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How to Get Out of the Sand Bunker

Golf Sand Bunker Titleist Ball

How to get out of the sand bunker with a single shot

No golfer, regardless of skill, would like for their ball to land in the sand bunker. This is because the sand trap can be the most infuriating and frustrating part of any golf course. Many golfers have given up in frustration and resorted to the “foot wedge” simply because they have spent an unreasonable amount of time trying to get a single ball out of the bunker.

The truth is that the bunker is just as much a part of the game as any other part of the golf course. It was placed there specifically to add a bit of a challenge and intrigue to the game by challenging the shot maker. As such, hitting your ball into the bunker does not necessarily mean the end of the game. All you need is the right knowledge and you should be able to get your ball out of the bunker with relative ease.

The best approach is to attempt to get the ball out of the bunker in a single shot. If you have had unpleasant experiences with the bunker in the past, getting the ball out of the sand trap in a single shot may sound improbable. However, if you know exactly what to do it is quite easy. From your choice of club, to your grip, set up, swing, and follow-through, everything must be geared towards getting the ball out of the bunker.

Your club

Every task has its own tools. Similarly, there's a club for every shot. If your ball falls in a green-side bunker, it leaves you with less putting green to work with. Hence, going for a high lofted wedge would make more sense. We recommend a 60-degree lob wedge for this situation. If you find yourself in a bunker with reasonable distance from the green, a slightly lower lofted wedge may also work splendidly. You can either use a 52-degree gap wedge or 56-degree sand wedge in these situations and we highly recommend Cleveland Wedges as they are some of the most forgiving wedges on the market. However, if you are further from the green, a 9 iron or pitching wedge will offer better results. 

Fairway bunkers can present more of a challenge as you typically want to also hit for distance.  These traps tend to be less deep than greenside bunkers and are more conducive for middle irons. The swing objective changes slightly as we are less concerned about landing the ball gently on a green and more concerned about making up the distance we lost on the prior shot. 

Golf fairway sand bunker

Your grip

If you are in the bunker, your shot should be more controlled and accurate. The focus should be on getting out of the bunker before anything else. We recommend that you grip down half an inch on your club. Contrary to popular opinion, choking down on your club does not necessarily reduce distance. On the contrary, it improves accuracy while keeping the distance fairly even. Accuracy is what you need most if you want to get out of the bunker in a single shot.

Your set up

The bunker is unlike the rest of the course and, as such, your set up when hitting from the bunker should be suited to the bunker. We recommend that you adjust your setup to position the ball in the back center of your stance. You should also get a good base for your shot while understanding the depth of the sand around the ball by simply twisting your feet in the sand. With this, you should be able to hit the ball with improved accuracy.

Your lower body

Your lower body is responsible for how much stability you get during your swing. Stability is a major determining factor when it comes to the accuracy of your shot. In the bunker, accuracy is your top priority if you hope to get the ball out of the bunker in a single shot. Hence focus on using your lower body to improve stability. Ensure that your lower body remains still while you swing your club.

Your swing

The entirety of your choices prior to this point culminates in your swing. Your swing is the actual “trigger” that could send the ball right into the bunker’s face, rolling the ball back to the player’s feet. It could also be the trigger that sends the ball straight out of the bunker and impressively closer to the hole. It all depends on the quality of the swing. Up until this point, the tips we have provided were meant to prepare yourself to ensure that the quality of your swing is optimal. The best bet is to apply about three-quarters of your maximum effort. This way the ball will fly with a considerable degree of control. Also, you will be able to control the impact between the clubface and the ball. The type of shot you want to take should also be considered.

Greenside bunker shot

When taking this shot, you do not aim to hit the ball. Instead, you should open the clubface slightly and hit a couple of inches of sand behind the ball.  The sand will gently lift the ball out and make for a soft landing on the green.

Greenside bunker shot

Hear legendary golf pro Tom Watson give some simple, but effective tips for escaping those pesky greenside bunkers:

The 20-25 yard bunker shot

These shots are quite difficult to judge, however, we have a couple of recommendations:

Set up as you would a greenside bunker shot.  You will use a pitching wedge or low iron to take a fuller swing. The shot will still land a couple of inches behind the ball for a good splash out of the trap. With 20-25 yard bunker shots, the setup is pretty much the same as with a greenside bunker shot. The only difference being the club as was discussed previously.

The “Fried Egg” or Plugged Ball

This shot is really amazing. The “fried egg” bunker shot is a shot where the ball has partially embedded itself into the sand. It can be extremely difficult to control. Basically, you need to “dig” the ball out of its impact hole. Two ways to do this are:

  • If you do not have to clear the bunker edge (aka “lip”), we recommend that you hit the shot with a high lofted wedge, then take a big swing. Your shot should be steep enough so as to push the leading edge of your wedge into the sand and under the ball. You may need to swing slightly harder to achieve this. However, the follow-through remains the same as any other shot.
  • If you have to clear a lip, we recommend that you open the clubface slightly more than usual and dig the leading edge deeper. Swinging at a plugged ball increases your chances of blading it. This is because the club will not dig into the sand as much. You should take a big swing and take a lot of sand.

No matter what fried egg bunker shot you attempt, your ball is going to run out a lot more than any other bunker shot, so you should select an appropriate landing zone.

Fried egg bunker shot

Your follow-through

Once your clubface connects with the sand/ball, you need to focus on moving your eyes only. Your swing should be steep and your follow-through should be high. Combining these tips accurately will ensure that you get out of any sand trap in a single shot.

Golf Sand Bunker shot

Having trouble with your fairway approach shots?  Check out our article on How to hit a Hybrid golf club to learn more.

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