Increase Swing Speed for More Spin on Sand Shots, Golf Tip

Don't you wish you could hit those stop-on-a-dime bunker shots like the pros? Maybe you can. It does, however, require an aggressive mentality that many golfers can't seem to summon when their ball is in the sand.

To generate spin, you've got to make an accelerating swing and hit the sand fairly close to the ball. That can be a frightening prospect, conjuring visions of skulled shots that whiz past the heads of your playing partners and end up who knows where.

Fear, of course, is the enemy of great bunker play. It fosters a tentative, please-just-let-me-get-this-out swing that fails to deliver the speed needed for spin.

If you have no trouble escaping the sand but want to improve your results – e.g. get the ball closer – it's time to adopt the pros' mindset. When a pro enters a bunker, he sees not danger but opportunity. He knows he can spin and control a shot from sand much better than he can from thick rough.

Do keep in mind that all lies aren't created equal. If the sand is extra-soft, your ball is buried or nestled down, you won't be able to impart much spin. It takes a clean lie, preferably from reasonably firm sand, to hit a high-spin blast.

Here's how it's done:

1. Set up with your feet and clubface more open than normal. Remember to set the clubface open, then grip the club.

2. Play the ball slightly forward of the middle of your stance.

3. Choose a spot roughly 1-1.5” behind the ball; this is where you want the club to enter.

4. Pick up the club abruptly with your hands and wrists.

5. Accelerate the clubhead into your spot and keep the clubface open on the follow-through, with your left knuckles pointing up.

A good drill is to draw a line in the sand, about 2” wide, and practice hitting the target side of the line. Do this until you can repeatedly hit the spot, then place a ball on the target edge of the line and try it. Make sure there are no golfers (or windows) on the opposite side of the green as you may well blade a few before getting the hang of it.

Increase Swing Speed for More Spin on Sand Shots

Increase Swing Speed for More Spin on Sand Shots

Watching golf on TV, it is easy to notice that the average professional golfer possesses a wide-range of skills. Simply hitting the ball impressive distances is not nearly enough to make it to the top of the game. Pro golfers also need to have control over their ball flights, a solid short game, good decision-making skills, and more. Professional golf is extremely hard, and only those with talent from tee to green are able to survive.

With that in mind, we are going to talk about something in this article that professional golfers are able to do with ease – spin their bunker shots. You have certainly seen this time and time again. A pro golfer winds up in a greenside bunker, in what looks to be a difficult position. With one big swing, however, they loft the ball up out of the trap, land it next to the hole, and the shot stops dead. How did they do that? It looks more like magic than anything else. Amazingly, these kinds of shots are commonplace on the PGA Tour. The type of bunker shot which will scare a typical amateur golfer is simply no problem at all for a top pro.

So how do they do it? That is what we are going to explain in this article. By the end of this piece, you should have a clear understanding of how the pros spin their greenside bunker shots, and how you can do the same. Believe it or not, this type of sand shot is actually within the reach of the average player. You might not ever be able to launch a drive 300+ yards down the fairway like your favorite pro, but you can hit beautiful bunker shots with tons of spin.

You won't be surprised to learn that this shot is not going to make its way into your game by accident. Even after reading this article and understanding how this shot works, you will still have to spend plenty of time practicing before you can count on the shot to serve you well. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find a place to practice your bunker shots. Some golf facilities have a practice bunker you can use in the short game area, but many do not. If your home course does not have such a feature, call around to other area courses to see if you can find somewhere to work on this skill. Nothing in your game will improve without practice, and that certainly applies to this specific kind of bunker shot.

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.

Speed and More

Speed and More

First, we are going to talk about what it is that makes a golf ball spin when hit from a greenside bunker. After we have provided you with a clear explanation of this topic, we will then move on to some instruction so you can try this out for yourself. It may take some time to learn how to spin your bunker shots, but the effort will be worth it when you are able to get up and down from some pretty tough spots.

The points listed below will outline exactly what you need to do in order to load up your bunker shots with plenty of spin.

