Golf Digest Schools

How to hit a short bunker shot—and make it stop

June 29, 2021

For most amateurs, it’s tough enough getting the ball up and out on a standard greenside bunker shot. What do you do if you find yourself up near the face of the bunker, with very little green to work with?

First of all, don’t panic. This shot is much easier to pull off than one to the far side of the green or, even tougher, from 40 or 50 yards out. Secondly, understand that to hit this little shot, you’re going to have to make some tweaks to your setup to get the ball up fast. “Short-sided bunker shots are all about delivering maximum loft so you can get the ball to launch high quickly and then land on a very soft, vertical angle,” says Mark Blackburn, one of Golf Digest’s 50 Best Teachers.

Blackburn focuses on some things you can do at address to exaggerate the height and finesse on this shot. Start by opening the clubface before you take your grip, Blackburn says. Then, widen your stance and add some knee flex to lower your body toward the sand. Finally, lean the handle back, away from the target. This helps shallow out your angle of attack—so you don’t take too much sand—while delivering maximum loft.

Make these setup adjustments, and the swing is pretty simple. Just rotate the clubface more open on the backswing, feeling like the toe is turning toward the ground as you go back. Coming down, keep up your speed, and slide the face under the ball, entering the sand about two inches behind it. In no time you’ll be able to hit high, soft shots like the best players in the world.

In this video, Blackburn demonstrates the high, soft-landing bunker shot:

Learn how to play various bunker shots, plus a variety of chips, pitches and specialty shots in “Total Short Game with Mark Blackburn,” now available in Golf Digest Schools. In this nearly 38-minute, three-lesson series, Blackburn teaches you how to clip the ball from tight lies, stop it close with spin or trajectory, even how to utilize your putter and fairway woods from just off the green. Follow along and start saving strokes around the greens.

Total Short Game with Mark Blackburn” is one of more than 130 video programs in Golf Digest Schools. Take your game to the next level with instruction from the top teachers and players. And with the new Golf Digest Schools app, you can bring it all with you anywhere you go. Check out Golf Digest Schools, a revolutionary experience in golf instruction.