Flatten Swing to Hit Spinning Sand Shots, Golf Tip

Some golfers take the term “explosion shot” a bit too literally. When faced with a shot from a bunker, they make a huge swing and blast as much sand as possible in the hopes of getting the ball out and onto the green.

If you aspire to do more than just escape, however, there's a better way to go about it.

The main thing separating average bunker players from good ones is the ability to impart backspin. Where average golfers take so much sand that their shots look like knuckleballs, better players exhume only a sliver of sand, causing the ball to check up and stop on a dime.

Here's some good news: You don't have to hit the sand close to the ball to make it spin. You simply need to adopt a shallower swing path. Follow these steps to crisper bunker shots that hop and stop:

  • Stand square to the target line, or just slightly open.
  • Address the ball in your usual manner, then move about an inch farther away from the ball. Be sure to maintain plenty of knee flex, and don't bend over to reach the ball.
  • Make your normal swing, focusing on hitting the sand about 2” behind the ball.

Standing square instead of wide open to the target line promotes a more inside-to-out swing, while the extra space between you and the ball further flattens your swing path.

Even with the same entry point as before, you'll take a shallower divot, with less sand between clubface and ball. Voila! More spin, more control, better bunker shots.

Watching a professional golfer play a sand shot is an impressive display.

Flatten Swing to Hit Spinning Sand Shots?

Often, when playing from a greenside bunker, the player will send the ball up toward the hole with what seems like far too much speed – only to have backspin take over and the ball come to a sudden halt right near the hole. To the amateur player, this can seem like a magic trick. How do they pull it off? How is it possible to generate so much spin on such a short shot?

In this article, we are going to help you add this type of shot to your own game. Is this a case where the shot is actually much easier than it appears? No – not necessarily. It is a challenging shot, and it is one which is going to require plenty of practice if you are going to pull it off consistently. It is not impossible, however, and you don't need to be a professional to put it to good use. By the end of this article you should have all the information you need to get out and work on adding this skill to your own game.

Before we get into the discussion of how you are going to hit this shot, we should stop for a moment and talk about why you would want to add this to your short game arsenal. What are the benefits to hitting a bunker shot with a high rate of spin? Well, for one thing, you will be able to access more hole locations when blasting the ball out of a greenside trap. Picture a bunker shot where the hole is cut only a short distance onto the green from where you are standing, and the green is sloped away from you. Without spin, you would have almost no chance to get the ball close to the hole. By imparting a high rate of spin, you may be able to bring the ball to rest quickly, even though the slope is running away. Also, on fast greens, using spin to stop your bunker shots may be more predictable and consistent than trying to run the ball up the hole with the perfect pace.

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 in the Bunker

Understanding Spin in the Bunker

It would be easy to get ahead of yourself on this topic. Motivated to learn how to spin the ball out of a bunker, you might just head to your local golf facility and start trying it for yourself. There is something to be said for trial and error, but you'll probably waste a lot of time if you proceed in this manner. Instead, take a moment to educate yourself on this topic and give yourself a shortcut to the final results that you desire.

In order to consistently produce bunker shots which spin at a high rate, you need to understand what it is that allows the ball to spin in the first place. The backspin on any shot – whether played from the bunker or not – is created as a result of the friction between the ball and the club face at impact. The face 'grabs' onto the cover of the ball and holds it (for a split second) while the shot is in the process of being struck. As the ball leaves the face, the friction that existed momentarily between the face and the ball will lead to some degree of backspin. Every shot that gets up into the air successfully has at least some backspin – it's just a matter of how much.

So, we now know that the cause of backspin is the relationship between the club face and the ball at impact. That is true for shots played all around the course, but we want to talk specifically about shots hit from greenside bunkers. When in a bunker around the green, you are usually going to play an explosion shot. That means you are going to swing the club down into the sand behind the ball, and you are going to blast a large quantity of sand out of the trap, along with the golf ball. This is the easiest way to get out of a trap, and it is a relatively simple shot to learn (with a little practice, of course).

