5 Tricks To Hit Perfect Bunker Shots: Escape From The Traps

Bunker shots strike dread and fear into many golfers – but by keeping a few simple tricks up your sleeve, they can be much easier than you might think.

Professional and scratch golfers prefer bunker shots over playing from the rough – so, what do they know that you don’t?

That’s what we’re here to help with. In the following article, we’ll be teaching you all you need to know to hit perfect bunker shots.

In doing so, you’ll be able to turn these dreaded shots to your advantage, learn to save par from sand traps and watch your scores and golf handicap decrease.

In general, there are five different types of bunker shots you may encounter during your round. We’ll explain each one and give you a step-by-step guide for how to hit the perfect bunker shots in each one including swing and club choice.

To finish, we’ll give you a few etiquette rules to guide you when playing in sand traps.

Ready? Let’s get into it.

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The 5 Bunker Shots And How To Hit Them

#1: Greenside Bunker (Short Distance To The Green)

This bunker shot is the most common. A greenside bunker shot is when your ball is in a sand trap near the green and you have a short distance to the flag (15-yards or less).

Club Selection:

The most lofted club in your bag. Typically a sand wedge (56 degrees) or a lob wedge (60, 62, or 64 degrees)

Related Article: The Complete Golf Club Loft Guide

5 Steps to Execute a Greenside Bunker (Short) Shot:

  • Setup with an open stance – your feet and shoulders should be aimed left of the target (RH golfer)
  • Dig your feet into the sand – you want to avoid slipping
  • Open the clubface – the more open, the better
  • During your backswing break your wrist (set the club) quickly) – 1/2 to a 3/4 backswing is appropriate for most greenside bunker shots
  • Slice the club through the sand, approximately 1-2 inches behind the ball
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With this type of bunker shot, you don’t want to hit the golf ball. You want to splash it out onto the green by hitting the sand behind and under it.

Listen to the contact. If you hear a “click” you hit the ball which is wrong. You want to hear a thump.

The key is having speed at the bottom of your swing. You want your club to accelerate through the sand.

When you execute correctly, the ball should come out high and soft. Your shot should land on the green, spin, and stop quickly.

#2: Greenside Bunker (Long Distance From The Green)

The “long” greenside bunker shot is a little more challenging. Many golfers forget to practice it as it doesn’t happen that often on the course – but when it does, you want to be prepared as it could ruin your game.

In long-distance greenside bunker shots, you are in a sand trap near the green but you are at least 15-yards+ from the flag.

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Club Selection:

Pitching wedge or 9-iron

5 Steps to Execute a “Long” Greenside Bunker Shot:

  • Setup with an open stance – your feet and shoulders should be aimed left of the target
  • Slightly open the face of your club
  • Dig your feet into the sand – you want to avoid slipping
  • During your backswing break (also known as hinge in golf terminology) your wrist – set the club quickly. A 1/2 to a 3/4 backswing is appropriate for most greenside bunker shots
  • Hit the sand behind your ball

Similar to a short greenside bunker shot, but you want the ball to come out lower with less spin.

The “chunk and run” shot works well in this scenario. You purposely hit farther behind the ball and let the ball release once it hits the green.

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The “long” greenside bunker shot is a hard one. Hopefully, you won’t find yourself in this situation very often.

#3: Fairway Bunker

Fairway bunker shots are when you miss the fairway with your driver and your ball comes to rest in a bunker just off the fairway.

Club Selection:

Use your rangefinder or calculate your yardage to the pin, then choose one club up than you normally would use from this distance.

Related Article: Blue Tees Golf Series 2 Pro Slope Rangefinder Review

Your ball will not fly as far out of the sand, so this club choice compensates for this loss of distance.

4 Steps to Execute a Fairway Bunker Shot:

  • Use your normal grip, but choke down on the club an inch or two
  • Dig your feet into the sand – you want to avoid slipping
  • Take a full swing, but try to pick the golf ball off the surface of the sand – catch the ball clean
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Unlike greenside bunker shots, you do not want to hit the sand when playing from a fairway sand trap.

Hitting the sand from a fairway bunker will cause your shot to come up short of the green.

Make sure you choose a club that can clear the lip of the bunker. You never want to hit two shots from the same fairway bunker!

