bunker putt stance

Putting from a bunker may seem like a dicey proposition. After all, the goal is to get the ball up, over and out of the sand.

But the putter has its place when certain conditions exist. Considering putting when:

  • The sand is very firm, allowing the ball to roll and skip rather than bog down.
  • There is no lip to contend with, or the sand provides a “ramp” over the lip.
  • The bunker isn't cluttered with rocks or other debris that can knock a rolling ball off line or into the air.
  • bunker putt backswing

  • You're against the back edge of a bunker and can't make a long enough backswing to get the ball out with a wedge.

When attempting to putt from sand, make sure not to ground the club as you'll incur a penalty. Also, play the ball slightly back in your stance and strike it around the equator. This will impart topspin and prevent sand from grabbing the ball.

The putter works best on medium-length bunker shots that require neither a great deal of touch nor an extra-long swing.

For more information on Thomas Golf Putters:

When your ball drops down into a greenside bunker, your club selection is easy, right?

When to Putt from a Greenside Bunker?

You just take your sand wedge out of your bag and get ready to hit the shot. Or do you? While that might be the right move on most occasions, not every greenside bunker shot is going to call for the use of your sand wedge. Sometimes, you will want to use a pitching wedge to cover a bit more distance, while on other occasions you'll use a lob wedge to get as much height as possible. And, on a rare occasion, you may even use your putter.

Yes, your putter. In this article, we are going to talk about how you might be able to use your putter to get yourself out of a tricky situation in a greenside bunker. Of course, this is the kind of situation which is only going to present itself when the circumstances are just right. Normally, using your putter in a greenside bunker would be a terrible decision, and your ball would have no chance to get out of the trap. By the end of this article, you should have a clear understanding of the conditions you will need to even consider playing this unique shot.

Before we get into the discussion of this shot specifically, it is important to highlight what this shot can represent within your game as a whole. The best golfers are those who play the game with an open-minded approach, always willing to try whatever is necessary to handle the shot at hand (within the scope of the rules, of course). Too many golfers – amateur golfers, specifically – are closed-minded in their approach. These players have a preconceived notion of the kinds of shots that are going to work best in a given situation. They fail to consider other options, and they never live up to their potential on the course as a result.

Don't put yourself in that category. If you are willing to consider putting out of a greenside bunker, you may be willing to consider a long list of other unconventional shots. Not only will opening yourself up to interesting shots help you shoot lower scores, it will also make the game more enjoyable. One of the best parts of golf is the fact that you have tremendous freedom to get the job done however you see fit. As long as you stay within the rules, you can let your imagination run wild. The idea of putting out of a bunker is just one example of what you can come up with when you are willing to be open-minded and creative on the links.

All of the instruction 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.

Three Basic Conditions

Three Basic Conditions

Before you can even think about using your putter for a greenside bunker shot, you are going to need to make sure that three basic conditions are in place. Without these three conditions, the idea is a complete non-starter. Remember, you aren't likely to find these conditions very often. Putting out a bunker is rare, and for good reason. Most of the time, you'll be lacking at least one of these three conditions, and you'll need to use a wedge to play the shot. However, with this idea always lurking in the back of your mind, you may be able to make it work for you on the rare occasion when everything lines up just right.

The list below presents the three basic conditions to watch for when thinking about putting from a greenside bunker.

  • Hard sand. One of the biggest problems that you'll face when trying to putt out of a bunker is simply the soft surface of the sand. When the sand is soft, a putt is going to lose all of its speed almost immediately – the ball may only travel a foot or two before coming to rest. However, sand is not always soft. If you are playing a course which has very little sand in the bunkers, or if you are playing after a heavy rain, you might find that the sand is hard-packed and firm on top. When that is the case, it may become possible for the ball to roll out of the bunker. A putt struck cleanly will stay on top of the firm surface, hopping and skipping as it heads out of the bunker and – hopefully – onto the green. This won't be like rolling your ball on a well-manicured green, of course, but it should at least allow you to get out of the trap (provided the other two conditions are met, of course).
  • A path out. Even if you do find firm sand – which is actually not a rare situation in many places – you'll still have the problem of finding a path out of the trap. Often, there is a considerable lip around the edge of a bunker, meaning the ball will not be able to roll out. You may be able to get the ball to roll up toward the side of the trap, but it will be turned away when it gets to the vertical face of the bunker wall. So, in order to actually putt your way out of a greenside bunker, you are going to need to have a viable path available for the putt. That means finding a spot where the sand actually runs right up to the top of the trap. This isn't particularly common for bunker design, but it isn't unheard of, either.
  • A reasonable target. Finally, you will need to make sure that there is a decent place outside of the bunker for you to use as a target on this putt. Of course, that target is going to need to be in line with the path that you have to take to get out of the bunker. Where is your ball going to end up if you do manage to putt out? Is that going to be a good position for your next shot, or will you be in even more trouble? It only makes sense to putt your way out of a greenside bunker if you are going to actually improve your situation in the end. For instance, putting your ball into some deep rough probably isn't very appealing, especially if you'll be short-sided at the same time. Think about the final destination for this putt and decide if it is even worth using as a target.

