Mastering Basic Bunker Shots

Mastering Basic Bunker Shots

When it comes to bunker shots, most amateur golfers would be happy if they could reliably get out of the bunker with a ‘basic’ bunker shot that:-

1. Gets them out of the bunker first time every time.
2. Travels a consistent distance – say 10 feet or so.

The reason I say this is mostly from my years of experience in coaching amateur golfers. Unless I am coaching a very low handicap golfer or a professional, when I give most amateurs a bunker shot lesson they simply ask me to teach them a basic golf bunker shot that will achieve the above.

So – let me explain how to execute a basic bunker shot that will hopefully get you out of the trap reliably.

Unusually I’d like to start by describing how many amateurs think the mechanics of a bunker shot works. Following this I’ll describe how the mechanics really work.

The reason I’m doing this is that if you try to execute a bunker shot with the wrong idea of how the shot should really be executed, you’re actually making the bunker shot MUCH MORE DIFFICULT!

The common conception of bunker shot mechanics:-

  • The club head should enter the sand just behind the ball
  • As it enters the sand, the leading edge creates a cushion of sand
  • This cushion of sand pushes the ball out ahead of it – the ball never coming into contact with the club

If this is how you believe the bunker shot actually works then that it how you’ll try to execute the shot, and in all honesty the chances of a half-decent result are pretty slim. There are MANY reasons why this shot very rarely works, amongst them being:-

  • The margin for error is SO slim.
  • If you enter the sand only a little too far behind the ball you’re very unlikely to get the ball out as your club buries itself in the sand.
  • On the other hand if you enter the sand too late you are likely to ‘thin’ the ball and either hit the ball way too far or ram it into the face of the bunker.

So – forget those miss-conceptions and understand how bunker shots should be executed, and then we can move to the practice bunker and build a good basic bunker shot for you.

The basics of the bunker shot:-

  • Your setup (feet, body, shoulders etc) should be aiming around 18 degrees to the left of the target
  • Your club face should be open – MUCH more open than most amateur golfers realize. Approx 30 degrees to the right of the target is about right. This is the KEY to the correct mechanics to allow the club head to slide under the ball in the sand and not get dragged into the actual sand.
  • Once and only once you’ve opened your club face should you grip the club – ensure you don’t close it when you swing.
  • Feet should be about shoulder width apart, with your left foot turned slightly outward.
  • The ball should be positioned just inside your left heel – i.e. it should appear to be quite far forward

Having got these basics right, all you now need to do is to execute a normal pitch shot with plenty of confidence, full finish and finishing with 99% of your weight on your left foot. The club head should enter the sand quite far behind the ball (due to your set-up) and then keep sliding forward about half an inch under the sand.

The club head should come out of the sand BEFORE the ball so be confident and use plenty of club head speed.

I realize it sounds simple, and if your set up and understanding of the bunker shot mechanicsare correct then a basic bunker shot is not that hard.

My final tip for learning the basic golf bunker shot is to make lots of practice shots without a ball. Once you’ve got the set up right and aren’t digging too deep into the sand, then place a ball down and repeat.

There’s a lot more to bunker shots than this, but this will give you a solid basic bunker shot that will get you out of trouble and then hopefully two putts at worst will give you a bogey or maybe a par.