Bunker 101

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 then hitting from the greenside rough. The best tour players get up and down more than 60% of the time from a green side 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 of 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 O’Clock or right of the target D) The overall swing plane too vertical or too upright E) Swinging left through impact.

Set Up Impact Follow Through

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

Scott Sackett, GOLF Magazine TOP 100 Teacher since 1997, teaches at McCormick Ranch Golf Club in Scottsdale, along with being The Director of Instruction at The Rim Golf Club in Payson. To get more information on lessons, visit Scott’s web site at www.scottsackett.com. To contact Scott directly, e-mail him scottsackett@cox.net.