Greenside Bunker Play Technique
The typical greenside bunker shot from a normal lie includes some set up variations that will help you achieve more consistent results. Think of this as your stock, standard bunker shot set up, and from here you can make adjustments depending on circumstances, lie, or sand conditions. Check out our bunker shot situations article to see when we might consider making these alterations to your stance, club face, or swing.
Recognizing that we are not permitted to lay the club down in the sand, take your grip so that the club is rotated open in your hands. If we were to set the club down behind the ball, imagine an extension of the club face grooves pointing directly at your left toe. This will help present not only a little extra loft, but more importantly, additional much needed bounce allowing our club to slide through the sand.
The more we lay the club open, the more pronounced the trailing edge of the sole of the club will impact the sand before the leading edge. Because your club face is open, we also need to set up our body aiming somewhere to the left of the target. Take a look at our bunker direction calibration drill to help with precisely managing this alignment.
Dig your feet into the sand for stable footing, position the ball forward of center, and stand athletically with even balance. When we swing the club, our goal is to swing along our body lines, which will be left of the target. The motion is much like the 9:00 pitching swing, where your left forearm reaches a position roughly parallel to the ground at the top of the backswing.
There should be no need to over swing here, but needless to say, adjustments in the length of your swing can be made depending on circumstances. Accelerate the club smoothly, impacting the sand 2 or 3 inches behind the ball, allowing the club to slide underneath the ball. With appropriate effective bounce on our sand wedge, we should not feel excessive resistance as the club enters and slides through the sand. If the club feels like it’s sticking or stopping in the sand, then there’s too much digging going on. The loft of our sand wedge will lift the ball out of the sand as we follow through to a full, balanced finish.
In summary, I suggest having a stock, standard bunker setup and swing in our arsenal for greenside bunkers. We can deviate from this norm depending on the circumstances the shot presents. We set up holding the club face open such that the grooves of the club are pointed at our left toe. To account for this, we’ll need to set up our body lines accordingly to the left and swing left of the target. Do not over swing, but accelerate the club smoothly, impacting the sand a couple inches behind the ball, allowing the club to lift the ball out of the bunker.