How To Vary The Distance From A Greenside Bunker, Golf Tip

There are a number of ways players can vary the distance they hit shots from a greenside bunker. Players can change their length of swing, the amount of sand they take and the club they use to alter the amount of distance and back spin imparted on the ball.

First, let us set out the basic technique required to successfully escape from a greenside bunker.

Standard bunker shot technique

  • Open the blade of your club, usually a sand or lob wedge. The higher you want the ball to travel, the more the club face should be opened.
  • Once the club face has been opened, take your grip. Don't grip the handle then open; this will just twist the hands at address.
  • Grip the club slightly down the handle and hold the club firmly with the back two fingers of the top hand to help keep the club face open through impact.
  • Firstly, take a square set up to the target line, with the ball slightly forward in the stance and the club face aimed right of the target.
  • Then move the left foot, hips and body left until the leading edge of the club face points at the target.
  • The swing should be made along the body line, hinging the wrists upwards slightly sooner than normal. This will help a player enter the sand just before the ball on the down swing.
  • Enter the sand an inch before the ball and skim beneath the ball, lifting the ball out on a carpet of sand.
  • Keep up the acceleration and complete the follow through in a full finish position, facing the target.

Using this technique, the most direct way to vary the distance of sand shots is to use clubs with different lofts. Using the above technique with a lob wedge, sand wedge or gap wedge will produce three distinctive distances, assuming swing length and amount of sand taken were the same.

Another way for golfers to hit different distances out of a greenside bunker is to vary the amount of sand they take. The less sand a player takes when hitting a bunker shot, the more back spin will be generated. However, the less sand a player takes, the cleaner the contact with the ball will be. This brings about the possibility of a thin or sculled shot.

An effective way to vary distance whilst maintaining the amount of sand taken is to alter the club head speed. The faster a player swings, the further the ball will go. However, a solid technique should not be sacrificed in favour of a faster swing. The best way to vary the distance of shots from bunkers is a combination of all these things.

Greenside bunker shots can be a major challenge.

How to Vary the Distance from a Greenside Bunker

For most of the shots you play during an average round of golf, you will be hitting the ball off of the grass. Then, suddenly, you are forced to switch gears completely and hit the ball from the sand. It's hard to make this change on the fly, especially if you don't get the chance to practice your bunker game on a regular basis. Professional golfers tend to make greenside bunker shots look easy, but they have the luxury of spending hours working on just this one part of the game. You probably aren't able to invest that kind of time in your sand game, but that doesn't mean you have to give up on the idea of improving your bunker play.

In this article, we are going to talk about one of the most important parts of any greenside bunker shot – distance control. In fact, it would be easy to make the argument that this is the single most important part of playing from a greenside bunker. It's pretty easy to get your bunker shots on line from around the green, since the ball isn't going to be in the air long enough to hook or slice. The majority of your greenside bunker shots are going to travel in the right direction, meaning your success or failure is going to come down to distance control.

Of course, you can face shots of a variety of distances when you find yourself in a greenside trap. Sometimes, the hole will be cut only a few feet onto the green from where you are standing, so you'll need a soft shot that stops quickly. In other cases, you will need to cover quite a bit of ground to get to the hole. As any experienced golfer can tell you, those long greenside bunker shots tend to be the hardest of all. Getting the distance right on a bunker shot of 20 or 30 yards is a significant challenge, and you should feel proud if you pull off this kind of shot successfully.

All of the content below has been written from the perspective of a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.

Three Important Factors

Three Important Factors

The distance that your greenside bunker shots fly is going to come down to three key factors. By understanding these factors, you will have a better chance of actually dialing up the right distance when you are forced to blast the ball out of a greenside trap. Many amateur players just swing hard and hope for the best when playing from a bunker, but you can do better than that. Take some time to educate yourself on how these shots work and you'll be better off in the long run.

Let's take a look at the three key factors to keep in mind when trying to control the distance of a greenside bunker shot.

