Using Your Putter Effectively in a Bunker

In this article, we are going to assume that you have come across a situation where it will be useful to employ your putter in a greenside bunker. Now what? How do you actually hit this shot? Needless to say, this is going to be quite different from the putts you hit when your ball is on the green. You’ll need to modify your technique slightly, and you will need to have a different type of plan in mind, as well.

First, let’s talk about the mechanical changes.

  • Use the whole putter. When on the greens, some players like to choke down on the grip of their putter slightly. There is nothing wrong with that at all – but it is not the right plan when trying to putt your way out of a bunker. When putting in the sand, you will want to keep your hands all the way up at the top of the grip. You are going to need to apply some decent speed to this type of shot, and keeping your hands at the end of the grip will help you produce that speed.
  • Change your grip. Most golfers have a grip they use only for putting, while they use a different kind of grip on the rest of their shots. That is certainly a good idea, but in this case, you are going to want to opt for the grip you would use when chipping or pitching the ball. This is basically a chip shot hit with your putter, so it will be more effective to use your chipping grip.
  • Stand tall. Again, this is another point that is designed to help you create some speed through the ball. Instead of bending down over the ball like you do on the greens, stand a little taller with your feet slightly closer together. Positioning yourself this way over the ball is going to make it easier to swing the putter head through impact freely.

Those three changes should be easy to make, and they shouldn’t take much practice to master. Just by keeping your hands at the top of the grip, using your chipping grip, and standing tall over the ball, you can alter your stroke in a way that will make it more effective in bunkers.

Now, we need to move on to the strategy side of this shot. How are you going to plan a putt in a bunker, when you rarely get the opportunity to putt in this situation? This type of shot is always going to feel a little awkward, but the following mental game tips should help.

  • Get out! The main goal of this shot is simply to get the ball out of the bunker. If you manage to actually get the ball close to the hole when all is said and done, that should be seen as a bonus. When trying to determine how hard you are going to swing your putter, always error on the side of being too aggressive. You don’t want to come up short of the edge of bunker and have to watch the ball roll right back down to your feet. Give this putt plenty of pace so you can get the ball out comfortably.
  • You still need to read the green. Assuming you are actually able to putt the ball out of the sand and onto the green, you will want to have read the green before picking a target line. You can’t expect to be very accurate with this read, of course, since the ball is going to be bouncing around as it makes it way out of the sand. Still, it is a good idea to get a read and use it to determine the path you are going to take toward the hole.
  • Hold your head steady. This is a point which could have been included in the technique discussion above, but we think it makes more sense as a mental game tip. As you are swinging the putt, you need to have the discipline to hold your head still in order to make solid contact. If you move your head early to see where the ball is going to go, a miss-hit is likely. And, if you do miss-hit the shot, the ball is almost certainly going to come up short of leaving the bunker.

This isn’t an easy shot. Putting from a greenside bunker is never going to be your first option, but it is something that could help you get out of a tough spot. We hope the combination of mental and physical tips above will help you have success on the rare occasion when this shot is put to use.

A Note on the Rules

When you do decide to use your putter in a greenside bunker – or any bunker, for that matter – it is important to remember that you still can’t ground the club as you prepare to play the shot. That means you can’t rest the putter head on the sand behind the ball before making your stroke. Most golfers do rest the putter head on the green when hitting normal putts, and there is nothing wrong with that at all. However, when in a bunker, doing so would be a violation of the rules, and a penalty. If you are going to use your putter in a bunker, you need to hover the putter head behind the ball until the club goes in motion.

With any luck, you won’t have to putt out of a bunker anytime soon. In fact, it would be great if you didn’t have to play out of any bunkers at all in your upcoming rounds. That probably isn’t realistic, however, so you do need to be prepared with a variety of options when sand shots come up. While it’s great to get up and down from greenside bunkers in order to save a stroke, your first goal should always be to simply get out of the sand and back onto the grass in a single swing. We hope you now have an understanding of why you may want to putt from a bunker, and we hope you can pull it off successfully when the opportunity arises. Good luck!