Bunker…Making It Work

Scott Sackett
Director of Instruction
McCormick Ranch Golf Club
Scottsdale, AZ

More Information

Most amateurs are terrified of hitting their ball in the sand and are subsequently poor bunker players for one reason: they do not know how they are supposed to play a bunker shot. Conversely, tour players will aim at a bunker on a long shot into the green vs. hitting it in the rough. If the ball is in a greenside bunker it is much more predictable than hitting from the greenside rough. The best tour players get up and down more than 60% of the time from a greenside bunker. On a straight forward bunker shot that number goes up to almost 80%. Once you get how the sand wedge’s design can help you hit a bunker shot, all it takes is a feel of how to release the clubhead into the sand and you will get the ball out every single time. Everything that I teach about a bunker shot, from set up to the swing, is designed to get the bounce working in an effective manner. What you need to get a crystal clear understanding is what happens on the initial downswing. The move is clearly different than any other shot in golf, next to hitting a wedge shot with bounce.

What has been overdone in the bunker is the following:
A) Ball too forward
B) Stance aiming too far left
C) Clubface pointing at 1:00 or right of the target
D) The overall swing plane too vertical or too upright
E) Swinging left through impact. To play a successful bunker shot the set up dictates what can and cannot happen.

Characteristics of Greenside Bunkers:

•  feet wider than shoulder width
• knees slightly bowed out
• ball under left armpit ( forward of middle)
• light grip pressure, around 3 or 4 on a scale of 1-10
• Clubface square to slightly open
• stance square
• both feet will be slightly open
• weight on forward foot 65/35
• set up relatively far from the ball
• neutral grip
• hands in line or slightly behind the ball
• hands are going to be lower than a normal shot
• grip slightly behind the ball
• shoulders will stay level (right shoulder will feel high)
• swing the club along your stance line

The Key to Making It Work: In order to be a good bunker player you need to make sure the trailing edge of the club is coming in first at impact not the leading edge. This is what is called bounce. To get that sensation you need to feel a throw motion of the club head coming into impact. It is 100% opposite of what you are going to do hitting a normal golf shot. It is the real secret to have the ball come off high and soft.

The Best Club: Titleist Vokey 58/12 with a M Grind. This club is magic and is built especially for the greenside bunker shot. Not bad out of the rough either.

Scott Sackett, GOLF Magazine Top 100 Teacher since 1999, just voted as one of Golf Digest’s Best Teacher in the State for the fifth year in a row. Also, Director of Instruction at Park Meadows CC in Park City, Utah and while in Scottsdale teaches at McCormick Ranch Golf Club. You can contact Scott through his website at www.scottsackett.com.