However, if you are paying attention, you probably noticed something right away that doesn't quite add up. If you are swinging the club into the sand behind the ball, there really isn't going to be any interaction between the club face and the ball at impact. And you are correct. On a 'standard' explosion shot, the club face isn't going to touch the ball – and the ball will have very little backspin. When this type of shot is played, the plan is to carry the ball up onto the putting surface where it will land, bounce a couple of times, and roll out toward the hole. There is very little in the way of stopping power due to spin, so a lot of run out should be expected. This is still a useful shot, but you shouldn't expect to spin it to a stop shortly after it lands on the green.

If you are going to produce a meaningful amount of spin when playing out of a greenside bunker, the task is simple – you are going to need to move the club face closer to the ball at impact. This is going to reduce the amount of sand that comes between the face and the ball at the bottom of the swing, meaning it will be possible for more spin to be created. When played just right, the ball will come out of the bunker quickly and it will stop just as quickly after a bounce or two on the green.

So, why not play all of your bunker shots this way? Simple – risk. This is a risky shot, because you have to move your contact point so close to the ball. If you misjudge the swing just slightly and wind up hitting the ball cleanly while missing the sand altogether, you are going to hit the ball way too hard. Or, if you hit behind the ball farther than intended, you won't get your anticipated spin and the ball might not travel the right distance. This is a shot that comes with a relatively high degree of difficulty, and there is very real risk involved if you get it wrong.

Playing a standard explosion shot – one where the ball lands without much spin and runs out toward the hole – is the safer bet. But that isn't going to work very well in some situations. So, your job as a golfer is to pick out the right times to use your spinning bunker shot, and the right times to just stick with the standard explosion. Of course, to even have the option to pick between these two kinds of shots, you'll need to know how to play the spinning bunker shot. The next section of this article is going to provide assistance with that task.

Building the Right Mechanics

Building the Right Mechanics

We've already established that you should not be using a spinning bunker shot as your go-to option for every greenside sand shot you face. This is more of a specialty shot, only to be used when it is needed. In this section, we are going to explain how you can alter your bunker swing in such a way that a high spinning shot is more likely to result.

If you'd like to try and produce this kind of shot in your own game, please consider the following tips.

  • Flatten your swing. This is the point that was made in the title of this article, so it only makes sense that we use it to start off our list. A flatter swing is desirable when trying to spin the ball because you want to reduce the amount of sand that comes between the face of the club and the ball itself. With a steep swing, you are more likely to dig up a bunch of sand before you manage to get to the ball. Or, if you do place very little sand between the club and the ball, the shot will come out low and you may not get out of the trap at all. With a flatter swing plane, you should be able to move the club through the hitting area aggressively without digging up too much sand, meaning you'll have a great chance to produce the kind of spin needed to stop the ball quickly.
  • Set the club face wide open. You are going to need to make this adjustment to go along with the flatter swing. By opening the face at address, you accomplish a couple things. First, you expose the bounce of the club to the sand, meaning the club will be less likely to dig in at the bottom of the swing. Also, the extreme loft that your club will feature by setting it open at address is going to make it easy to get the shot up in the air quickly. You often need to elevate your bunker shots in order to get out of the trap, and this adjustment will help you do just that.
  • Play the ball forward in your stance. It is important to pay attention to this point. If you are going to move the club through the ball on a shallow plane, which you need to do in order to spin the shot, you will want to play the ball up toward the front of your stance. Many golfers get into the habit of playing the ball toward the middle or back of the stance when in a greenside bunker, but that isn't going to work for the purposes of creating spin. Position the ball just off the inside of your left foot and swing under the ball aggressively on the way through. If you position the ball correctly, and hit on the first two points, you should be able to produce a shot with an impressive spin rate.

You don't want to completely rebuild your technique every time you need to spin the ball out of a bunker. For the most part, your technique is going to remain the same as it is when just blasting out a standard shot. Simply by flattening the plane of your swing, setting the face of the club significantly open, and moving the ball up in your stance, you can ramp up the spin that is imparted on the ball.