Add Versatility To Your Sand Escapes With These 4 Brilliant Bunker Drills

There are many different ways to get out of a bunker, so having a range of shots in your repertoire is a great way to save par more consistently from the sand

Justin Rose and Russell Henley playing bunker shots
These four fantastic bunker drills will help to add versatility to your short game
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Getting up and down from the bunker is a crucial skill for any golfer wanting to lower their scores and reduce their handicap index.

Accessing the right short game tips will certainly help, but the thing that could really set you apart from your playing partners is the ability to be creative and versatile. Russell Henley and Justin Rose are two excellent examples of this on the PGA Tour, both ranking in the top-5 for Sand Save Percentage.

In this article, Golf Monthly Top 50 Coach John Jacobs shares his expert tips on how to play bunker shots with finesse and flair, while also sharing four fantastic drills to help you escape the sand...

1. Follow Through Drill

One thing most amateurs know about the short game is that they need to accelerate the club through impact. In sand, this prevents it from digging in. However, if you carry too much speed through impact, you’ll find distance control hard. A great way to ensure you are still accelerating through the strike but also controlling your distance is to focus on your follow through.

Hit three shots to no specific target – one with a full follow through, one with a half finish and one with a short finish. As long as the contact is consistent (a £20-note-sized splash around the ball), you’ll notice important differences between the carry. This will certainly come in handy when you’re out on the course.

2. Clip It Drill

The success of the drills on this page relies on one thing remaining consistent – the contact. To be a great bunker player, you need to be in control of where the club bottoms out. A good way to test yourself is to try and hit a series of shots clipping the ball off the top of the sand, without catching the shot either fat or thin. This is
tricky, so don’t aim to any specific target, just concentrate on contact.

You should be able to develop a feel for how to control the bottoming out point of the club, something that will be invaluable when you hit normal splash shots.

Russell Henley hitting a bunker shot at the US Open 2024

Russell Henley currently ranks 1st on the PGA Tour for sand saves

(Image credit: Getty Images)

3. Versatility Drill

Head to the practice bunker and hit a normal splash shot with your usual sand wedge. Now replace your sand wedge with your 8-iron. At address, move the ball forward in your stance, open the face a little more and drop your hands down.

Now make a normal swing. You’ll be surprised by how high the ball flies and how softly it lands. Next, try to hit the same shot with your 6-iron. Move your hands down the grip, move the ball even further forward and drop your hands down even more. 

Again, make a normal swing. This drill is a great way of adding some versatility to your short game without having to change the swing itself.

4. Soft Swing Drill

I often find in my coaching that players swing far too aggressively from sand. The club is swung on too steep an angle and it digs through impact. If your splash is shallow, you will be surprised at how softly you can swing the club through impact and still get the ball out.

For this drill, swing the club as softly as possible – try to take a normal, £20-note-sized splash and ensure the club doesn’t go too deeply into the sand. Experiment with how softly you can swing and still get the ball out. This ability to take speed off will really help your distance control from bunkers.

Justin Rose hitting a bunker shot at Muirfield Village

Justin Rose has ranked in the top-10 for sand saves in three of his last five seasons on the PGA Tour

(Image credit: Getty Images)

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John Jacobs
Top 50 Coach

Location: Cumberwell Park

John has been Head Professional at Cumberwell Park in Wiltshire since it opened in 1994. He gets as much pleasure teaching beginners as he does county players, although being Wiltshire's Head Coach, Boys Coach and Girls Coach means he's always in demand. He also works with England Golf, and was England Coach Of The Year in 2020.

He's had the pleasure of working with many top players over the years, and has fond memories coaching the likes of Tommy Fleetwood, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Tom Lewis before they made the leap into professional golf. John specialises in swing analysis and short game development.