  • Use lots of speed. This is the first part of the equation. As mentioned in the title of this article, adding swing speed should help you improve your spin rate – provided you also hit on the other points listed below. Speed alone is not going to cause your shots to spin, but it is a good place to start. It can be hard to convince yourself that you need to swing hard when you are already close to the target, but that is exactly what needs to happen. Through plenty of practice, you will quickly learn that it is okay to swing hard since the sand is going to take a lot of the power out of your swing at the bottom. In the end, the combination of an aggressive swing and the dampening effect of the sand should lead to a shot which comes out with just the right amount of power.
  • Lay the face wide open. This is another critical part of spinning your sand shots. At address, you should be laying the face wide open so that the club has roughly 80* of loft or more. You will be using a sand wedge with something like 54* - 56* of loft, but the club should be turned much more open than that at address. For particularly difficult shots where a steep bunker lip is in your way, it might be necessary to lay the face completely open at 90*. Bunker shots need to get up quick, which is why it is so important to open the face before starting your swing. Also, this setup is going to let the club cut quickly through the sand under the ball, adding the spin you need to stop the ball quickly.
  • Take a shallow path. Many golfers go wrong here. Knowing that they are supposed to plunge the club head into the sand in order to send the ball up toward the green, many golfers swing down with a steep angle of attack. That is a mistake, and it will make it impossible to spin the ball. Instead of a steep angle, you should be trying to swing through on a shallow path to take a thin strip of sand out of the bunker. If you can slide your club along the top of the sand while only digging in an inch or so, it will quickly become easier to produce spin. This is the best way to approach a standard bunker shot, but it isn't going to work effectively when you have a bad lie. If the ball is sitting down in the sand (often called a plugged lie), you will need to make an adjustment and use a steeper swing to gouge the ball out. This kind of shot isn't going to have much spin – or any spin at all – but at least you'll have a chance to get out of the trap.
  • Enter the sand close to the ball. By far, this is the hardest part of the equation. Most golfers know that they need to hit the sand before the ball in order to create a proper explosion shot from a greenside bunker. However, if you take too much sand before the ball, there won't be much spin placed on the shot, and it will take a big bounce and roll after it lands. You are going to have to move your point of contact with the sand up closer to the ball if you want to really produce some meaningful spin. This, of course, takes a steady nerve. If you make even a small mistake, you could catch too much ball and send the shot flying over the green. Professional golfers are comfortable with this play because they have a high level of skill and plenty of experience. To build up your own confidence, plenty of practice will be required.

As you can see, there are plenty of things that need to come together successfully in order for you to spin the ball when coming out of a bunker. This task is not impossible, so you shouldn't be intimidated by this list. Now that you have the information you need, it is time to get down to work on building the right technique for the shot.

Build Your Swing

Build Your Swing

Despite being a shot that takes place within close proximity to the green, this spinning bunker shot has more in common with your full swing than it does with anything in your short game. As mentioned above, you are going to be making a big swing with plenty of speed. If you were to play a shot that resembles your standard chip shot only from the sand, you would have no chance at a great result. Only a big swing will do, which is exactly what we are going to build with the following tips.

  • Use a wide stance. To get started, you are going to set your feet rather far apart in the bunker. This wide stance is going to serve two purposes. First, it will enable you to make an aggressive swing without losing your balance. Also, it is going to promote that shallow angle of attack that you are trying to achieve. Set your feet just outside of shoulder with apart for best results. Also, set up with your stance open to the target line that you have picked for the shot. This open stance will let you swing across the ball at impact, which is yet another way to make it easier to spin the ball (and get the ball up in the air quickly).
  • Deep flex in your knees. You will want to flex your knees significantly on this kind of bunker shot. A deep knee flex is going to bring your upper body down closer to the level of the sand, which will help get your club under the ball at impact. Also, the knee flex is another way to flatten your swing path and take a shallow trip through the sand. While many golfers know to flex their knees at address, it is common for that knee flex to be lost somewhere during the swing. Don't let that happen to you. Focus on maintaining your knee flex throughout the action as you swing back and through.
  • Turn your shoulders. Just as you would when hitting a driver from the tee, you are going to want to make a big shoulder turn on this shot. It is easy to think that you can create enough speed with your hands and wrists alone, but that isn't going to work. Turn your back to the target in the backswing to build up as much potential for speed as possible. Then, unleash all of that speed going forward. This swing is going to be driven by your upper body while your lower body provides a solid base.
  • Fire the right hand through the sand. At the bottom of the swing, this shot becomes all about the right hand. This is where you really add spin to the ball. As the club is entering the sand, fire your right hand aggressively to give the club head as much speed as possible. Hopefully, the face of your wedge will rip through the bunker and the ball will come out spinning at a very high rate.
  • Finish, finish, finish. One of the worst things you can do with a bunker shot is give up on the swing before you have made it all the way through to the finish. Quitting on this kind of shot is a sure recipe for failure. Once you have committed to hitting a spinning sand shot with a big swing, you need to simply go for it and don't hold anything back. Swing all the way up into a full finish and trust that the shot is going to come out as expected.

