Good decisions are important everywhere on the course, and that is certainly true when you are stuck in a greenside bunker.

Bunker Tips - Making Smart Sand Decisions

On the surface, it might seem like the game plan from a greenside bunker would be pretty simple. Don’t you just aim for the hole and hope to hit it close? Well, sometimes that might be the right plan, but not always. Depending on the circumstances in the bunker, you might not be able to aim directly at the hole. In fact, you may not even be able to aim at the green at all in some cases.

The first thing to think about when playing from a greenside bunker is whether or not you’ll be able to get out easily while still playing in the direction of the hole. Your top priority is to get the ball out in a single swing, so if you can’t do that while aiming at the hole, you’ll need to play off to one side or the other in order to get out cleanly. It is important to err on the side of caution here, as you don’t want to make the mistake of leaving your ball in the trap for another shot.

Assuming you don’t have to worry much about getting the ball out, you can start to think about some more advanced concepts with regard to bunker play. Specifically, you can think about where you would like to position the ball for your putt. Most of the time, you are going to want to putt from below the hole. That means aiming slightly toward the low side of the hole so you can putt back up the hill when trying to complete your up and down. Also, you will need to consider any severe slopes which may be located around the hole. For instance, if there is a steep slope running away from you just beyond the cup, you’ll want to play short to avoid seeing the ball roll too far.

As you get ready to hit a greenside bunker shot, always keep in mind the importance of minimizing the damage that you incur on the scorecard. Yes, it would be great to get up and down in just two strokes, but that isn’t always going to happen. Sometimes, it will take three strokes – and that’s okay. You’ve already made your mistake by hitting the ball into the bunker, so you don’t want to compound that mistake by getting into even more trouble. Be patient and conservative in this situation so you can finish the hole and move on in as few strokes as possible.

A Few More Tips

So far, we’ve talked about picking the right club for your bunker shots, building good technique, and making smart decisions. To wrap up this article, we want to highlight a few final tips.

  • Wiggle your way in. You’ve probably seen professional golfers wiggling their feet into the sand before playing bunker shots, and there is a good reason for that move. It can be slippery to stand on the top of the sand, especially when trying to make a big swing. If you wiggle your feet down into the sand just a bit, you should have better footing for the shot. When the sand is soft you will want to go down a good distance in order to secure your stance, while you might not need to wiggle in much at all when the sand is firm.
  • Pay attention to the slope. The slope of the ground under your feet is going to have a significant impact on how the ball comes out of the bunker. If the ball is sitting on a downslope in the back of the bunker, the shot is likely to come out low. On the other hand, if the ball is up near the front of the bunker on the upslope, it should come out high and stop quickly. Be sure to factor this variable into the equation before you decide exactly how to hit the shot.
  • Conditions matter. Both the condition of the bunker and the condition of the green are going to play an important role in determining how you should proceed with your bunker shots. As far as the sand is concerned, you should expect the ball to come out slower from dry, fluffy sand, and quicker from wet, hard-packed sand. Up on the greens, you’ll want to think about the speed of the putting surfaces, as well as their firmness. Obviously, the ball is going to be more likely to roll out a good distance when the greens are quick, and hard greens are going to provide a bigger first bounce and compared to soft greens.
  • Practice for many situations. Very rarely will you wind up with what could be considered a ‘standard’ bunker shot. The nature of bunkers means that you will need to be ready for a wide variety of scenarios each time you walk down into the sand. Do your best to practice as many different shots as possible so you can be well prepared out on the course. Even if you do practice a number of different shots, however, you’re still bound to find something that you’ve never seen before from time to time. When that happens, keep an open mind and look at all possibilities for how you can advance the ball up toward the hole.

Getting back to the question in the title of this article, yes, it is perfectly acceptable to use your lob wedge from the bunker on occasion. With that said, the lob wedge will not always be the right tool for the job, so you need to think your club selection through carefully before proceeding. We hope the tips in this article will help elevate your sand game moving forward. Good luck!