How to Drastically Improve Your Game from the Bunker

August 24, 2017

If you find yourself in the bunker more than on the fairway, it might be wise to get some practice sessions in on the driving range to better your long game to avoid getting in the bunker in the first place. With that being said, sometimes all it takes is a freak gust of wind while your ball is mid-flight to send you packing into the bunker. If you find it difficult to turn your game around from bunker plays, it could send you five or six shots back and that could spell the end of your round. So, it’s important you better your bunker game and by following the below tips, you’ll be able to just that. 

About Bunker Shots

Before playing a bunker shot, it’s best to understand what is involved and how it should be done. With sand underneath the ball, this means shots need to be carefully considered and they need to be played differently than those hit off the driving range or the fairway. There are different types of sand and lies for a start, so it means different stances and approaches to swinging need to be considered. It also means that determining the right clubs for the job need to be considered carefully, otherwise, your ball could end up in a worse situation than it’s already in. If you have decent clubs, that will also give you a huge advantage in the bunkers so consider investing in the best if you want to considerably improve your bunker game.

Getting Your Stance Right

One of the most important aspects of golf is to get the stance right. Once you have a perfectly working stance, your swing is going to be much smoother and the connection with the ball is going to provide much more power and accuracy. Concentrate on perfecting your stance for different shots just so your swing doesn’t suffer. When it comes to bunker play, a variety of stances are usually used depending on the lie and the type of sand you’re playing from. A good rule of thumb is to have a stance where your swing is going to hit the ball an inch through the sand on harder sand, whereas on softer sand you’ll want to make a close connection with the ball. Practice your stance in the different bunkers to give you an idea of where your arc swing needs to land.

Concentrate on the Left Side of the Ball

One tip that many professionals use to get a better swing is to concentrate on the left-hand side of the ball when it comes to playing out of a bunker. This not only produces a better stance and a better swing, but you’ll also find that a crisper shot takes place. Obviously, this will depend on what hand you use and your overall stance, but this is a good rule of thumb when it comes to lining up a shot – it will also ensure you have to use less power which produces a more accurate shot.

Understand Power Isn’t Everything

Some players will swing high and inaccurate just to get the power they think is going to send the ball exactly where they want it. Golf is all about technique and finesse, and without it, your game is going to suffer. Consider getting your stance and swing right before you think about power, as it’s the connection with the ball that is going to send it where you want it. The problem with introducing power into the game is that your swing is going to be quicker and thus, much more inaccurate. So, it’s important to concentrate on less power and a better stance to begin with – you’ll see a huge improvement in your overall game if you follow this method.

Determining the Type of Sand

First of all, you’ll take a shot differently depending on the type of sand you’re playing off in the bunker. It’s quite hard to test the sand because you’re not allowed to test the sand with your clubs, so the only way you’ll be able to get a feel for it is by standing on it. Try to determine whether the sand is soft or hard so you know what type of stance and club you need to play the shot. Consider walking around the bunker for a couple of minutes just to get a feel for the ground underneath you, and you can be sure your description of the sand will be much more accurate.

Playing from Soft Sand

If you think the sand is soft, you’ll want to approach it with your weight back. If the leading edge of your club strikes the sand, you’re not going to get the higher trajectory you crave to get back into the game from either the green or the fairway. It’s vital you get a nice swing so that the club can glide through the top of the sand to make precise contact with the ball. If it doesn’t, you’re going to be a sitting duck in the middle of an explosion of sand and the ball isn’t going to benefit from the power it needs to flourish.

Playing from Hard Sand

When it comes to much more compact sand, you’ll want to have the leading edge of the club strike the sand first, just so it can dig the ball out. Hard sand is often difficult to judge because of the different links courses and the amount of water that seeps through. However, a good stance and the ability to cut through the sand without the club head bouncing off will improve your game substantially. If your club head bounces off the sand, you’re going to end up blading the ball.

Determining the Different Lies

Various golf courses have different lies within their bunkers which means you’ve got more to consider before choosing the right clubs. Uphill bunkers, depending on how steep they are, can usually be played much like the way you’ll hit off a flat lie. By playing off your front foot, you’ll be able to keep your weight behind, which will give your swing the arc it needs to up the ball over and out. If the uphill bunker is too steep, you’ll need to approach it as if you were chopping wood with an axe, and you’ll need to ensure the club hits at least one inch of the sand before the ball just to give it the trajectory it needs. 

When it comes to downhill bunker shots, you’ll want to try and get a bit of air with the shot, otherwise, your ball is going to come out of the bunker low and fast and you’ll not be able to determine its end destination. You can achieve this with a 60 degree wedge, and with your weight on the front foot to ensure you get a nice swing underneath the ball. The buried bunker shot is where things get more difficult depending on how buried the ball is. With a firm stance over the ball, it’s important to try and get a deep swing and hit the sand an inch before the ball just so that the ball can be released.

Different Bunker Types

Fairway bunkers and greenside bunkers offer yet more choice when it comes to selecting golf clubs. Fairway bunkers will need to be played with a clean hit of the ball, so it’s vital something that isn’t going to touch the sand before hitting should be used. When it comes to the greenside bunkers, it’s inevitable you play a similar shot to a splash shot. Usually, a pitching wedge with a lower angle is the way forward in this instance, especially if the bunker itself has low lips and you can simply hit the ball over for it to roll to where you’d like it to go.

Choosing the Right Clubs

Your next objective is to try and determine the right club for the job. When in the bunker, you’ll usually benefit from differently angled wedges, depending on the size of the lip of the bunker. This is where the type of sand and different bunker shots come into play. If you’re opting for an uphill shot out of a bunker you’ll want to get right underneath it, so something with a higher degree angle would be best suited to gift it air. However, if you’re playing downhill out of a bunker, you’ll also want to go for a similar 60-degree angle to give it some lift, just so that the ball doesn’t roll out of the area.

Of course, none of the above will benefit you if you don’t get your description of the bunkers right. Different bunkers offer different ways of playing and it’s important that the sand and the lie are carefully considered before picking the right clubs. While the above information will considerably improve your game from today, you’ll still need to ensure your swing and stance is perfected to give you the best chance of improving your bunker game.


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