The Bunker Shot

Posted on: 28 May 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Lift your golf game with our techniques for getting out of the sand.

The sand-wedge is a bespoke piece of equipment designed entirely on the principle that form should follow function.

We have Grand Slam winner Gene Sarazen to thank for this, for it was he who first identified the need for a broader sole on the wedge. Up until that point, the implements used to extricate a golf ball from the sand had not been entirely fit for the purpose.

The straight leading edge and narrow sole, much like a classic blade in profile, tended to dig too deep into the sand, meaning that two much of the energy in the swing was dissipated.

Grip It Right

Once you’ve opened your stance you can form your grip. Remember, the sand-wedge does its best work when the clubface is open. This aspect of the set-up is paramount, which is why it is wise to adopt this simple routine to ensure that the clubface is indeed open as you address the ball and then start your swing.

Hold the club in front of you, just in your right hand and swivel the grip anti-clockwise in your hands until the clubface is open. Then, without altering that clubface position, form your grip. That way, the clubface will more than likely stay open during the swing, which is perfect - just what you need to play great bunker shots.

How A Sand-Wedge Works

Gene Sarazen’s inspiration for creating the sand-wedge was part that of a golfer frustrated with his equipment and part of a man with a lively imagination.

He claimed he had been studying ducks landing on water, observing the way that their rounded underbellies skimmed across the surface.

He designed a sand-wedge that had a similar rounded underbelly, what we now call the flange or sole of the club, and found that such a clubhead would slide through the sand very efficiently.

When you play a bunker shot the flange of the club works in such a way that, when the clubhead is delivered on a shallow and slightly descending angle of attack, it slides through the sand.

This creates a splash of sand at impact, which propels the ball forwards and out of the bunker.

This is why the perfect escape from a bunker is sometimes referred to as a "splash shot".

Adopt An Open Set-Up

In order for you to utilise the bounce-effect of the sand-wedge, you must adhere to a couple of simple set-up rules that will affect the shape of the swing.

  • The stance must be open - that is, the feet aligned to the left of the target.
  • The clubface must be open - that is, aimed to the right of the target.

Fear of bunker play is common among amateur golfers, but it is easily banished once you adhere to the fundamentals.

Swing Along Your Aim Lines

By addressing the ball correctly, the swing becomes immeasurably easier. The secret is to swing along the lines of your body - in other words, across the line on an “out-to-in” path.

  • Focus on a spot in the sand roughly two inches (5cm) behind the ball; this is the intended point of entry for the clubhead.
  • Swing back and through, combining your arm swing with your body turn.
  • Strike down into the sand on your intended spot and accelerate the club through the sand under the ball, with the feeling of swinging the club to the left of the target through impact.
  • Always follow through on every bunker shot.

Shuffle, Then Pick Your Spot

When you are standing in a banker you are not on solid ground, so it is important to create a secure footing.

Shuffle your feet into the sand to give yourself a solid base. Then pick a spot behind the ball and commit to striking the sand at that point.

Strange as it sounds, the short-range bunker shot is the only shot in golf where you should not actually hit the ball.

The club glides under the ball and the ball lies onto the green on an explosion of sand.

Remember: shuffle into the sand, and then strike it.

Swing Secrets

Ball should be positioned forward of centre

Shoulders, feet and hips open to the target line

Strike the sand behind the ball

Feel the heel of the club entering the sand first

Spine angle remains constant into impact

Forming The Grip

It is hugely important that you open the clubface and then form your grip. If you do it the other way round, the clubface will tend to return to square at impact, completely ruining the shot.

Flexed Knees

Knees are flexed at address and should stay that way during the swing.

Hands Alignment

The hands can be slightly ahead of, or even level with, the golf ball for a regular greenside bunker shot.

Weight Distribution

The weight should favour the front feet, but only slightly.


You can afford to open the clubface on a sand-wedge more than you realise.

Loft & Bounce

The choice of loft on a wedge is, to some extent, determined by the nature of the bunkers on a golf course.

A course with shallow bunkers and big greens has no real call for a highly lofted wedge; whereas on a links course, where the bunkers are typically deep and require escape shots of maximum elevation, a lot of loft is desirable.

The Golf BookThis extract is taken from DK's The Golf Book, available at all good bookshops or online from Amazon.

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