Golf Tips: Basics of the Best Bunker Shots

In the average round of golf roughly 70% of shots are made from 120 yards or less from the pin, making your chip shot key to taking extra strokes off your score.

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The way some golfers approach their bunker shots, you might think they'd been drinking "shots" before the game rather than waiting for the 19th hole. With that in mind, here's some sober advice about how to tackle those tough traps.

As you can see in the Golf Glossary, a "bunker" is a prepared area of ground, often in the form of a small valley, in which turf and earth has been removed and replaced with sand, water, or taller grass. (Also known as a 'trap')

A 'cross bunker' is one in which crosses the line of play, requiring the player to shoot over the bunker.


First, establish a firm footing that will support your swing without slipping. Form a solid base, but be careful not to dig your feet too far down as that will make your legs too rigid, encouraging too strong a shot. The lower body should stay quiet; i.e. very little motion in the legs.

Start with your weight favoring your left side. (Lefties, reverse directions.) Your stance should be open and a little wider than usual, to restrict your backswing and steepen the swing. Let the knees pinch in slightly, putting more weight on the inside of the feet.


Your grip should be light, but firm.

Holding the grip too tightly will tend to make your wrists rigid. This makes it harder to slide the club under the ball into the sand.

Choke down on the grip a bit, half an inch will generally do. This allows you to more more easily hit under the ball. (This also helps to discourage you from burying your feet too far down in the sand.)

Hinge the wrists earlier than you would for a normal shot. That encourages a steeper angle of attack for the downswing. Of course, you'll be using a wedge for this.


With a large-soled sand wedge, shorten your backswing to about three-quarters normal.

Mirror the distance in your follow-through. Remember that, counter-intuitively, you're not really trying to hit the ball with the club at all. Instead, you're aiming about two to four inches behind the ball, scooping sand that makes contact with the ball and forces it up and out of the trap.

On an uphill slope, keep the shoulders level - not tilted with the slope. On a downhill shot, open the stance a bit and make a steep backswing and an aggressive downswing. Don't close the face and accelerate through the ball.


To get comfortable with the bunker shot, try some of these drills.

Stick a tee in the sand so that only the top is visible. Put a ball on the tee, then try hitting the tee half way down its length. That helps focus on getting under the ball, about an inch.

If you find that you are digging too deep, open the clubface of your wedge, then grip. That helps shallow out those divots.

Draw a line in the sand about eight feet long with the rake handle. Straddle that line so that it's slightly left of center. Practice making swings that splash sand forward, making the entry point of your club on the line.

Walk down the line and try again. After some practice you should be able to consistently hit that line. Then put down a ball a couple of inches to the left of the line and repeat.

Once you get your bunker shots down, you can go "play" a few shots of tequila in the clubhouse.

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Golf Tips: Basics of the Best Bunker Shots - Copyright 2015 by Donovan Baldwin
Page Updated 11:36 AM Saturday 9/12/2105