How to Hit High & Spinning Sand Shots

This shot is an invaluable tool for all golfers. We all need the high, spinner out of a bunker every now and then don't we...? This one really works and is so simple to execute you simply must give it a try.

Here are the keys to remember:

  • Set up with the weight favoring the front foot about 70/30
  • The ball should also be well forward in your stance
  • The most important part is to keep your shoulders parallel to the sand - this will most often feel like your lead shoulder is lower than it has been in the past. Keeping the shoulders LEVEL is huge
  • With the shoulders being level the hands will actually be slightly behind the ball and the face set to open
  • Pick out a spot 2-3 inches behind the ball and stay aggressive - remember this ball's going up!

Now get out there and practice....and that's it really. Could it get any more simple?

How to Hit Great Bunker Shots

If you're intrested in improving your sand play, and who isn't, then check out my most recent video....

A few points to remember:

  • Aim your body slightly left (as a right hander) of the target line
  • The stance should be fairly wide - similar to that of a driver stance
  • The ball position should be forward of center
  • The weight should favor the front foot
  • Feel in a low posture - keep your butt close to the ground.  This will help with a shallow angle of attack
  • Your target is the sand - two to 6 inches behind the ball. Hit somewhere there and the club will pass safely under the ball
  • Control the distance with the length of your follow through. An unusual feel but try it, it really works.

Remember, you'll get more out of 15 minutes of bunker practice than you will out of practicing any other part of your game - so what are you waiting for....?

Thoughts on Sand Play

The greenside sand shot is unique to the game of golf in that it is the only shot we hit where we do not (or at least should not!) hit the golf ball.   Some people I know have hit their longest drives ever from a greenside bunker! Here are two simple things to keep in mind when extricating your ball from the sand:

  • Set-up and aim to hit the sand before the ball.  Hover the club over the spot that you intend to impact.   When practicing, draw a line in the sand and see how many times you can impact the sand right on the line.  Avoid holding the clubhead over the ball at address for more consistent ground contact!
  • In a regular golf shot we should be attempting to strike the ball first and the ground second.  This can only be done with a slightly descending blow and the weight on the golfers front foot.  Due to the fact that we only want all sand and no ball in the bunker there should be no forward weight shift into the hit.  Try to play sand shots with the back foot remaining fully planted and quiet throughout the swing.  The weight should remain where it was set at address. (Notice the post impact picture below) This will reduce those 'low heaters' out of greenside bunkers!

No weight shift!

Two Shots for Sand Success

In order to be a great bunker player you need more than one shot.  How often have you found yourself in the sand, twenty feet from the hole, and you need to hit a high, soft, spinnning shot to have any chance of getting up and down?  Or found yourself sixty feet from the target and you now need a lower, running type bunker shot in order to reach the hole?  You need to learn these two shots!

Feel the Face this Open for the High Shot!

The first shot is a high velocity, high trajectory, high spin shot.  It is most often struck with the most lofted club in the bag.  In this situation the ball needs to come to a screeching halt very soon after landing, due to the fact that you have very little green to play with.
Here is how to play the shot:
  • Using your most lofted club, open the face as much as possible.  You should feel as if you could balance a glass of water on the face of the club at address - take note of the picture above.
  • The velocity and speed in the swing is what gets the ball high and spinning, so even though this may be a short shot it requires an aggressive approach.  Hit it hard!
  • Going through impact try to feel the hands scoop under the ballThe club head releases under and thus the club face stays open through the hit. This is an important element to this shot as it allows the golfer to hit hard, yet when releasing the club properly, the ball goes up versus far.
  • Practice this shot from good lies off of a slight up slope in the sand.  While hitting the shot as hard as you can try to see how high and short you can make the ball travel.

Post Impact

The other shot is a low velocity, low trajectory, low spin shot.  It should most often be played with the second most lofted club in the bag.  If you have an LW it would be the SW, or if you only have an SW then you should use the PW.  In this situation the shot needs to traverse a large portion of either flat or downhill green.  There is ample opportunity for the ball to roll like a putt!

Play the shot this way:

  • Using a lesser lofted club the stance should be of average width and the ball position is still forward of center.
  • The clubface remains open, yet to a lesser degree than the above shot.
  • This shot is played almost in slow motion as there should be very little speed in the swing. I often call this the 'dump and run' shot, as it should just get out the bunker, land early on the green and roll to the hole as if it were a putt.
  • The hands should be light throughout the swing and it is okay to actually roll the face a little through impact.  This serves to lower the shot further and causes the ball to release more.
  • Do not attempt this shot when your ball is lying on an upslope! An upslope requires a more aggressive swing and that robs the ball of  its ability to stay low.
  • Practice is vital for this shot as it tends to take a few tries before sensing the correct speed of the swing.

With a few minutes spent experimenting with the above suggestions in the sand you will soon start to lose some of the angst we have all experienced when stepping into a bunker.  Give it a try and please feel free to let me know your thoughts.

Additional Resources:

How to Hit Great Bunker Shots

Luke Donald's Buried Lie