Travelers Championship

TPC River Highlands

The Ground Game

Remember these 2 swing thoughts for firm and soft-sand bunker shots


Ahead of the 2024 U.S. Open at Pinehurst, which demands golfers navigate their ball on and around the baked-out slopes, we're launching a daily Ground Game series. A slate of daily articles to help you better understand how to use the ground to your advantage.

Between the natural areas and vast bunker complexes, it’s hard to avoid sand shots at No. 2. To make it even more challenging, some of the sand is fluffy, but a lot of it is pretty firm. That means you can’t play every bunker shot the same way. Maybe your course is similar. If so, you need to adjust your stance and swing to the bunker’s firmness.

Finish low from firmer lies

For packed-sand lies, which are more common on linksy or dried-out courses, you need a steeper downswing than you would for a normal bunker shot. If you come in too shallow, you risk the club bouncing off the surface and sending the ball over the green. For the same reason, be careful not to open the clubface too much at address.

Instead, lean the shaft slightly toward your target and set more weight into your front knee. This will increase stability and help you get a little steeper (above), making contact with the sand just behind the ball with a little digging action. These shots don’t require a big swing or a lot of speed. Go with a shorter backswing than normal and hold off your finish. Think, halfway back, halfway through. Your arms should finish low, but your upper body should be pointing at your target (above, right).

Keep your speed out of fluffy sand

If you do encounter a fluffy-sand lie, don’t make the mistake of digging in too much with your feet. That makes it easy to take a lot of sand and leave the shot in the bunker.

For success from these lies, play the ball a couple of inches forward of center in your stance, and set your club’s shaft more perpendicular to the ground. The face should be slightly open as it enters the sand to get the club skimming through it and splashing the ball out. You need to create more speed and commit to a full shot when the lie is fluffy. Make a longer, wider backswing with less wrist hinge, then keep your speed up in the through-swing, finishing with your upper body facing the target.