How Much Sand Should I Take For The Perfect Golf Bunker Shot

Striking down into the sand before the ball during a bunker shot is crucial for success but how much sand should a golfer be looking to take?

There can be some sand shots which require different amounts to be taken. A buried bunker shot, for example, requires comparatively more sand to be taken than with a standard splash bunker shot. Golfers looking to focus on the standard splash bunker shot should aim to take the same amount of sand on each shot. Taking a consistent amount sand will lead to consistent results which will breed confidence into a player's game.

How much sand

For most players, taking out two inches of sand from behind and underneath the ball is the safest ploy but the best way to be sure is to experiment. Players with access to a practice bunker can use this drill.

1. Draw a line in the sand 90 degree to the ball-to-target line and let it run through the middle of the stance.

2. Place five balls along the line at different distances. The first ball should be an inch from the line closer to the target, the second 2 inches, the third 3, the fourth 4 and the fifth 5 inches from the line close to the target.

3. The golfer can practice hitting the ball on to the green making sure they enter the sand on the line and try to move the sand out from underneath the balls.

Golfers should find that the most consistent ball position is two inches in front of the line and therefore just forward of centre in the stance.

When analysing bunker shots, golfers should be looking at both the depth and length of the divot taken. A normal splash bunker shot does not require mounds of sand to be moved so depth of divot is important.

Golfers don't want to be taking more than two inches of sand from underneath the ball. An inch of sand would be a more preferable amount.

The length of the divot after the ball is also a telling sign. The divot on a normal bunker shots needs to start one to two inches in front of the ball and extend three to four inches beyond. This will show the golfer is hitting down and through the ball.

How Much Sand Should I Take for the Perfect Golf Bunker Shot?

Bunker shots can be tricky.

There are a number of variables involved in each bunker shot, whether you are playing from next to the green or from back in the fairway. Simply getting the ball out of the bunker in one shot should be your first goal, and from there you can hope to actually hit the shot close to the hole. Of course, hitting good shots from the sand doesn't happen by accident. You will need to carefully practice your skills in order to pull this off, and you will need to make good decisions as well.

Speaking of decisions, one of the key factors on any bunker shot is deciding how much sand you should take when swinging through the hitting area. You are going to take at least a little bit of sand on (basically) every bunker shot, but the amount will vary from shot to shot. As a general rule of thumb, you are going to take very little sand on a fairway bunker shot, while you will take a lot when playing an explosion shot from next to the green. That simple guideline will help take you in the right direction, but that's not the end of the story. In this article, we are going to work through this topic carefully, helping you determine how much sand to take for a variety of different types of bunker shots.

In addition to the length of the shot you are facing, there are going to be a number of other variables to weigh while making this decision. For example, you'll have to account for the condition of the sand, the slopes involved, the club you are using, and more. Later in the article, we will help you sort through these issues in a logical manner.

It is a mistake to simply ignore your bunker game, hoping it will get better on its own. Playing from the sand is an important part of golf, and your skills in this area are only going to improve if you are willing to practice. Not only do you need plenty of physical practice, but you also need to think about your strategies when you find your ball in a bunker. When you are able to combine smart decision-making with excellent technique, great things are possible.

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.

Greenside Bunker Shots

Greenside Bunker Shots

We are going to divide our discussion between greenside bunker shots and fairway bunker shots. In reality, these two types of shots have very little in common, despite the fact that they are both played from the sand. So, it wouldn't make much sense to talk about them together, as the strategies you will use are going to be quite different. We'll deal with greenside bunker shots first, and move on to fairway bunker shots in the next section.

You are usually going to play an explosion shot when in a greenside bunker. An explosion shot is one where you blast a large amount of sand out of the bunker, and the ball is carried along for the ride. This is the easiest way to get out of the trap in most cases, and it is actually a pretty simple shot to play (with a little practice, of course). But how do you know how much sand you'll need to take for each explosion shot? Check out the tips below.

