Bunker Play

by James Stewart

PGA Tour players make bunker shots look easy, and obviously a lot of practice goes into becoming good, but it’s also because pros instinctively know what type of shot and club to use for different lies and distances.

Amateurs often make the mistake of trying to hit the wrong shot for different lies and distances in the bunkers. Personally, I like to use both my 58 and 52 wedges depending on the shot that I’m trying to hit, and this helps with my consistency.


In image 1, I have short sided myself up against the lip of the bunker, and I have very little green to work with. Here my main focus is to hit a high and soft shot. I increase the loft of the club and also feel like my hands are almost behind the ball at address. My weight is predominantly on my left side and the ball position is more towards my left foot. I take quite a full swing to create speed to hit it high, but because I’ve increased the loft and moved the ball position forward, the ball will come out soft and high and hopefully with some spin.

In image 2, I have a longer bunker shot, but I still have the lip of the bunker to contend with, so I basically do all of

the same things as in image 1 still using my 58 degree wedge. However, I move the ball position a bit further back in my stance, which will help me hit the ball longer, but still high enough to get over the lip. In image 3, I have a long distance bunker shot, and this is when I often see amateurs using the wrong club. I will use my 52 degree or  sometimes even my regular pitching wedge.


With less loft it’s much easier to hit a controlled long bunker shot. The set up is the same as in image 2, but I square the club up, as I’m not trying to hit this shot high and soft. I want the ball to come out lower and with less spin, so it releases when it hits the green, kind of like a chip and run. 

In all these shots, I always try to hit around 6 inches behind the ball, but if there is quite a bit of sand in the bunkers, I may try a little less. I hope these tips help. Practice with different wedges and I’m sure you will improve!

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