Travelers Championship

TPC River Highlands


Get long bunker shots to the hole

February 06, 2019

Adam Slama/Courtesy of Ted Baker

Long greenside bunker shots, more than 20 yards, can prove troublesome if you try to play them similar to a shorter bunker shot. Simply taking your regular sand club—a 60- or 56-degree wedge—and making a harder swing is not the way to go. The extra effort often leads to the club digging deeper into the sand, which causes the ball to come up way short, sometimes still in the bunker. If you want your shot to cover the distance to the hole, it’s important to take a shallow divot of sand. But before I give you a tip on how to do that, let’s talk club selection.

“You don’t have to swing harder to hit a sand shot farther.”

My advice is to use a club with less loft—perhaps a gap wedge or a pitching wedge—so you can make a swing with the same effort you would on a shorter bunker shot, but the ball will travel farther than if you used more loft. Just remember that the design of these clubs differs slightly from a lob or sand wedge. They don’t skim through the sand as easily, so you have to compensate at address by opening the clubface a few degrees and then taking your grip. Having the face a little open will help prevent the club from gouging into the sand with the sharper leading edge.

A couple more points:

(1) Strike the sand a touch closer to the ball, perhaps an inch away.

(2) Make certain you have a full backswing and a full finish—no quitting at impact!

Put a little practice in, and it won’t be long before you don’t fear these lengthy bunker shots.

—with Ron Kaspriske


▶ Regardless of the length of a bunker shot, swinging too deeply into the sand is a common mistake. The problem is, the time-honored advice of setting up open to the target and then swinging along your body line promotes a steeper, digging action. Though you should set up a little open and take the club back along your body line, you’ll take far less sand if the club is moving along the target line rather than cutting across it. Try to make a divot mark that points toward where you want the ball to go. Also, allow for it to roll a little once it lands on the green.