the middle of most greens. There are a couple of things you have to remember, this is a lot like the high shot that you play around the green when we have to go up and over something quickly and we are going to position the ball very forward in our stance.

The Best Golf Stance for Bunker Shots

With the bunker shot we are going to play actually off our left instep, the high shot we were playing inside the left heel or forward in your stance, this one is even more forward. We are going to start with a one o'clock face position on the club. Some people will open the face a little bit more, there is nothing wrong with doing that but just remember that the more you open the face, the more left you have to swing the golf club. If you do not then the ball will shoot off to the right. So the more you open the face the further left you have to swing the golf club. I am going to open the face to one o'clock, I have the ball very forward and my weight is going to be even or balanced a little bit on my left leg. Not leaning forward but just balancing so that I do not move off of the ball.

Bunker Shots Require a Big Swing

The key to this is to make a non-violent swing. That is something that you have to realize, this is a big swing, if you make a little swing in the bunker you are not going to move the ball out because you are actually moving sand, not the ball. When I am getting ready to make my swing I want to make a couple of practice swings, making sure that the club is traveling down and to the left on my finish. What I should have is a little oval cut of sand which will splash out of the bunker and take the ball with it. I am really never contacting the ball.

Let's hit one. I dig my toes in a little bit, not my heels, I have the ball very forward in my stance, the shaft is in a nice neutral position like the high shot, face at one o'clock and swing down and to the left. You can see the oval cut I have in the sand matches the one that I took in the first place.

Simple Practice Drill for Hitting Sand Shots

A great practice drill to do when you start out in the bunker just to test your splash marks is to make a straight splash line in the sand. I like this because you can do this and kind of check your ball position and what is happening with the bottom of your swing. What you do is position this line across from your left instep, this way you know that the ball is going to be in a good place. I dial the face to one o'clock and make a V with the line, now I know that the face is open. When I look down my shaft angle should be matching that line. Then all I am going to do is practice splashing the line and erasing it, and I am going to just move up the line with each successive swing, each splash mark should be very similar. As soon as I am getting some success with that I am going to put balls on the line and hit those. If I am practicing and I am noticing splash marks in very different places the I would not expect good results when I go to hit the ball that is on the line itself. My tendency in that case would be that I am moving my body too much, not keeping my head steady and certainly changing the shape of my arm swing.

Bunker Shot Summary

The big key with the bunker shot is to set up correctly, ball very forward with the face open and make sure you are swinging down and to the left as you am coming through. This helps avoid disasters, skulls and leaving it in the bunker. Make sure that you are doing that. Get your line set up like that and then practice just hitting balls off the line once you get comfortable. Good luck with your bunker game.

Category: Bunker Play
Sub Categories: Ball Position, High Shots, Practice

About the Instructor

Sandy LaBauve
Sandy LaBauve
Kierland Golf Club
15636 N. Clubgate Drive
Scottsdale, AZ 85254
Tel: 480-922-9283

Sandy LaBauve is one of the world's best beginner, junior and women's instructors. She is listed as one of Golf Magazine's Top 100 Teachers and is Founder and Creative Consultant for the LPGA Junior Girls Golf Club.