  • The speed of your swing. Obviously, the speed of your swing is going to have a say in how far this kind of shot travels. Every shot you hit is influenced by the speed of your swing, and the story is no different here. However, it does need to be pointed out that you'll need to swing much harder when playing an explosion shot out of the sand than when hitting a chip shot from the grass. You aren't actually trying to hit the ball with this swing – you are trying to hit the sand, which will then move the ball forward. Since the sand is going to absorb so much of the power of your swing, an aggressive move through the ball will usually be required.
  • The distance between the ball and the point where your club enters the sand. This is a big one, and it is one which is commonly overlooked. When trying to hit the ball just the right distance out of a sand trap, you need to control the point at which your club enters the sand behind the ball. The farther you hit behind the ball, the more sand that is going to come between your club and the ball, and the shorter the shot will travel. By hitting quite close to the ball, you can transfer much of the energy from the club into the ball, and you'll carry the shot a longer distance overall. It is possible to play good bunker shots using a variety of entry points into the sand, as long as you are able to plan on how much sand you will take on a given shot. For example, if you plan to hit well behind the ball, it will be necessary to make a big enough swing to cover the distance to the target. Accurately placing the club into the sand at just the right point is probably the single hardest part of a standard explosion shot.
  • The height of the shot. The last variable we are going to cover here is the height that you use on your bunker shot. By adjusting the amount of loft you use during the swing, you can adjust the height that the ball will travel. By opening the face more at address, you should be left with a higher bunker shot. Also, the lie of the ball in the sand will affect the height of the shot, as an explosion shot played from a downslope will fly lower than one played off of an upslope. When all else is equal, you can expect a lower shot will travel farther than a higher shot. Knowing this, you can use trajectory to your advantage to successfully handle the shot at hand. If you need to move the ball all the way across the green, try to play a low shot that will roll out nicely. Or, if you need to stop the ball quickly only a few feet onto the putting surface, opt for a high shot.

While the three factors above are the biggest keys in determining how far your bunker shots are going to travel. With that said, these are not the other three points to consider. The condition of the sand is something to watch also, as firm sand tends to cause the ball to come out quick and travel farther than soft sand. In addition, you will need to think about the condition of the greens. A soft green is going to cause your bunker shots to stop quickly, while a firm and fast green will lead to plenty of bounce and roll.

By this point, it is easy to see why controlling the distance of your bunker shots is such a challenge. There are plenty of variables in play on your explosion shots, and bringing everything together just right takes both skill and practice.

Making Adjustments

Making Adjustments

Golf is all about adjustments. There really isn't any such thing as a 'normal' golf shot, because there are always a number of variables at play in any given shot. Sure, some shots are harder than others, but you are always dealing with something out on the course. This is why so many golfers have trouble taking their 'range game' out to the course. You don't have to think about much other than your swing while practicing on the range. When you get onto the course, however, the story is different. You have to consider a number of different things on each shot before focusing in on the task of making a great swing. It's a challenge, to say the least.

The task of making adjustments certainly doesn't stop when you step down into a greenside bunker. The only way to produce all the different distances you need on these explosion shots is to constantly adjust to the circumstances at hand. Below, we have listed a variety of adjustments you'll need to be comfortable with if you hope to improve your distance control out of the sand.

  • Learn to manage your contact point. This is perhaps the most important skill to learn in the bunker, and it is certainly the most difficult. You already know how to vary the speed of your swing based on the length of the shot you are facing, as this is something you do regularly in golf. However, you don't regularly vary your contact point, as you are typically just trying to hit the ball cleanly. To improve your bunker game moving forward, you will need to figure out how to place the club into the sand at exactly the right point. While this would not be permissible during an actual round of golf, try drawing lines behind your ball in the sand during practice. You can use these lines as points of reference to work on your ability to take precisely the right amount of sand for the shot you hope to hit. Work on taking very little sand on some shots, and work on other shots where you take a lot of sand and splash the ball out with almost no spin. The more variety you can add to your practice sessions, the better prepared you will be on the course.
  • Get comfortable with varying your loft. For some reason, this seems to be a point which gives a number of amateur golfers' trouble. You can dramatically change the kinds of shots you can hit by simply opening or closing the face of your wedge, yet many players seem reluctant to do so. The best way to get over this issue? Simple – get to work in a practice bunker. Try hitting some shots with a square face, and try hitting some with the face laying wide open. As you practice, you will get more and more comfortable with how it feels to swing with the face in different positions. You'll find that the shots played with an open face tend to be the most useful, since you'll frequently need to lob the ball out of a greenside bunker in order to get it over the lip and onto the putting surface.
  • Adapting to bunker conditions. One of the many challenges that comes along with bunker shots is the fact that you will face ever-changing sand conditions. Sometimes, the sand will be dry and fluffy, while on other occasions it will be damp and hard-packed. The shots you are able to hit from these two conditions will vary dramatically. Again here, the path to improvement goes through practice. If you practice your bunker game regularly, you will wind up dealing with a number of different types of sand conditions.

Making quick adjustments is part of playing this game successfully. If you refuse to adjust to what you find on the course, or if you are slow to adjust, you are sure to waste strokes along the way. Since bunker conditions change so frequently, you'll need to adapt in the sand perhaps more than anywhere else on the course.