The Golf Sand Bunker Troubleshooting Guide: How To Get Out Of The Bunker

There are many reasons why golf can be one of the most frustrating sports to play, and one of the big ones is the golf sand bunker.

Sand bunkers can be scary. They seem unpredictable and unforgiving in comparison to the lovely, well pruned and maintained fairway.

That’s why you need to be prepared to take them on.

A good golfer faces their hazards and challenges head on. Sure, we will try and avoid the sand bunker as much as we can, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never end up in one.

If you want to play like the pros, you’ll need to know how to address the sand bunker, and more importantly how to conquer it.

Take Tiger Woods for example. He put in the practice hours so that when he came up against an impossible golf sand bunker shot, he not only got out of the bunker, but made one of the best shots of all time with a 132-yard bunker shot that sits inches from the hole.

Not all of us can play like the best golfers of all time, or even the past decade, but that doesn’t mean we cant come close, or at least try!

So, keep reading as we get into how to get out of a sand bunker in golf.

Lets get started!

a golf ball in a golf sand bunker.

The Sand Wedge

If you’ve found yourself in a golf sand bunker, hopefully you’ve brought your sand wedge.

Almost every gapping guide will encourage you to bring a sand wedge, just in case, as it is specifically designed to get you out of the sand and to perform far better on that terrain than any other club.

The sand wedge typically has around 56 degrees of loft, which is the most of all other clubs.

The sand wedge also has what is called a ‘bounce’ on the leading edge. This ‘bounce’ is essentially a thicker strip on the back of the club face that is designed to help your club ‘bounce’ off of the sand as you make your swing, rather than digging through it.

Golf sand bunkers are included in courses to make them more difficult. It cant all be a walk in the park! So we would encourage you to bring your sand wedge if you’re going to a golf club with plenty of bunkers.

Some, more unconventional golfers, even like to use their sand wedge out of the bunker. We might not recommend that, but it’s worth practicing with your sand wedge out of the bunker as well.

a golf ball on a sand bunker.

How to Get Out of a Sand Bunker

So, you’ve found yourself in the bunker, you have your trusty sand wedge, and you’ve practiced swinging with it. What now?

There are a number of things you should do differently when approaching a sand bunker, but the foundations of a good shot are still the same.

You still want to have loose arms, pull your shoulders back, flex your knees, and bend at the waist. Whatever your normal swing position is, you want to take this with you into the bunker.

However, there a number of small changes to make as well to ensure that you don’t get stuck in the bunker!

A golfer playing out of a sand bunker.

1. choke down on your club

This doesn’t mean gripping your club more tightly or changing your grip style, this just means placing your hands further down the club shaft.

A shorter shaft means more control over the movement of your club.

And control over your club in the golf sand bunker is essential. This change in grip position may take some getting used to, as you may have some of the club shaft sticking out of the back of your hands.

This shouldn’t be a huge problem, but like any shot, it’s worth practicing.

2. Open your club Face

‘Opening’ your club is a term that gets thrown around a lot, so for anyone who isn’t totally sure what it means:

Opening your clubface means rotating it slightly so that the face points more towards your open position, which for right-handed golfers is your right side, or your dominant side.

By opening your club face more with the sand wedge, you make better use of the ‘bounce’ on the bottom of the sand wedge.

The best way to ensure that your club face stays open throughout your swing is to rotate the club in your hands before you grip the club properly.

If you rotate your wrists to open the club face after you grip the club, there’s a strong chance you will unconsciously close your club face back to a neutral position, thus ruining your position and most likely not hitting a good shot.

A golfer being instructed on how to play out of a sand bunker.

3. Widen Your Stance

If you’re choking down on your club shaft, then you’ll most likely naturally widen your stance to make sure that you’re able to hit the ball, at risk of topping the golf ball and having to make another bunker shot.

Widening your stance also gives you more control over your swing.

To make the best use of a wide stance for your swing, try and make sure that your feet are just over shoulder width apart, or else you may sabotage your overall stance.

A wide stance also helps you get your club underneath the ball which, if you’re using your trusty sand wedge, should bounce off of the sand rather than dig through it.

Having a nice and wide stance, and having clubs that are the right size, can also give you more control out of the sand bunker. If you struggle with your swing, try a slightly wider stance before narrowing again.

Sand bunkers on a golf course.

4. Open your stance

Just like ‘opening your club face’ this term may confuse you a bit if you’ve not come across it before, as it’s not immediately apparent what it means.

Golfers like to use a lot of different terms for things, but ‘opening’ in golf generally means to make your stance slightly wider and more open to your target.

In this case, having an ‘open’ stance means pointing your feet more toward your target, rather than perpendicular.

If you’re right-handed, this will mean pointing your feet more to the left, and if you’re left-handed, ,this will mean pointing your feet more to the right.

An easy way to remember it is that an ‘open stance’ points your feet more towards where your ball is going.

Troubleshooting your golf sand bunker stance

While the steps above are great for setting up a strong foundation to attack a golf sand bunker, you might still find that you have trouble getting out of the bunker and your scorecard is suffering.

If that’s the case, don’t panic! There are still plenty of techniques to try that may work better for you.

A golfer sprays sand into t he air as he plays out of a golf sand bunker.

1. Dig your feet

Some golfers find it difficult to balance throughout their swing in the golf sand bunker.

While it might leave you with some sand in shoes, if this is something you have trouble with, it’s worth trying!

Simply dig your feet into the sand! Not too far though, you’re not on the beach. The purpose of digging your feet in is to give you more stability in your swing, so shuffling your feet in place so that they sink a bit into the sand is all you’re looking for.

Just like widening your stance or choking down on the golf club, this will give your more control in your swing, but too far and you’ll end up affecting your swing arc and there’s a strong chance you’ll slam your club into the sand instead of the ball.

Don’t blame us though when you ruin your brand new golf shoes, you have been warned!

A sand wedge golf club next to three balls in a sand bunker.

2. Position the ball forward in your stance

Just like with other tricky recovery shots, positioning the golf ball forward in your stance can get you out of a tough situation.

Having the ball towards the front of your stance, meaning that the ball is closer to your front foot than your back foot, can help you get the loft that you need to get out of the golf sand bunker.

Positioning the ball forward in your stance can lead to some problems, however. For example, it can affect your swing plane and might mean that you miss the sweet spot and top the golf ball, or hit a thin or fat shot.

To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, try hovering your club in front of the golf ball. This can help the mind-muscle connection needed to play great golf and ensure that you hit the ball correctly!

Hopefully this golf sand bunker guide can help you out next time you find yourself somewhere you would rather not be!

The best thing to remember is that playing out of the sand bunker isn’t the end of the world. You can still hit an up and down out of the bunker, or save your game on the green.

There’s always a second chance in golf, whether it’s your next swing or your next game, if you practice enough and love the game, you’ll come to learn the opportunity to really test your skills.

Learn more about wedges with our wedge guide!

Photo of author
Adam is a writer and lifelong golfer who probably spends more time talking about golf than he does playing it nowadays!

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