There are a number of different techniques which can be employed in the bunker depending on how the ball is lying.
A blast bunker shot sees the golfer digging down deeply into the sand and exploding upwards. This technique moves a lot of sand and is best used when the ball finds a poor lie or becomes fully or partially plugged in the bunker.
It's a challenging shot to master and requires a certain amount of courage but can be conquered by following this technique.
The blast shot – with a sand wedge
1. On a normal slash bunker shot, the golfer should open up the club face to increase loft. On the blast bunker shot, however, the player wants to keep the club face square or even slightly closed to the target.
2. To ensure a full flowing swing, the golfer should place their hands high on the handle and grip firmly. This is so the club face doesn't twist through impact.
3. Rather than opening the stance, golfers should take a normal square stance to the target line. The ball should be positioned back of centre to encourage a downward 'dig' into the sand behind the ball. If the ball is completely buried the ball position could move to the back foot.
4. By making a steep swing and hinging the wrists quickly, a downward strike becomes more achievable. Dig down in behind the ball punching into sand.
5. The club's bounce angle should help steer the club upward, sending the ball upward propelled by lots of sand.
6. If the ball is fully buried, the golfer could have to dig down into the sand by about 4 inches.
The blast shot is a great way of escaping from bad lies in bunkers when compared to the standard splash shot. It will help ensure the ball flies out of the bunker. Leaving a ball in the bunker is frustrating and if the ball stays in the bunker, there is a high probability the ball will settle down in the previous shot's divot or foot marks, leaving the golfer with another tricky shot.
There is, however, a negative aspect to hitting blast bunker shots. Rather than flying upwards carried by a thin carpet of sand, the blast bunker shot requires lots of sand to be hit before the ball. This mass of sand underneath the ball means there is very little chance of the club face and sand interacting with the ball to create backspin. The blast bunker shot will fire the ball out with very little backspin. This means when the ball lands it will roll out excessively, this is something the golfer has to keep in mind when weighing up their options. If you are hitting a blast bunker shot to a tight pin, be prepared for a long putt.
Players are best advised to use the blast bunker shot when they find their ball in a bad or buried bunker lie but must also keep in mind the way the ball will react once it hits the green.
What is a Blast Bunker Shot?
Playing from the sand is a unique challenge in golf. For the most part, the rest of the shots you play as a golfer are going to be hit from the grass, which is why venturing into the sand can be so uncomfortable for many amateur players. If you don't have a clear picture of how to play out of a bunker, you may struggle to get the ball out in a single swing time after time. Adding to the complication of this shot is the fact that most bunker shots are played with a technique that is exactly the opposite of the technique you use when hitting off the grass. In the end, many amateurs are unable to rise to the challenge of the bunker, and those players waste countless strokes as result.
In this article, we are going to address one specific kind of bunker shot – the blast. This is the shot you will most often play when you find your ball in a greenside bunker. Also called an explosion shot, this shot gets its name from the fact that you are going to 'blast' a great deal of sand out of the bunker along with the ball. Rather than hitting the back of the ball cleanly – which is your goal on every other shot on the course – the blast bunker shot is going to have you put the club into the sand before you reach the ball. The club will hit the sand, the sand will move the ball, and the shot will (hopefully) wind up on the green.
While it is obviously ideal to keep your ball out of the bunkers whenever possible, you are inevitably going to find the sand from time to time. Most golf courses have a large number of bunkers to act as hazards guarding both the fairways and greens. If you are constantly in fear of winding up in the sand, that fear is going to have a negative effect on the swings you make throughout the rest of the course. Don't force yourself to play in fear – confront this issue right away and learn how to play out of the sand traps properly. Once you understand the right technique, you will probably wonder why you were so worried about these shots in the first place.
It should go without saying that you are going to have to practice your blast bunker shots before they perform properly for you on the course. Nothing comes easy in golf, even if you read an informative article on the proper technique to use. You will always have to practice new techniques before they work, so put in your time in the short game practice area and build up your confidence prior to your next round.
All of the content below is based on a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
Knowing When the Time is Right
Shot selection is an important skill in golf. Not only do you have to have the ability to hit a variety of shots, you also need to know when to hit them. So, before we get into any technical instruction on how to execute a blast bunker shot, you first need to know when is the right time to use this play. Although this is the most common type of bunker shot you will use from around the green, it is not going to be the right option 100% of the time. There are a couple of other options you can reach for when a blast is not going to work, so take your time prior to each shot in order to make an informed decision.
The tips listed below should help you to understand how you are going to know when you can use the blast to send the ball up close to the cup.
