Improve Your Bunker Play By Shifting Your Mentality

Advanced PGA pro Katie Dawkins shares some tips on how to improve your bunker play

bunker play

It’s a strange quirk of the game that those whose bunker play consistently lets them down find themselves in the traps far more than those who can splash the ball out effortlessly. Why is this? Can the sand smell fear? 

It’s more to do with the amount of worry and internal stress that an ordinary bunker can cause a player. The focus is more often on the dreaded sand and not on where you want your ball to go. Even when trying to be positive the thought is often: ‘I’m not going to go in that bunker’.

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Well, now you’ve mentioned it, you might as well get your bucket and spade ready. It's vital to start thinking better if you're going to overcome your demons. That's why Advanced PGA professional Katie Dawkins has put together some useful mental tips on how to play bunker shots.

Bunker play tips: Embrace the sand

How on earth can you fix this magnetic relationship that you have with these hazards? Get bunker savvy first and foremost. Train yourself to love a bunker shot, to embrace a sand save and to literally skip into it with a spring in your step.

A lot of it comes down to routine because if you fail to prepare, be prepared to fail. So get rehearsing that swing outside of the trap before you even step onto the sandy surface. Keep your routine similar throughout your game. I tend to do one practice swing and then my next swing lets the ball get in the way. It’s no different here.

bunker play

Stand with your ball in the bunker between you and your landing spot – yes, pick out a landing spot when hitting bunker shots as it will help you visualise the shot.

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Generate a really positive and pumped up practice swing, bouncing that club through the grass behind the bunker. Commitment is everything here so ensure you finish that swing. Many players struggle because they don’t accelerate through the sand enough.

Be confident

The key is then to stride into the sand. It's easy to tell whether a player enjoys bunker play or not from a distance away. You see them practically do a cartwheel into the sand and skip back out with a shimmy in their step.

bunker play

A player who is allergic to bunkers will drag themselves into the sand and have a stab at it and drag themselves out again, a bit like Harry Enfield’s Kevin saying, ‘that is so unfair, I hate bunker shots’.

You need to be upbeat and this is a perfect example of when positive body language can help you. So head high, get in and get out. You can be a bunker genius if you let your guard down and learn to enjoy the challenge of escaping that treacherous sand!

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.