How to Execute the Proper Swing for Greenside Bunkers

In this article, we are going to step away from the strategy side of things to talk about the actual execution of the bunker swing. After all, even the best plan in the world is going to be useless if you can’t hit the shot you have in mind. Greenside bunker shots tend to intimidate amateur golfers, but they don’t have to be scary. With just some basic fundamentals, you should be able to splash the ball out of the trap time and time again.

One common mistake with regard to bunker shots is overcomplicating the standard explosion shot that you will use for most greenside bunker situations. We are going to keep it simple here, highlighting just three points you can use to get your technique organized.

  • Make a big swing. Yes, you are starting from relatively close to the green when you hit a greenside bunker shot. However, that doesn’t mean you can use a small swing. In fact, you’ll want to make a rather big swing, since the club is going to need to have enough power to cut through the sand successfully. You should be making a shoulder turn just as you would when hitting a full shot, and you should set your wrists during the backswing as well. The swing you make in a greenside bunker won’t have the same lower body action as a full swing on the grass, but the upper body motion will look quite similar. If you can learn to trust the fact that a big swing is the right way to play these shots, you’ll be on the path toward improved results.
  • Open the face at address. This is another tip that many amateur golfers have trouble trusting. To play a proper explosion shot, you need to lay the face wide open when addressing the ball. Sure, your wedge already has 55* or so of loft, but that isn’t going to be enough. You want your club head to slice through the sand and under the ball cleanly, and the only way that is going to happen is if you lay the face open at address. Again, just like on the previous point, this is something that you’ll just need to learn to trust. Practice some bunker shots with the face open and quickly it will become obvious just how important this tip is to your performance.
  • Hit behind the ball. Finally, the last of our three simple tips is to hit behind the ball at the bottom of the swing. For an explosion shot, you aren’t trying to actually make contact with the ball. Instead, you are trying to make contact with the sand behind the ball. As you swing through the sand, the ball will be lifted out and (hopefully) onto the green. To pull this off, you have to keep the speed of your swing up all the way through to the finish. The sand is going to immediately rob your swing of much of its power, so there is no sense in being gentle here. Fire the club through the sand, under the ball, and watch your shot pop up and out beautifully.

It is easy to overlook bunker shots when going through your standard practice routine. You already know that you need to practice your full swing and your putting, and you may even work on some chipping from time to time, as well. But bunker shots tend to be left behind, leaving the player unprepared when the situation comes up on the course. Find a practice bunker at a golf facility near you and work on your technique. Even occasional bunker practice can go a long way toward making you better in the sand.