It might seem like there is a lot of information to digest above, but the spinning bunker shot is actually pretty simple when you break it down. Work on one key at a time as you practice, and pretty soon you will have a composed action that is able to produce excellent bunker shots time and again.

Be Smart

Be Smart

Executing a bunker shot is about both physical technique and course management decisions. We have already talked about the physical technique you will need to use to send the ball out of the sand with plenty of spin. Now, we are going to move on to the decision making process. Your sand shots need to be carefully planned, just like any other shot you hit.

As you are standing in the sand getting ready to hit this shot, here are the points you want to keep in mind.

  • Where will the ball land? If you are planning to hit a shot with a lot of spin, your landing spot is likely going to be quite close to the hole itself. Even with that in mind, you should take a moment to pick out a specific landing spot before taking your stance and making the swing. Chip and pitch shots are best played when you pick out a landing spot, and the same concept applies in the bunker.
  • Are there any major risks? It is easy to get caught up in trying to hit the ball close to the hole, but sometimes you need to be smart and just make sure you keep the ball out of trouble. Are there any notable issues with this shot that you need to address? For instance, if there is a particularly high lip in front of your ball, or if you don't have a great lie, you will need to think about those concerns before making a swing.
  • Can you use a slope? One of the nice things about spinning a bunker shot is the fact that you can use slopes on or around the greens to help you get the ball closer to the hole. For instance, if you are short-sided to the hole – but there is a slope just beyond the hole which will bring the ball back – you could land the ball on that slope and use the combination of the slope and your spin to bring the ball back toward you. This is something which looks quite impressive when done correctly, so you are sure to impress your playing partners.
  • How are the conditions? If the ground is wet during your round, the spin you place on the ball is not going to have as much of an effect when the ball lands. The water on the greens will cause the stopping power of the backspin to be reduced, meaning the shot is more likely to skid than stop. This issue will be minimal if there is only a light dew on the ground, but it will be a much bigger factor when playing in the rain.
  • Is spin the right choice? On longer bunker shots, it may be better to keep the spin off your ball and simply let the shot bounce and roll toward the hole. Carrying the shot a significant distance before stopping it cold is an extremely difficult task. Leave your spinning bunker shots to the shorter scenarios and take the spin off the ball when playing all the way across the green. To use less spin, simply hit slightly farther behind the ball, and use a slightly steeper swing.

Your newfound ability to hit spinning bunker shots is only going to pay off if you make smart decisions along the way. Of course, that is true of any shot that you learn in this game. Having the ability to play a variety of shots is great, but it isn't going to turn into lower scores without the ability to pick and choose your spots correctly. Think through each shot and consider all options before you make a swing and send the ball on its way.

Using the Right Golf Ball

Using the Right Golf Ball

If you don't have the right golf balls in your bag, it isn't going to matter how well you execute the technique we have described – you still aren't going to be able to spin your shots effectively. The golf ball you use is by far the biggest factor in whether or not your shots are going to spin. You don't have to use the most expensive ball on the market, but you do have to use a ball which is at least capable of spinning at a high rate when struck correctly.

Fortunately, there is an easy way to judge the ability of a golf ball to spin – just check the price tag. With very few exceptions, you can determine how much spin a ball is capable of holding just by looking at how much it costs. If you are currently playing with golf balls you picked up out of the discount bin for less than a dollar a ball, you can forget about producing much spin. Those types of golf balls are rock hard, and their firm covers don't allow the club to 'bite' into the ball enough to create backspin. Discount golf balls are great for beginners who are just learning the ropes, but you'll need to upgrade if you want to play shots with spin.

For the average golfer – someone who usually shoots scores between 80 – 95 – the best golf balls are going to be those which cost somewhere between $20 and $30 per dozen. At this level, you will have a ball that is capable of spinning a modest amount around the greens, but it won't spin so much that it is hard to control from the tee. There is no need for this kind of player to invest in a $40+ per dozen premium ball, as a mid-handicap player simply doesn't have the skills to use such a ball effectively. Unless you are a low-handicapper, stay in the mid-range for golf balls and you will be in good shape.

Hitting a spinning bunker shot from a greenside trap might seem like a high-level skill, but most golfers are capable of pulling this off with the right technique and lots of practice. We hope that the instruction in this article will help you add this valuable shot to your repertoire in the near future. Even if you only pull out the spinning bunker shot once per round, that one shot could set you up for a key up-and-down save. Golf is all about having options and knowing how to get out of as many situations as possible. The spinning bunker shot is one more option you can put in your bag to use at just the right moment. Good luck!