Explosion Shot a Good Weapon Outside the Bunker, Golf Swing Tip

A basic bunker shot is called an “explosion” because that's exactly what it looks like – an explosion of sand which sends the ball into the air.

Under normal conditions, a bunker shot is the only time you want to hit behind the golf ball, but the explosion shot can be useful outside the sand as well.

Here are a few examples of greenside situations that call for an explosion:

  • When you must play the ball from a muddy or soft lie.
  • When your ball sits in thick rough and there's no chance of hitting it cleanly.
  • From a spot where there's sand around and beneath the grass -- beside a bunker, for instance.

Essentially, any time you've got an extremely soft lie that increases the chances of hitting the ball fat, consider hitting the shot fat on purpose. The difference is, you'll swing harder knowing that the club will enter the ground behind the ball – just like you would in a bunker.

Execute the non-bunker explosion the same as a regular sand shot:

  • Address the ball with an open stance. The more open you stand, the higher the ball will fly.
  • The ball should be in the middle, or slightly forward of the middle, of your stance.
  • Make sure your footing is stable, with plenty of width between the feet and good knee flex.
  • The clubface should be square to the target, or a bit open depending on how high you want to hit the ball.
  • Pick a spot an inch or two behind the ball where you want the club to contact the turf.
  • Swing with the line of your body, focusing on your chosen spot – not the ball – and accelerating through the shot.

The ball will often come out “knuckling,” with little or no spin, so prepare for some roll when it lands on the green.

Explosion Shot a Good Weapon Outside the Bunker

Explosion Shot a Good Weapon Outside the Bunker

When you hear the words 'explosion shot' on the golf course, you instantly think of playing from a greenside bunker. This is where the explosion shot gained its fame in golf, of course, as it is an effective tool for blasting the ball out of the sand and up onto the green. If you are faced with a 'standard' bunker shot within close range of the green, you are almost always going to use the explosion shot.

But what if this shot was actually useful in other situations, as well? It turns out that your use of the explosion shot does not have to be limited to playing from bunkers. There are other situations around the green where this shot may also be called for. With that in mind, it becomes even more important to learn how to play this shot properly. With the right technique and plenty of practice, you can rely on your explosion shots to get you out of a number of tricky situations.

At this point, it would be good to take a step back and explain exactly what an explosion shot is in the golf context. If you are relatively new to the game, you might not be completely familiar with this term. Basically, an explosion shot is a shot where you are going to intentionally hit behind the ball, using the 'explosion' of the ground around the ball to propel the shot onto the green. This is easy to understand when thinking about it in a bunker setting. When you hit a proper explosion shot in the sand, you swing your wedge down into the sand at least an inch or two behind the ball. The club doesn't actually hit the ball – the club hits the sand, and the momentum of the sand carries the ball up and out of the trap. While it might seem complicated, this is actually one of the easier shots in the game to play, once you understand the technique and invest a bit of practice time to build your confidence.

If you are relatively new to the game and have not attempted an explosion shot before, it is best to start by learning this shot in the sand. It is easiest to play from the sand, and you'll be able to develop your technique there before branching out. Once you are comfortable with your bunker explosion shot, you can move on and begin to try using it in some of the situations which will be described later in this article.

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.

Proper Explosion Shot Technique

Proper Explosion Shot Technique

Before we talk about the other opportunities you may find to use your% explosion shot during a round of golf, we should take a moment to highlight the proper technique to use when playing this shot. As mentioned above, it is a relatively easy shot, and one you should be able to learn how to execute with relatively little practice (at least, as compared to other shots in this difficult game). However, even simple shots like this one have a few technical components which need to be executed properly.

The list below highlights the important technical elements of the explosion shot.

