Has trying to hit out of greenside bunkers given you fits?

It is really frustrating to be so close to the pin but unable to get the golf ball near the hole. On the most basic level, the struggles are a function of the golfer not having a clear understanding of what it takes to hit a successful bunker shot. Today we will take a look at a couple of fundamentals which are crucial to hitting good shots out of the sand.

Hit sand first

Most amateur golfers know they should hit the sand first, few can articulate why though. They typically respond with some version of “it’s just how you get the ball up in the air”. While that’s certainly true it helps to understand the reason why that is the case.

The real reason you hit sand first on a bunker shot is simple. The golf ball sits slightly down in the sand under it’s own weight, and the sweet spot of high lofted clubs is towards the middle of the club face. So inevitably, you have to take some sand first if you are going to connect ball and sweet spot.

There is no way to consistently hit the ball with the sweet spot if you are hitting the ball before the sand. Most likely, hitting the ball first will result in a bladed shot! Solid contact is the reason that you are supposed to hit sand first on green side bunker shots.

Where do we hit the sand?

Now if your club catches too much sand behind the ball, your shot will only go a few feet and probably not get out of the bunker. As a general rule, your club should enter the sand around 2 inches behind the ball.  This can change depending on a number of actors. The type of sand in the bunker, the amount of loft desired on your shot to name a few.

Where Should Your Swing Bottom Out?

Understanding the low point of the swing is a vitally important concept for strong bunker play. Some golfers believe the low point should be directly underneath the ball. That often leads to a scooping motion. And when golfers try to scoop the ball, their club almost always enters the sand too far behind the golf ball, creating inconsistent and fat shots.

In reality, the swing arc shouldn’t bottom out behind or even directly under the golf ball. The lowest point of the golf swing (and your divot in the sand) should actually be a few inches in front of the golf ball.

The middle of his divot, which is the bottom of the golf swing, should be in front of the ball. Connecting with the ball just before the bottom of the swing will lead to consistent contact with the sweet spot of the club. It will also allow the loft and bounce of your wedge to go to work for you.


So, your swing should both hit the sand before the ball, and bottom out in front of the ball.
Combining these two concepts will form a great conceptual base for your green side bunker play for when we move on to your technique and setup.
With this knowledge, go ahead and practice some shots. Try different swing angles, and try working the club in different ways similar to how you would use a ping pong paddle. In the next article we’ll look at our setup to improve our technique.