  • Evaluate the condition of the sand. For starters, you are going to need to evaluate the sand itself while you are getting set to hit your shot. In bunkers with light, fluffy sand, you'll be able to cut through a large patch of the sand with relatively ease. The story changes, however, when the sand becomes heavy and dense. Trying to dig a big chunk of heavy sand out of the bunker on an explosion shot is nearly an impossible task. Simply put, you can plan on taking more sand when the sand is dry and light, rather than wet and heavy. Of course, you aren't allowed to reach down and touch the sand with your hands, and you aren't allowed to hit the sand on your practice swings. So, you are left to do your evaluation by looking at the sand and paying attention to how it feels under your feet while walking in.
  • Consider the length of the shot. Even though we are talking about greenside bunker shots in this section, there can be great variance in the lengths of shots that fall into this category. You might need to hit the ball only a few yards before it can land and run the rest of the way to the hole. Or, you might be forced to carry the ball 20 or 30 yards in the air before you want it to land. Usually, you are going to take less sand on the longer shots, and more sand on the shorter ones. The sand you take out of the bunker is going to reduce the speed of your swing through the ball, so it's pretty easy to understand why taking less on longer shots is a good idea. It should be noted, however, that taking less sand is going to result in a higher spin rate on the shot. That means those longer greenside bunker shots will frequently stop quickly after they land, thanks to the significant amount of backspin created at impact.
  • Which club are you using? Some beginning golfers mistakenly think that they have to use their sand wedge for greenside bunker shots. That is not necessarily the case. Sure, you may use your sand wedge frequently, but probably not always. For instance, you may go up to your lob wedge when you need to hit a higher shot to get out of a deep bunker. Or, you might use your gap wedge – or even your pitching wedge – when facing a longer-than-normal explosion shot. The club you decide to use for a given shot is going to impact how much sand you should take. You will need to blend the loft of the club with the amount of sand you decide to take in order to accurately predict how far the shot is going to travel.

It would be great if we could give you an exact amount of sand that you should take for each of your bunker shots, given the situation. Of course, that would be impossible. We can't predict each and every sand situation you are going to run into this game, and we don't know how hard you are going to swing, either. Unfortunately, that means you'll need to figure this out on your own, on the fly. That means this will be more challenging, but it also means that you have the opportunity to build your own style. Some players like to take a lot of sand out of the bunker, while others like to pick the ball pretty clean. With time and practice, you can develop your own playing style which will suit your needs and preferences perfectly.

Fairway Bunker Shots

Fairway Bunker Shots

It's a completely different conversation when talking about fairway bunker shots. Rather than trying to blast the ball out of the trap, you will likely be trying to 'pick in clean'. In other words, you'll be attempting to make clean contact at impact, while taking as little sand out of the trap as possible. These are difficult shots, as it can be tough to make such precise contact while standing on loose sand. For a very good reason, fairway bunker shots have a reputation as some of the most difficult shots in the game.

Assuming you are trying to hit a full shot out of the fairway trap – instead of just playing out safely to the fairway – you are going to want to pick the ball clean. But how do you accomplish that goal. We hope the tips below will provide some assistance.

  • Make a controlled swing. The first thing you need to know about playing a fairway bunker shot is that you have to avoid the temptation to swing hard. This shot is all about clean contact, and it will be tough to make clean contact if you swing as hard as possible. You need to maintain your balance, and you need to stay as centered as you can while the swing develops. To encourage yourself to make a controlled swing, consider using one or even two extra clubs for the distance. This will help you relax, knowing you don't have to hit a perfect shot to reach the target. Of course, using a lower-lofted club is only going to be an option if the bunker is shallow enough to permit such an approach. If the bunker has a high lip, you need to think first and foremost about getting out of the trap in a single swing. That may mean laying up and going for the green with your next shot, and that's okay. Remember, you are already in trouble when you hit your ball into a fairway bunker. You don't want to make it worse by being too aggressive and leaving yourself in the sand for another stroke.
  • Choke down slightly. The goal with this swing is to miss the sand and strike the ball as cleanly as you can. Toward that end, it is a good idea to choke down slightly on the grip at address. This is going to effectively make the club a little shorter, which will make it less likely that you'll catch any sand prior to striking the ball. However, just as is the case when playing from the grass, choking down will likely rob you of a little bit of swing speed. So, we find another reason to use an extra club or two out of a fairway trap. Use an extra club to account for the reduction in power you will experience when you choke down.
  • Keep your head very still. To be clear, this is good advice on every shot you play during a round of golf. Keeping your head still is going to help you strike the ball cleanly, and that's always a good thing. It is particularly important here, however, as you will be harshly punished in a fairway bunker if you don't achieve a clean strike. Hitting the ball even slightly fat will lead to the shot coming up well short of the target. As you make the swing, focus on head stability while letting your body from the neck down handle the task of hitting this difficult shot.

The goal on a fairway bunker shot is to take virtually no sand at all when you swing through the ball. Of course, this is easier said than done. Fairway bunker shots are feared even by accomplished golfers, as they are always a challenge. Work on your skills in this area of the game so you don't have to be quite so intimidated the next time you step down into a fairway trap.