Bunker Play Made Easy: Traffic Light Drill

In this article, PGA pro Katie Dawkins shares a brilliant drill designed to improve your bunker play

Bunker play made easy

Bunker play is an area of the game most amateurs neglect, yet they throw their hands in the air in disgust when they fail to splash the ball out effortlessly into the middle of the green every time. Fortunately, PGA pro Katie Dawkins has a great drill that will hopefully inspire you to dedicate more time to this worthy pursuit.

For a lot of golfers, the only practise they get in this department is during the monthly medal. So, if you aren’t lucky enough to have a practice bunker at your disposal, you could perhaps nip out onto the course an odd evening.

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However, if you do, it's probably best to hit only one or two shots in each trap, otherwise the greenkeepers will be queueing up to send a bunch of hate mail. Anyway, to the drill...

Bunker play made easy: Traffic light drill

Draw a set of traffic lights (three large fried-egg-sized circles) in the sand and don’t forget the stalk. Position the stalk opposite the inside of your front foot - this indicates a ball position that is further forward than a normal iron shot, encouraging you to hit sand before ball - and place a ball on the furthest light from you.

Bunker play made easy

Make three circles in the sand as shown above, with a ball in the middle of the last one

You are going to address the back of the bottom circle on your traffic lights as you would do if a ball were nestled in the centre of it. The idea is to remove the entire circle of sand with a lovely positive swing. Get through to that finish and set up to the second circle. Repeat the same positive action. Bang. Bang.

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Then again, repeat with the third circle. This one should have a ball in it and what you should find is that you have gathered momentum by this point and your club glides through the sand a lot easier than you're used to. 

Bunker play made easy

On the third shot, you should find it easier to get the ball out of the bunker

However, don't get comfortable as that startled look on your face as the ball pops out onto the green will soon wear off. Go again!

Do NOT decelerate!

We aim for the back of the circle and accelerate through the sand to a finish. If we decelerate into the sand in a bid to limit distance the surface gobbles up our energy and the ball seldom escapes. Goal number one is to get out first time and ideally have a putt as your next shot.

I love this drill as it feels like the equivalent of hitting a boxing pad; it’s a great practice session following a stressful day. Working on how to play bunker shots is good for the mind, soul and your score, so let’s get some beach time under our belts and get splashing!

Katie Dawkins
Advanced PGA Professional and freelance contributor

Katie is an Advanced PGA professional with over 20 years of coaching experience. She helps golfers of every age and ability to be the best versions of themselves. In January 2022 she was named as one of Golf Monthly's Top 50 Coaches.

Katie coaches the individual and uses her vast experience in technique, psychology and golf fitness to fix problems in a logical manner that is effective - she makes golf simple. Katie is now based on the edge of the New Forest. An experienced club coach, she developed GardenGOLF during lockdown and as well as coaching at Hamptworth Golf Club she freelances, operating via pop-up clinics and travelling to clients homes to help them use their space to improve. 

She has coached tour pros on both LET tour and the Challenge Tour as well as introduced many a beginner to the game. 

Katie has been writing instructional content for magazines for 20 years. Her creative approach to writing is fuelled by her sideline as an artist.