- You need a decent lie. If you are going to attempt to hit a typical blast shot in the direction of the hole, you will need to have at least a decent lie in the sand. You don't have to have a perfect lie, but you won't find success with this shot if the ball is in a terrible spot. So what constitutes a good lie in the bunker? For one thing, there shouldn't be too much sand piled up around the ball. If your ball is sitting way down in the sand, it is going to be hard to get it up in the air effective with a standard blast shot. Also, the sand should be in decent condition. If, for example, the sand is extremely hard from recent rain, playing a blast is a bad idea.
- You need to be able to clear the lip. This is one of the first things you should check when considering this type of shot. Take a look at the height of the bunker lip between your ball and the hole. How much height do you need to get on the shot in order to clear the lip and place your ball on the green? Are you going to be able to hit the shot that high? If not, or if there is any doubt in your mind, you will need to consider other options. Remember, the first goal you should have for every bunker shot you play is simply getting the ball out of the bunker and back onto the grassy part of the course.
- Not too far to the hole. Once you understand the proper technique, it is actually pretty easy to send the ball up toward the hole with a blast shot. However, this is not a shot which works well from long distance. If you need to hit the ball more than 20 – 30 yards out of the bunker to reach the target, you may struggle to use the explosion shot effectively. In such a case, you will want to think about catching the ball more cleanly in the sand to achieve the necessary distance. Long bunker shots are among the most difficult shots you can find on the golf course. If at all possible, do your best to avoid putting yourself in situations where you need to play long shots from the sand, as doing so successfully requires great skill and plenty of practice.
- You need room to make a swing. This might be an obvious point, but it can be a problem in some bunkers. If you don't have enough room to make a big swing, you won't be able to use the blast shot effectively. The swing you make to hit an explosion from a greenside bunker is almost exactly the same as your full swing – meaning you need plenty of space for the backswing and downswing. This isn't the kind of thing you can get around, either, when space is tight. If you don't have enough room to make the swing, it will be necessary to hit a different type of shot.
If you try to hit a blast shot when you don't really have the right conditions, it is likely that you will cause your situation to go from bad to worse. You are already in trouble by placing your ball in a bunker – don't make things worse by using the wrong shot once in the sand. Use the tips below to make sure you are thinking clearly about the situation, and only opt for the blast when you are sure the time is right.
A Simple Technique
To many golfers, this seems like a complicated shot. After all, it is quite different from the shots you hit around the rest of the course. However, while it is a different technique from your usual swing, the shot itself is actually quite simple. Once you get the hang of it, there is no reason you can't produce one quality bunker shot after the next in your upcoming rounds. In fact, you might find that this part of your game moves from a weakness to a strength after just a bit of practice.
To make sure you are able to add the blast shot to your list of strengths on the course, we have assembled the following list of key tips.
- Use a high-lofted wedge. You don't actually have to use a 'sand wedge' for this shot, but you do need to use a wedge with a significant amount of loft. Usually, most golfers will use either their sand wedge or their lob wedge to play a blast from the greenside bunker. More important than the name of the club is how much loft the club offers. Anything from 54* - 60* will be suitable for these kinds of shots. In fact, it is a good idea to learn how to hit a blast with both your sand wedge and your lob wedge, as you can go back and forth between the two depending on the circumstances you encounter.
- Open the face. This is a point which trips up many amateur golfers. Thinking that the club already has plenty of loft, many golfers refuse to open the face prior to hitting a bunker shot – and they fail to get the ball out of the sand as a result. At address, you need to lay the face of the wedge open to the point where you could nearly rest a bottle on the face of the club and have it stay in place. Why such a dramatic open face for this kind of shot? It comes down to bounce angle. When you open the face, you expose the bounce on the bottom of the club to the sand. That bounce angle on the sole will blast the sand out of the way as you swing through, clearing a path for the club to slide cleanly under the ball. Trust in this method and put it to use in practice. Pretty soon, you will learn just how easy blast shots can be when you lay the face open at address.
- Choke down slightly. When you step into the bunker to take your stance, you are going to wiggle your feet just a bit in order to get your footing. This is a good habit, but it is going to lower the overall level of your stance by an inch or two. To counteract that change, choke down on the grip of the club just slightly. Choking down will give you added control, and it will help to prevent you from taking too much sand as you move through the hitting area.