  • Make a big swing. With a name like 'explosion shot', it probably isn't surprising that you are going to need a big swing. Right away, we see a point where many players go wrong. Since this is a shot which is played within close range of the target, it feels unnatural to make such a large, aggressive swing. However, you have to remember that the goal here is not to hit the ball, but rather to hit the ground behind (and below) the ball. Since you aren't going to be making clean contact, much of the force of your swing is going to be 'lost in translation'. That means, when executed properly, the shot will not travel too far, despite the fact that you have made a large swing from short range. One of the biggest hurdles you need to clear when learning the explosion shot is simply developing trust in the fact that you can make a big swing without sending the ball over the target.
  • Keep your head very still. Accuracy with your swing is very important when playing an explosion shot. Even though you aren't trying to strike the back of the ball cleanly, you still need to control the point at which your club hits the ground. The best way to do this is to keep your head as still as possible. If you allow your head to drift to the right during the backswing – a common mistake – you will have trouble delivering the club to the ground at the correct point. Use the rotation of your shoulders to move the club while your head stays still in the middle of the action. Of course, you also need to be sure to keep your head down all the way through the swing. Looking up early may cause you to hit the ball before the ground, in which case you would almost certainly send the shot sailing well beyond the target.
  • Use the right hand aggressively at the bottom. This is where the explosion shot differs most significantly from most of the other shots you will learn in this game. In order to expose the full loft of the club to the ball at impact, you are going to need to fire your right hand through the hitting area. On the way down toward the ball, use your right hand to release the club head with a great deal of force. This kind of technique is going to result in an outside-in swing path, but that's okay in this setting. You wouldn't want to use the same technique when swinging your driver, as the result would likely be a slice. Here, however, the result should be a high shot which pops up out of its lie and heads gently up toward the target. When done properly, it is amazing how such an aggressive swing can lead to such a soft, accurate shot.
  • Play from a wide stance. The last tip we are going to offer with regard to explosion shot technique has to do with your stance. Instead of using the same stance as any other shot you use around the greens, you will want to widen your stance to provide a firm foundation for this aggressive swing. With a wider-than-usual stance, you can make a big swing without having to worry too much about falling off balance. This is particularly important considering the fact that you are likely to use this kind of shot from a variety of uneven lies. Without flat ground to steady yourself, a wider stance is a great way to bring some stability to the situation.

If you are at least a moderately experienced golfer, none of the techniques listed above should be particularly intimidating or difficult. As mentioned earlier, the best place to learn this shot is in the bunker. Only when you understand how it works in the sand should you consider giving it a try in other areas.

Looking for Other Opportunities

Looking for Other Opportunities

For the rest of this article, we are going to assume that you know how to play an explosion shot. If that is not the case, take some time to teach yourself the necessary techniques and then return to the rest of this discussion. With a reliable explosion shot available as one of your trusted short game shots, you can start to look for opportunities outside of the bunker to put this method to use.

The list below highlights some of the common spots outside of a bunker where you may be able to use an explosion shot.

  • Deep rough. This is the classic non-bunker location for an explosion shot. When your ball comes to rest in some deep rough around the green, you can treat the situation just as you would a bunker shot. You are going to open the face of your wedge, make a big swing, and blast the ball out of the grass and onto the green. The resistance offered by the long grass is going to slow your club down in much the same manner as the sand. This will always be something of an unpredictable shot, as it is difficult to judge how quickly/slowly the ball will come out of the grass, but playing an explosion in this situation is usually your best bet. Many courses these days don't keep their rough long in order to improve pace of play, but if you do play a course that has long grass around the greens, this type of explosion shot will be critical to your success.
  • Soft, loose ground. On some golf courses, you will find areas of soft, loose ground which are not actually in a bunker. These may be called 'waste areas', or they may be called nothing at all – they could just be part of the course. Whatever the case, you will need to know how to get your ball out of these spots and back into position. In some cases, but not all, the explosion shot will be the right tool for the job. The key here is to only use this shot when you believe there is enough soft ground under the ball for the club to travel safely. If the loose material is only a thin layer on top, while a much firmer layer waits barely below the surface, your explosion shot is not going to work. A common place to find this kind of situation is in the desert. When playing a desert course, you stray from the fairway and find loose ground from time to time – but it's usually rock hard just below the surface. In these cases, you'll want to play something that looks more like a chip shot than an explosion shot. Only when you know you have enough depth of soft ground to blast the ball out should you attempt to go in this direction.
  • Saturated ground. Okay – so this one can get a bit messy. If you find your ball in an area which has been saturated with water, as may be the case after a heavy rain, one of your options will be to blast the ball up toward the target using explosion shot technique. However, before you give this a try, you should consider the other valuable option you may have at your disposal – taking free relief from standing water. If the area where your ball has come to rest is not within the margins of a hazard, you are probably entitled to free relief. Taking such relief is a better option than trying to blast the ball off of the wet ground. Of course, it is possible that your ball will be sitting just inside a hazard, or you may not want to take relief based on the options available. When one of those conditions is true, use your standard explosion shot swing and hope for the best. As you might imagine, plenty of water – and mud – can go flying when you hit this shot.

In all honesty, you probably aren't going to come across any of the three situations above with great frequency. In fact, you will hope to avoid such situations, as they are going to make things difficult for you on the course. When one of these kinds of lies presents itself, however, it is helpful to know that you can turn to an explosion shot to get your ball back in position.