#4: Waste Bunker

A waste bunker is a natural sandy area, usually very large and often found on links courses. The sand in a waster bunker is typically firm.

Club Selection:

When playing a waste bunker shot use the same club you would use from the fairway. If you are between clubs, go with the longer one.

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3 Steps to Execute A Waste Bunker Shot:

  • Choke down slightly on the club
  • Take a square stance and aim directly at your target
  • Take your normal swing and try to catch the ball cleanly

Due to the firmness of waste bunkers, you don’t have to be as precise as you do when playing from a fairway bunker.

Quite often, your ball will behave very similarly to playing out of a firm fairway. The only difference being it may spin more once it lands on the green.

#5: The Fried Egg

You may love a fried egg for breakfast, but you never want to find one in a sand trap. This is when your ball plugs and partially buries in the sand.

You can only see the top half of your ball and it looks like a fried egg – hence the name. It is bad luck, but certain factors cause this to happen.

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Soft sand and a high shot into the wind is the perfect recipe for a fried egg. This is a different type of greenside bunker shot.

Club Selection:

As much loft as possible – a sand wedge or lob wedge.

Steps to Execute a Fried Egg Bunker Shot

  • Open your stance, aiming your feet and shoulders left of the target (RH golfer)
  • Slightly open the club fact, but closer to square than a normal greenside bunker shot
  • Swing hard – close to max power if you want to escape from the fried egg
  • Hit behind the ball – deep in the sand

The “fried egg” bunker shot is by far the hardest on our list. If your ball gets out of the sand trap you hit a good shot.

The ball will come out low with over spin. It is nearly impossible to control the distance on this type of bunker shot.

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Escape the bunker, two-putt, and celebrate. This is the definition of success when faced with the dreaded “fried egg”.

Related: 7 Putting Tips To Help You Save Strokes On The Green

Bunker Etiquette: 3 Rules For Sand Trap Shots

Sand traps are unique playing conditions on the golf course and they have special rules and etiquette that you should keep in mind.

The rules of golf for playing from a bunker were simplified in 2019, but you still need to be careful before hitting your shot.

You can remove loose impediments (pebbles, leaves, etc.), but you are not allowed to “test” the sand with your hand.

Testing is defined as “feeling the sand to determine how it will play – the condition of the surface”.

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The other critical rule is that you cannot ground your club before hitting a bunker shot. In other words, you cannot touch the sand with your club.

Any practice swing you take in a bunker cannot touch the ground (sand).

The exception to the above rule is waste bunkers. They are not considered a hazard, so you can ground your club and take practice swings.

3 Tips For Sand Trap Etiquette

#1: Always Rake When You Are Finished

It is very frustrating to find your ball in a footprint in the bunker. This makes your bunker shot much harder and you know a golfer in front of you didn’t take the time to rake.

Once you escape from a sand trap, always take a couple of minutes to rake. Try to leave the bunker in better shape than you found it.

Do your best to leave the sand nice and smooth. Any piles of sand can cause the players behind you to experience a “fried egg”.

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#2: Rake Placement is Important

This may seem minor, but where you leave the rake can impact players behind you. You never want to leave it somewhere that could cause a bad break.

The appropriate etiquette is to leave the rake outside of the bunker, but away from the hole. The best place is where it is unlikely to impact a shot, but is easily accessible for the next player.

#3: Clip Your Shoes Before Walking On The Green

You escape the bunker. You rake the sand trap and are ready to putt. Use your wedge to clip your shoes before walking on the green.

This will knock the sand off your shoes and prevent you from making sandy footprints across the putting surface.

Save the player behind you the time of having to clean their line before putting. Keep the sand off the green and help improve the pace of play on the course.

Take care of the course and take care of the golfers playing behind your group!

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Bunker Shots Solved – What’s Next?

Is your golf grip holding your back? Is it too weak, too strong, or just right?

Related: How to Grip a Golf Club Correctly: 8 Tips and Cues

Related: Strong Golf Grip vs Weak Golf Grip: Uses, Benefits And More

Ray Dingledine

Ray Dingledine

Ray has played golf for over 30 years and competed at the collegiate level. He enjoys growing the game of golf through coaching PGA Jr. and High School golf teams. Ray continues to play in local amateur golf events and currently has a +1 handicap.

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