Why Can't I Spin The Golf Ball From The Bunker

Many golfers become frustrated when after escaping from a bunker they see their ball hit the green but bound onwards, running away from the pin.

Producing enough backspin out of a bunker helps ensure there is more control on the ball once it pitches. Balls which come out with no backspin are difficult to predict as there is nothing to slow them down except the contours of the green or possibly another sand trap!

Although backspin is needed to control sand shots, players who struggle to produce enough out of bunkers are often confused why they can't get the necessary revolutions on the ball.

Here are four reasons why balls may leave the bunker without enough backspin.

1. Too much sand - On a standard splash bunker shot, golfers want to enter the sand about an inch behind. This will send the ball out of the bunker on about an inch of sand. The resulting divot should be about the size of a $1 bill and an inch deep. If after hitting a shot a golfer finds their divot in a bunker is deeper than an inch, they could be taking too much sand. Getting too much sand trapped between the club face and ball will send the ball upwards but without much backspin; it will be propelled forward on force alone. To increase the amount of spin imparted on the ball from a bunker shot, golfers should aim to take less sand.

2. Quitting on the shot - Another way of producing more backspin from a bunker is by increasing club head speed. The slower the swing speed, the fewer revolutions will be transferred on to the ball. A slow club head speed through the ball could be caused by quitting on the bunker shot. To stop this from happening, players should ensure they swing through the ball and finish in a full position, facing the target up on the back toe, as they would with a normal shot from the fairway. This should help ensure a powerful swing and increased club head speed.

3. Not enough loft - The higher the loft on a club, the higher the chance there is of producing backspin. For example, identical swings with a 4 iron and sand wedge will create vastly different spin rates because of the difference in loft. If golfers are struggling to spin the ball from a bunker, they should check the club they are using has a sufficient amount of loft. A standard sand wedge should have about 56 degrees of loft.

4. Bad grooves - The grooves on a sand wedge help create backspin when interacting with the sand and ball. If a club has shallow grooves or grooves filled with mud, they cannot produce the same amount of spin compared to grooves which are sharp and clean. Players concerned with the depth of their grooves should consult their local professional for advice.

Golfers struggling to achieve backspin out of a bunker should review these four points and see if by improving one or more of them they can raise the level of their sand play and overall game.

Why Can't I Spin the Golf Ball from the Bunker?

Why Can't I Spin the Golf Ball from the Bunker?

One of the biggest differences between professional golfers and their amateur counterparts is the ability to spin the golf ball from a greenside bunker. When splashing the ball out of the sand and onto the green, it is a great help if you can load the shot up with plenty of spin. A high spin rate means the ball will stop quickly when it lands, allowing you to control your shots beautifully. When executed properly, a bunker shot that lands near the hole, takes one bounce, and stops cold, is truly a sight to behold.

Sadly, this is a shot that most amateur golfers simply don't have in the bag. You've probably seen your favorite professional golfer pull this off on TV, but it may continue to elude you in your own game. With this article, we hope to change that. While hitting bunker shots with a high rate of spin is not the easiest thing you will do on the course, it certainly isn't impossible. Once you understand what it is that makes the ball spin in this situation, it's all going to come down to practice. Just like anything else in golf, you'll get better at this shot as you continue to gain experience and confidence.

It needs to be noted here in the introduction that this is not a shot you should be trying to play every time you step into the sand. Hitting a spinning bunker shot is a somewhat advanced skill, and this kind of shot always has the potential to go wrong. When possible, you should opt for hitting a traditional explosion shot from the sand, the kind that lands just onto the edge of the green before bouncing and rolling the rest of the way to the cup. This is a safer shot, and it will provide more consistent results for the average player. It is great to have the option to hit a spinning shot when the need arises, but don't think of this play as your default method of getting up and down from a bunker.

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.

Understanding Spin from the Sand

Before we talk specifically about spin, let's take a step back for a second and talk about the basic explosion shot. When your ball comes to rest in a greenside bunker, the explosion shot should be the first option that comes into your head. The idea here is simple – using a lofted wedge, you are going to make a big swing and put the club head into the sand behind the ball. Then, as you swing through the sand, the ball will be lifted out of the trap, not by the club head, but by the sand itself. This is called an 'explosion' shot because there is going to be a big blast of sand which pops up into the air as you swing through. Despite how complicated it sounds, this is actually a relatively easy shot to handle.

For a standard explosion shot, you are going to put the club into the sand at least a couple inches behind the ball. When played this way, there will be very little spin imparted on the ball as it leaves the trap. The shot will land on the green, take a couple of bounces, and then roll out – hopefully toward the target. This is a highly useful shot, and it is one which every golfer should know how to play.

But what about circumstances where you need to stop the ball quickly? If the ball needs to come to rest quickly after it lands, you will want to use spin. And, to use spin, you are going to have to put the club head into the sand much closer to the ball. This is going to place less sand between your ball and the club face, and more backspin will be the result. It is possible to impart extremely high levels of spin on the ball when you pull this off just right. In fact, you might even be able to have the ball land on the green and spin back towards you if you clip the shot perfectly.

The benefit of this kind of shot is obvious – you'll be able to stop the ball almost immediately after it lands, making it easier to access a variety of hole locations. Of course, the downside of this shot is pretty obvious as well. By putting the club into the sand so close to the ball, you are asking for trouble. If you misjudge your swing just slightly, you'll catch the ball cleanly and miss the sand entirely. That means the ball will either shoot way over the green, or crash right into the side of the bunker in front of you. Either way, you're not going to be happy with the outcome of the shot. Thanks to the risk involved, it takes a steady nerve to pull off this kind of bunker shot with any degree of consistency.

