Bunker Shots for Beginners - Golf Sidekick

Bunker Shots for Beginners

Last Updated on January 5, 2024 by Matt Greene

Does your stomach drop into your toes when you see your ball in a bunker?

Scared of skulling it across the green into the other bunker or killing someone?

We all get these feelings when we're not good at bunkers. Bunker shots are difficult for anyone, not only beginners. 

The good news is this is a skills problem and a skills problem can be fixed easily even as a beginner. I'm going make it as simple as possible. You can take these ideas straight to the practice bunker and see results immediately because there is only one simple way to get out of sand.

How to hit bunker shots super simple

To get out of a bunker first time, we need to use the correct club, stance, setup and technique. You don't need anything special, just time and patience for the process and technique to work. It may take time as a beginner but if you start with the right stuff, you'll get better quicker than everyone.

The Club

We want to use a Sand Wedge.

You can use a sand wedge from your existing set. It usually has 'S' or 'SW' on the bottom. 

If you use a standalone wedge, use a 56 degree wedge with 14 degrees of bounce. 

The reason we use a sand wedge is because it's been designed specifically for the purpose of bunker play. If you look at sole or bottom of your club head, you'll notice a big chunky part.

That's the sole and when you rest the club head on the ground, you'll notice the leading edge of the sand wedge is above the bottom of the sole. That's the bounce and is the reason we can slap the sand and get out easily. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: We do not make contact with the golf ball in a green side bunker. We actually slap the sand with the sole of the club one inch behind the golf ball, skimming the bottom of the club off the sand. 

The ball does not touch the club face. Instead, the sand wedge excavates a divot of sand and the ball flies out on this magic carpet ride of sand.

The Stance and Setup

Feet: Align feet slightly left of the target. This can be anywhere between 2 and 10 yards: play around with it in the practice bunker to find your preference - it's totally up to you and what works for you. We will swing the club along our feet line, kind of slicing across the golf ball.

Weight on the front foot: Lean into your front foot with about 80% of your weight on the front foot.

Club face: Open the face and have the leading edge pointing either at the hole. The way to open a club face with a sand wedge is to rotate the face to be point more directly to the sky and then grip the club while the club is rotated in this position. 

Do not hold the sand wedge like a normal shot and then rotate your wrists to open the face. You must grip the sand wedge while the face is open and hit a normal shot with the preset open face.

Ball position: The ball should be played off the front foot. You can line it up with your heel or your toe, whichever gets the best result is fine. This will automatically open your club face and set your hands behind the ball.

Hands: Hands should be behind the ball.

Hitting the shot

Imagine there is a cushion under the ball.

It starts an inch behind the ball and extends a couple more past the ball.

Your job is to get the ball delivered to the green on that cushion of sand, like a magic carpet ride, like an engagement ring on a pillow.

Take a swing using your wrists a lot. You want to feel like you slap the sand with the sole of the club using your right hand. That right hand should feel like it will catch rain drops after impact. 

When you hit the shot, you must use enter the sand an inch behind the ball and most importantly you must complete the swing to the top of the swing. 

Don't stop the club in the sand. You want to feel like the sole of the club is slapping the sand like a flat stone skips on water. And finish your shot like any other iron shot you hit. 

When you swing the club, swing it so your swing follows the line of your feet which is left of the target. It naturally happens for most golfers when you set up for a bunker shot with an open stance, but make sure you swing as if the head is travelling back parallel to your feet line and forward along the same line.

Why are bunker shots so difficult?

Bunkers seem difficult because often we aren't taught the right technique. Major problems for hitting poor or inconsistent bunker shots are things like:

  • Trying to clip the ball off the sand like a chip (works maybe 1 out of 8 shots) 
  • Using the wrong club from the sand - lob wedge and pitching wedge are not recommended if you can't get out of bunkers
  • Not following through to complete the swing - you lose speed and forward movement to get through the sand and stay in the bunker
  • Bounce and the sole width of the club are not fat enough - if you play in fluffy sand and don't have enough bounce and sole, it's difficult to get the ball out
  • Tension in the hands and arms - your wrists and arms should be really loose and feel like you're using your right hand to skim the club and catch rain water on the follow through


There'll be difficulties learning to hit bunker shots for beginners if you are no good at them.

But I promise, if you keep practicing these fundamentals and trust the process, you'll be a proficient bunker player. I've used these steps in my golf for years and love playing out of bunkers. You will too.


  • Use a 56° sand wedge
  • Line your feet up left of the target
  • Open the club face and then grip the club while it's open
  • Line your club at the target
  • Swing the club along the line of your feet
  • Hit the sand 1 inch behind the ball
  • Feel like you're slapping the sand with the bottom of the club with your right hand
  • FOLLOW THROUGH to the finish like any other shot
  • Watch the bal land on the green every time

Check out the guide on getting out of every single bunker you can imagine.

Last Updated on January 5, 2024 by Matt Greene

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