Conquer The Dreaded Plugged Lie In The Bunker With 3 Expert Tips

Finding your golf ball plugged in the bunker is one of the worst feelings in golf, but there is no need to fear it thanks to these three expert tips...

Golf Monthly Top 50 Coach hitting a plugged lie bunker shot
These 3 simple tips will help to alleviate your anxiety around plugged lies in the bunker
(Image credit: Future)

Despite spending time reading all the best golf tips on how to hit the ball dead straight and control your ball flight, it's inevitable that you will eventually find the bunkers at some point.

As you wander towards the trap you pray for a good lie, but on arrival find your golf ball plugged in the sand. Most amateur golfers would panic about bringing a big score into play from this position, which is a perfectly reasonable response to this challenging shot, but you don't need fear it.

In this article, Golf Monthly Top 50 Coach Andrew Jones shares three top tips to escape a plugged lie in the bunker unscathed...

1. Make A (Sensible) Plan

One of the best bunker tips is to have a plan, and for most amateur golfers, the safer option is probably the more sensible one most of the time. Keep the clubface square to slightly closed, with more weight on your left side at address, which will generate some shaft lean.

Embedded golf ball in bunker

(Image credit: Future)

2. Know When To Take A Risk

For more adventurous players who want to take a little more risk, open the clubface to get the heel interacting with the sand more. Place even more weight on your left-hand side and set your hands lower to generate a much steeper backswing and lots of speed.

Recent PGA Championship winner Xander Schauffele is a great player to watch, as he knows when to take risks. He ranks in the top-10 for scrambling from the sand so far this season, and ranked tied first for this stat on his way to winning a record-breaking first Major Championship.

3. Understand The Danger

Tactics should be factored in when deciding which shot to attempt from a plugged lie. For example, if you find yourself in a position where you are playing towards trouble, such as a water hazard, it might well be wise to play sensibly away from the pin – especially in stroke play.

Do I Get Free Relief If My Ball Is Embedded In The Face Of The Bunker?

Unfortunately, if your golf ball is plugged in the sand, you are not entitled to free relief. However, if your golf ball is embedded in the face, lip or wall of the bunker - you are!

Alison Root assessing an embedded ball in the bunker face

(Image credit: Future)

As this is defined as the 'general area', you are entitled to take relief in line with rule 16.3b. The relief area is described as one club length, still in the general area and no closer to the hole. The reference point for determining this relief area should be the spot directly behind where the ball is embedded.

Where Can I Find More Expert Golf Tips?

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Andrew Jones
Top 50 Coach

Location: Walmer & Kingsdown Golf Club 

After turning professional in 1991, Andrew served as Assistant Pro at Royal Cinque Ports from 1993 until 1998, before spending three years as Head Pro at Lydd Golf Club. He remains in Kent and, after a spell as the Director of Coaching at Sene Valley, is now the Club Professional at Walmer & Kingsdown Golf Club.

Students learn best when...

They have bought into your vision, passion and enthusiasm as a coach and are prepared to go on the journey with you sharing experiences and opinions with an open mind to what is necessary to improve their game. Both the pupil and the coach need to be entering this relationship with eyes, ears and senses wide open and a willingness give it a go!

Greatest teaching influence:

Fellow Top 50 coach, former boss and mentor, Andrew Reynolds. In my early years as a trainee PGA assistant at Royal Cinque Ports, he instilled in me the importance of the analysis of ball flight and also identifying cause and effect within the swing. Other notable (Tour) coaches I have studied carefully during my development have been David Leadbetter and Butch Harmon.

Most common problem:

The grip. For me, it has to be the poor connection to the club itself that can have a fundamental and sometimes catastrophic influence on how we stand to, move and deliver the club to the ball.