Pro tips for beginner golfers: bunker shots

The bunker shot: dreaded by many (because let’s face it, if you liked sand you would have taken up volley ball instead) but, thankfully, a favourite of our PGA professional, Ellie. It’s the only shot where hitting the ball isn’t the aim because the ultimate goal is to make contact with the sand.

This one should be fun to practise because there’s room to get creative so don’t be afraid to experiment with your clubs. Now get ready for a trip to the beach with Ellie:

First, let’s demystify wedge bounce

Ellie gets asked about wedge bounce all the time and it’s a lot simpler than it sounds, it’s basically how your club interacts with the sand. But here’s the technical explanation: bounce is the angle formed between the leading edge of the clubface and the lowest point of its sole. When it comes to sand shots, bounce can prevent your wedge from digging too deeply into the bunker.

How to stand to the ball

Aim and alignment can be confusing when you’re just starting out but Ellie has a few rules of thumb for you to follow:

  • If you’re setting the clubface a little open, ensure that your stance is slightly open too.
  • If you’re playing the shot with a square clubface, take up a square stance relative to the target.
  • If you’d like to add extra loft to the club, stand square to the target.

Set up for the shot

1. Take up a stance that is wider than usual. You don’t want a lot of lower half action for a bunker so this will help you to stay stable throughout the shot.

2. Next, squat down just a little. A solid bunker shot requires knee flex.

3. Open up your left foot by turning it out by around 30°, this will allow your hips to turn through the shot. Also make sure that about 75 percent of your weight is resting on this foot.

4. The ball position should be played forward in the stance, just ahead of centre. Don’t worry if you feel like your body is slightly behind the ball, this is how it’s supposed to feel.

How to achieve a seamless swing

1. As you take your club back, keep it in an upright position to create a full wrist hinge.

2. The width of your swing is really important for this shot. Aim to maintain your width by ensuring that your left arm stays straight and extended. For reference, your club and arm should now look like they’re in an L shape. Your weight should have shifted a little by this point, with about 60 percent on your lead foot.

3. As you move into the downswing be sure to maintain speed. You’ve got to really commit in order to create enough power as you enter the sand to lift the ball out. Ellie says that you’re looking to create a ‘splash’ feeling so you’re splashing the ball out of the bunker.

4. With your follow through, again you want a full wrist hinge. Release that wrist angle early and fast, and get the shaft in an upright position quickly after impact, to complete your follow through.

Although the body is moving, this action can feel ‘handsy’ but just remember, the focus should be on releasing under the ball. Here’s Ellie showing you how to do it:

Common problems to watch out for

  • Ellie often sees golfers move off the ball, to the right, as they swing. This makes the shot a lot harder as even the slightest shift will affect where your club hits the sand. So you need to really work to maintain your starting position.
  • A breakdown in the left arm on the backswing can also cause problems with smoothness and power so be sure to keep that in check by looking for an L shape between your arm and club.
  • Most golfers go wrong with bunkers by decelerating through the downswing, which results in a poor strike. Ellie suggests accelerating through the ball to combat any chance of this. She says if you hit the sand hard enough, and take sufficient sand, you can be confident through the ball.

So there you have it, you’re aiming to make a splash to show those bunkers who’s boss (it really does feel like we’re at the beach!). You can find more top tips from our knowledgeable pros, here