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How to hit a bunker shot: A simple 6-step guide

Bunker shots are perhaps the most uncomfortable shots in all of golf, especially for higher handicaps and new golfers. It's one of the few shots that requires a different — and in some ways, opposite — technique to what you're used to. But the important thing to remember with bunker shots is that most of your work is done before you hit your shot. Make those early adjustments, and everything else starts falling into place. — Joe Plecker, Director of Instruction, Landings Club, Savannah, Ga., Golf Digest Best in State Teacher

The Bunker Shot Guide

  • Weaken lead hand grip
  • Add more knee bend
  • Sternum behind the golf ball
  • Anchor weight on lead lead
  • Hit sand first, golf ball second
  • Extend down into the sand

Bunker Shot Step #1: Weaken lead hand grip

Weakening your lead hand grip — which means rotating your left hand to your left (for right-handed golfers) is the first, critical step of hitting a bunker shot. I like to call this my finesse grip, because positioning my hand like this keeps the clubface more open through the forward swing. It prevents the clubface from closing down, which helps the ball fly higher and land softer.

Bunker Shot Step #2: Add more knee bend

Getting your legs a little lower to the ground helps get the shaft a little flatter, which helps make your wrists loose and active. Bringing your body's center of gravity closer to the ground, which will help you swing the clubhead under the ball. We'll see why that's important in the next steps.

Bunker Shot Step #3: Sternum behind ball

You can see me pointing to the center of my chest here. That's because I'm using my sternum to represent the bottom of my swing. I want my sternum to be directly behind the golf ball. By doing that, I'm ensuring that I'm going to be hitting the sand behind the ball first.

Bunker Shot Step #4: Weight on lead leg

I like to consider my lead leg (left leg for right-handed golfers) the anchor to my swing in the bunker. Golfers who struggle in bunkers often have a lot of movement from side-to-side. This changes the low point of their swing, and makes it easy to hit blades and chunks. Once you've set your ball position with your sternum behind the golf ball, shift as much weight as you can onto your lead leg. Keep it there.

High Chip Step #5: Hit sand before ball

I'm making a practice swing here, but you can see the point I'm trying to make. When the time comes to execute your shot, your sole intention is to hit the sand before the golf ball, and let the clubhead arc under it.

High Chip Step #6: Extend down

Once you've made your setup adjustments, you can swing away. I want to hit the sand before the golf ball, and the thought that will allow me to do this is the feeling of extending down into the sand with my arms.