Making the Long Bunker Shot Easier

John Stahlschmidt
PGA Director of Instruction
JW Marriott Camelback Golf Club
Scottsdale, AZ

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One of golf’s most challenging shots for every golfer is the dreaded long bunker shot. I am talking about the shot in which you are forced to carry the ball 40-50 yards in the air. There are two traditional approaches to this shot, take a sand wedge and swing as hard as you can attempting to strike the sand before the ball (The only risk; strike the ball first and well, you know the result – adios over the green). The other approach is to pick the ball clean. This option requires less club head speed. If the club head hits sand first, the result will be a ball that stays in the bunker or at the very best comes up substantially short of the target. Needless to say, both of the above options require very small margins of error.

I have a third option which should prove to be the easiest to execute. Have you ever thought of using an 8 or 9 iron, when confronted with a long bunker shot? Next time, while at the golf course, head over to the practice bunker. Throw some balls down and set up the same way you would a short greenside bunker shot. Open the face slightly, position the ball slightly forward of center, make a aggressive swing and strike the sand 2 inches behind your ball. The result will be a shot that carries substantially farther than it would with a sand wedge. This shot, if struck properly, should carry about 40 – 50 yards in the air. If you don’t see the desired result on the first shot, try again. Remember to approach this shot the exact same way you would a greenside bunker shot with a sand wedge. And remember, your goal is not to hit the ball directly against the club face but rather strike the sand two inches behind the ball. The result will speak for itself.

Next time you are confronted with that always difficult long bunker shot, remember to use the above information and you will save valuable strokes every time.

John Stahlschmidt is the PGA Head Instructor for the TOUR Academy TPC Scottsdale. To book a lesson or to comment, email John at