It should be mentioned that the condition of the sand also plays a role in this discussion. You'll find that it is much more difficult to spin the ball from a soft, fluffy lie than from firm, damp sand. When the bottom of the bunker is packed tightly, it should be relatively easy to generate some spin. As you work on learning to spin your bunker shots, take note of how the ball responds from various sand conditions, and then take that information into consideration while on the course. For instance, if you have a soft and fluffy lie during an upcoming round, you should probably skip the idea of using spin and instead let the ball bounce and roll to the target, if possible.

Understanding Spin from the Sand

Understanding Spin from the Sand

If you are going to learn how to spin the ball out of the greenside bunkers, you will need to have the right technique in place. For the most part, you are going to be using a very similar technique to the swing you use when hitting a basic explosion shot. However, there are a few differences, so you'll want to specifically practice the right mechanics for generating high rates of spin. The list below highlights the technical keys you should monitor during your practice sessions. Some of these keys relate to all greenside bunker explosion shots, while some of the tips are specific to shots that you want to spin aggressively.

  • Open the face of your wedge. When preparing to play any explosion shot, no matter how much spin you want to put on the ball, you should open the face of your wedge at address. Not only is this going to add loft to the club, which will help you get the ball up and out of the bunker, but it will also let the club slide through the sand more effectively. If you were to keep the club face square, it would be likely to dig into the sand, and the shot will come up short. You can vary how much you open the face at address based on the kind of shot at hand. When you need to hit a long greenside bunker shot, you'll want to only open the face by a few degrees. On the other hand, if you are playing a very short shot just onto the edge of the green, you will want to open the face dramatically to hit a high, soft, and short shot.
  • Make a big swing. This is the point that gives amateur golfers a lot of trouble. Since you are so close to the green, it is hard to convince yourself that you need to make a big swing – but you do. If you fail to make a big enough swing, you won't be able to carry the necessary speed through the hitting area, and the shot will likely come up short. In fact, if you make a small swing, you might not even get the ball out of the bunker at all. There is really no substitute for practice when trying to get comfortable making a big swing in greenside bunkers. In time, you will learn to trust the fact that you need to make a big swing, and you'll start to see greatly improved results in this area of your game. As it relates to spin specifically, a big swing is going to help you rip the club through the sand and under the ball with enough energy to create impressive backspin. Before starting your swing, make sure to create a wide enough stance to support the big swing that is about to take place. Many amateur golfers stand with their feet too close together in the sand, and they are unable to make an aggressive swing as a result.
  • Set your wrists. If you hope to produce some spin, you aren't going to do it without the help of your wrists. On the way back, you should be using your wrists to set the club, meaning you are going to hinge your right wrist back to move the club shaft up into the air. Then, on the way down, you'll release that set to unleash maximum speed through the hitting area. Like everything else related to bunker shots, it is going to take some time to get comfortable with this skill. The combination of a full wrist set with a big swing is going to allow you to produce incredibly high, spinning bunker shots – as long as you execute perfectly through impact, of course.
  • Sit down into your stance. We mentioned earlier that you need to use a wide stance to support the big swing you are about to make, and that's true. In addition, you should feel like you are using a significant amount of knee flex as you stand over the ball. This is going to bring you down slightly closer to the sand, which is a good thing, and it will also be another point that helps you keep your balance. Don't make the mistake of bending over from the waist to reach down toward the sand – instead, flex your knees while keeping your back mostly straight.

In the end, hitting a spinning bunker shot is quite simple, even though it is not always easy. You need to use solid explosion shot technique, and you need to put the club into the sand very close to the ball. That's it – that previous sentence outlines your entire task when trying to spin a bunker shot. From here, it's up to you to learn how to hit this shot in practice. Focus on the fundamentals of your technique so you can hit nice explosion shots over and over again. Then, work on moving your point of entry into the sand closer to the ball in order to add spin. Soon enough, you should be able to produce reliable bunker shots that skid to a stop after just one or two bounces.

Technical Keys

Technical Keys

Finally, we are going to talk quickly about the role of your equipment when trying to spin the ball out of the bunker. In order to execute this shot, you are going to need to have the right equipment in your bag, both in terms of your golf balls and your wedges. Even if you manage to execute the perfect technique to produce a spinning bunker shot, you will still need to have the right equipment in order to get the results you desire.

Let's look at some keys to picking out equipment that is going to let you spin these shots.

  • Golf balls with a soft cover. If you are hoping to produce spin on your bunker shots, and other short game shots, you will need a ball with a soft cover. The cover is the most important element of the ball with regard to short game performance, because you aren't going to be hitting the ball hard enough to engage the core. By using a ball with a soft cover, you will not only be able to spin the ball more aggressively from the sand, but you may also find that you like the feel of this type of ball when putting, as well. Of course, you need to make sure that this ball is going to work just as well for your full swing as it will for your short game. You should only settle on a golf ball model when you are convinced that it will work properly all the way from tee to green.
  • A clean wedge. To pull off a spinning bunker shot from a greenside trap, you should be using a clean wedge with plenty of loft. Most of the time, you'll want to use a wedge with at least 55* of loft, if not more. By keeping the club clean, you will let the grooves do their job as the club swings through the hitting area. The best way to keep your clubs clean is to get into the habit of wiping your clubs off with a towel after every shot you play on the course. Every time you walk back to your bag to put a club away, simply wipe it off with a towel and then replace it. This way, each time you take a club out of your bag to play your next shot, you can be confident the club will be clean and ready for action.

Spinning your greenside bunker shots is something of an advanced skill in golf, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't give it a try. Remember, you simply need to use your normal explosion shot technique to hit this shot, as you can add spin just by making contact with the sand closer to the ball. While the idea is simple, it's not always simple to pull it off. Spend plenty of time practicing this shot, and only put it to use on the course when it is necessary to help you get the ball closer to the hole. Good luck!