How to Hit a Bunker Shot – Part 3

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The Final Pieces of the Puzzle

In the previous two lessons, I’ve given you the right picture to have in your mind on a bunker shot, the fundamentals of good sand play, and the ability to read the sand.  In this lesson, I’ll help you understand your wedges, your set-up, and your swing, so that you can master the sand.

Leading Edge

Understanding Your Wedges

Understanding wedges, bounce, and grinds can seem complicated, but it doesn’t have to be.  You need to understand two basic things about your wedge: it has a leading edge and it has bounce.  The leading edge will dig into the sand easily; the bounce will not.  Use your set up to engage the right part of the club, and you’re on your way to bunker success.

Set Up for Success

Getting into the right address position is what sets you up for success.  You want to ask yourself two things:

1) What part of the wedge do I want to use – bounce or leading edge?

2) What trajectory am I trying to hit?

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There are two things you can do with your set up to engage the bounce of your wedge.  One is opening the face.

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The other option is to open your stance and lay the shaft back.  Note that both of these adjustments add loft to the club face and will result in higher shots.

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If you want to engage the leading edge of the club, simply do the opposite.  You can rotate the face closed.

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Alternately, you can lean the shaft forward.  The result of engaging the leading edge is the opposite of engaging the bounce – the club has less loft and will produce lower shots.

The Swing

The final piece of the puzzle is making the right swing.  We’ll start by discussing the most important variable – angle of attack.

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As you now know, there are situations that call for a steep swing and situations that require a shallow one.  Steep swings will make shorter, deeper cuts into the sand, and shallow swings will make longer, shallower divots.  Decide what the lie calls for and try to make that swing.  Also be aware that, all else equal, a steeper swing will produce a lower shot.

You’ll also want to modify the length of your swing and your effort.  I know that in the first lesson I said that “Swing hard” is a fundamental, but as you experiment more, you may find that’s not the best advice for you.  Some players will control the length of their bunker shots with the length of their back swing, others will prefer to modify their effort.

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Finding the Right Combinations

Congratulations, you are now an expert in bunker play.  You understand your wedges, how to modify your set up, how to read sand, and how to make different swings.

The key now is to get into a practice bunker and play around.  Try mixing different elements to see what kind of shots you can produce.  Challenge yourself to hit it tight from a buried lie.  With the right concepts and a little practice, you’ll learn to love the bunkers just like a PGA pro.

Matt Saternus
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  1. Hi Matt,
    Very nice and helpfull articles on playing bunkers.
    I understand why some rounds I have difficulties with these bunkers.
    Next time in bunker, I will be more carefull in it.
    Best regards,

  2. Mikkel Lund

    Recently I’ve had problems getting out safely out of greenside bunkers, and I’ve read your little 3-part instruction on how to play bunkershots.

    Yesterday I found myself in three greenside bunkers, and using what I learned through your little 3-part instruction, I got out of all three bunkers with perfect shots, and left myself with no more than 10′ to the hole.

    • Matt Saternus


      That’s great to hear! I wish I was that effective with my own advice. :)



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