If you are an experienced golfer, you can already see why this is such a rare shot. Trying to bring all three of these conditions together into a single shot is difficult, and the stars are only going to align on a very rare occasion. Despite that, it is still worthwhile to keep this shot in the back of your mind. There is no harm in having it as an option, and it just may bail you out of a tricky spot at some point down the line.

Why the Putter?

Why the Putter?

You may be reading this article with one major question in mind – why would I want to putt out of a bunker in the first place? After all, you already have a club called a 'sand wedge' in your bag, which would seem like the perfect tool for the job. And, of course, your sand wedge is the right tool for the job, in most cases. When you draw a reasonable lie in a greenside bunker, blasting the ball out with your sand wedge is the right decision.

The only trouble with that plan comes in when you find yourself dealing with a bad lie. If the ball is resting on top of hard packed sand, you might not be able to play a typical explosion shot. You won't be able to dig the club down into the sand well enough to blast the ball out, and a number of ugly outcomes may follow as a result. It is common to hit these kinds of shots thin, sending the ball shooting across the green and into trouble on the other side. When the conditions you are facing don't really permit a typical explosion shot, you will need to start to think about other options for getting the ball out in a single stroke.

This is when your mind may move over to the idea of using your putter. Of course, you are going to need to make sure the three conditions listed in the previous section are in place before you can proceed. Even if you have a bad lie on hard sand, you still might not be able to use your putter successfully. So, what do you do if the putter isn't an option, either? The list below has some other ideas.

  • Square up your sand wedge. On a traditional explosion shot, you are going to open the face dramatically at address and make a big swing. That works beautifully when the sand is soft – but it barely works at all when the sand is wet and firm. When those conditions are in place, your best bet is to square up the face of the sand wedge and hit the shot like a standard chip shot from the grass. Instead of blasting a bunch of sand out of the trap, you are going to do your best to pick the ball cleanly off the surface of the bunker. This isn't an easy shot to pull off, but it may be your only good option. When you do execute it properly, this shot will have plenty of spin and it should be relatively easy to control the distance.
  • Use less loft. When playing from hard packed sand, you should check the height of the lip between your ball and the target. If there is any kind of lip at all, you won't be able to use your putter. However, you still may be able to use less loft in order to play a modified bump-and-run shot up toward the hole. For instance, if the lip is low enough, you can use a pitching wedge to play a low chip that bounces a few times before coming to rest. This is going to be easier to pull off than a similar shot with a sand wedge, as reducing the loft is going to provide you with some margin for error. Still, this shot is not easy, and you should work on it in practice before trying it on the course.
  • Take your medicine. It is important to remember that bunkers are hazards. If you hit your ball in a greenside bunker, you have already made a mistake. Sure, it would be great to finish the hole by saving your par, but that isn't always going to happen. Sometimes, you'll need to accept a bogey and move on. Assess your situation honestly in the bunker and play the shot that is going to allow you to finish the hole without any further trouble. If that means playing a safe shot away from the hole and making a bogey, so be it. The last thing you want to do here is attempt a shot that is going to lead to further trouble – and a big number on the scorecard.

You are going to find bad lies in greenside bunkers from time to time. If the lie of the ball doesn't let you putt, and you can't play your typical explosion shot, you will have to turn to other options in order to move forward. Prepare yourself as thoroughly as possible in practice so that you are ready to get the job done when the situation presents itself on the course.