Don’t Pound Sand

Turn a tough bunker shot into a day at the beach.

By Mark Hubbard | Photos by Justin Tafoya/Clarkson Creative

THE REVETTED BUNKERS at TPC Colorado are the deepest we’ll face on the Tour. Clearing these high sod-faced walls can look less and less possible the closer your ball gets to them. Sure, you can hit it out sideways or backwards, but escaping over that front lip isn’t as hard as it looks.


Correct bunker shot setup demonstration

You want to get the ball up and over the lip as fast as you can. In order to do that, open the face of the club by turning the toe of the club back (photo 1).

That will (A) add loft to the club and (B) help you use the bounce of the club. The bounce is the fat part on the bottom of the club that’s designed to splash the sand and get the ball up faster. You don’t want to use the leading edge (C) because it’s going to dig into the sand and the ball won’t get up.

When you open the clubface to add the loft, the club will point out to the right (photo 2). In order to counteract that, you need to open up your stance and move your lead foot to the left, squaring yourself more towards the target.

At address, picture yourself hitting an inch behind the ball and leading with the heel of the club (photo 3).

Correct bunker shot address position


With your feet dug in for stability, weight evenly balanced (unlike a traditional weight-forward bunker stance) and hands midway down the grip for increased clubface control, take the club away like you would a normal swing or pitch shot. Don’t be afraid to take a big swing; the loft you have added by opening your clubface and the fact that you are taking an inch of sand will ensure that you don’t hit it too far. Be mindful of tempo—no need to swing faster to get it out. Keep your normal tempo and balance.

The proper backswing to get out of a deep bunker


Again, make a normal downswing. The worst mistake I see most amateurs make is trying to lift the ball in the air by getting too steep. The loft and the bounce will do the job for you. If you try and lift the ball, you will lose your spine angle and the club will bottom out too early, causing you to take too much sand and not get the ball out (I like to think of keeping my right shoulder high as a way to counteract this).

The correct downswing for a bunker shot


Make sure you accelerate through the ball. This will help lift the ball and allow the club to have enough speed and force to get through the sand.

Impact position when hitting out of the sand


Let the club release naturally to the left, parallel to your stance.

How to follow-through after hitting the ball out of the sand


• Swing balanced. Don’t lean back and try to “help” the club get the ball out—you’ll bottom out too early and dig into the sand.

• Accelerate through the ball. Many players decelerate at impact because they’re afraid of hitting the lip or the bunker face. Get after it!


This lesson appeared in the 2019 July Issue of Colorado AvidGolfer.

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