- Make a big swing. There is no way around this point. When you want to hit a blast shot from a greenside bunker, you need to make a big swing. It is going to take a lot of speed to move the club through the sand and under the ball, because the sand is going to rob you of power as soon as it touches the clubhead. Even though you may only be trying to blast the ball 10 or 15 yards, you are going to need to make a full swing with great acceleration at the bottom. Many amateur golfers lose their nerve when they get close to impact, and their shots come up short as a result. You have to be aggressive in greenside bunkers, so commit yourself to the shot and swing through to a full finish. Once you get a feel for how hard you need to swing in order to get out of the average bunker, your confidence and trust in this technique will grow.
- Enter the sand behind the ball. The key to a proper explosion shot is putting the club head into the sand before you reach the ball. If you hit the ball cleanly, you are going to send it way over the target – and likely off the golf course entirely. Keep your eye on a spot approximately one or two inches behind the ball and use that as your aim point. If you can slide the club into the sand at that location, you should be able to loft the ball up out of the trap and onto the green. It is important that you don't pick your head up prematurely while making this kind of swing, as lifting up could cause you to miss the sand and hit all ball instead.
Although the list above is a bit long, it is actually rather simple. There isn't anything in there which is likely to be outside of your abilities, as long as you are willing to practice. Focus on these points during your upcoming practice sessions and your bunker play will immediately move in the right direction.
The Importance of a Landing Spot
Anytime you are playing a short game shot from around the green – whether you are chipping from the grass or blasting from the bunker – you should have a specific landing spot in mind. Your landing spot, as the name would indicate, is the spot on the green where you would like the ball to land before it bounces and rolls toward the cup. Unfortunately, many amateur golfers think only about the hole itself when blasting from the sand, which often leads to shots that travel too far in the end. Try to picture the entire shot from start to finish and then focus in on a landing spot which will do the job.
There are a few variables to keep in mind when it comes to your landing spot. First, you need to think about the firmness of the greens. If the greens are soft, you can land the ball close to the hole, as there won't be much bounce or roll to speak of. On the other hand, if you are playing a course with firm greens, that first bounce is going to be a big one – so move your landing spot back and give the ball plenty of room to work.
The next variable to weigh is the amount of spin you expect to get on the shot. This is often the hardest piece of the puzzle to nail down, as it will always be something of a guess. It is going to take experience to learn how to predict your spin rate accurately on this kind of shot. Every time you hit a practice shot from a bunker, watch the ball land and take note of how quickly it stopped due to spin. Over time, you will gain more and more confidence in your ability to predict this variable, and your shots will wind up closer to the target as a result.
One other variable to monitor is the speed of the greens. Naturally, this is going to affect how much the ball rolls once it is done bouncing. Slow greens aren't going to offer much in the way of roll out, while faster greens will see the ball wander on and on before it finally comes to rest. To make sure you have a good feeling for how the greens are rolling on a particular day, take some time before you tee off to roll long putts back and forth across the practice green.
There is plenty to think about before hitting a blast shot from a bunker, and it can all be a bit overwhelming at first. Through practice, however, you will get better and better at picking – and then hitting – a landing spot. Be sure to always have a landing spot in mind when playing from the sand, and commit yourself fully to hitting that spot with accuracy.
Other Bunker Options
The blast shot may be the one you play the most often from the sand, but it is not the only bunker shot you need to learn. There are a couple of other types of shots which can be helpful in the right situation, provided you have practiced them previously. Take a look at the list below and add these shots in to your practice routine from time to time.
- Dig out of a bad lie. When you find that your ball is buried deep in the sand, you are going to instantly know that you are in trouble. It is nearly impossible to hit a good shot from such a lie, and it is often hard to even get the ball out of the trap at all. When your ball is buried, move your most-lofted wedge into a square position (rather than laying the face open), and swing hard. You want the club to dig in to the sand in order to gauge the ball out, so keeping the face square is your best bet. Also, don't choke up – you want the full length of the club on your side to produce as much speed as possible.
- Hit a chip shot. If you wind up in a bunker with hard-packed sand, your best bet is to actually chip the ball just as you would off the grass. Make a much smaller swing, and attempt to hit the ball cleanly rather than blasting sand out of the bunker. This is a tricky shot to pull off, but it may be your only choice when the sand is wet and compact.
- Play out backwards. This is technically a different kind of shot, as a different plan for getting out of the bunker. When you are in a position that doesn't allow you to attack the flag, keep your emotions in check and simply play out in the safest direction possible. Your goal is to get the ball out in a single swing, even if that means you can't go right at the target.
Hitting blast bunker shots can actually be a lot of fun, once you know how they work. Having the right technique on your side is critical with these kinds of shots, so use the advice provided above to get the most out of your upcoming practice sessions. Good luck!