How to play bunker shots: Opening the face

With most instruction related to bunker play a coach will tell his pupil to open the face of his wedge. The problem here is that there is a right and wrong way to do it. If you take your normal grip and then open the clubface, your hands will naturally want to get back to their original position through impact. The face will close and you will struggle to get the ball out. This is why you need to turn the butt end of the club to open the face and then place your hands on the grip. You now have an open face and should be able to retain that loft through impact. Finally, you don’t need to lay the face of your wedge way open. A little bit of extra loft is all you really need to get the ball up quickly.

Short game video tips

Three Part Alignment

Having opened the face of your wedge, if you sit it down behind the ball you will notice that it points to the right of the target. If you think about a clockface, the target line is at 12 o’clock, the face of your wedge should be pointing at one. Now set your stance – your feet should be aiming at 11 o’clock. I see a lot of golfers who point the club at 3 o’clock and their feet at 9 o’clock but this makes the shot far too complicated to play well. With such a vast difference in your club and body alignment, it’s almost impossible to hit the ball where you want to. So set a slightly open body position and swing the club along the line of your body. When it comes to how to play bunker shots, this will help you find the loft and direction you are looking for.

Beginner’s guide to bunker play

Controlling distance

When it comes to knowing how to play bunker shots most golfers know they need to strike the sand before the ball from a greenside bunker but how much before? This determines how far it will go. I work to the following basic principle: take a £50 note sized splash for short shots, £20 for medium length and £5 for longer bunker shots. Visualise your ball sitting in the middle of that note and try to strike the sand at the front edge. This is a simple, effective way to change your distances without changing your technique.

Greenside bunker distance control

High hands

As we have already mentioned, when playing from greenside bunkers you are looking to strike the sand before the ball. Of course, this means you need to guard against the club slowing down through impact. That’s why I like my pupils to have quite a full swing. This creates the speed they need without causing a fast, jerky swing. The other swing thought to use is make sure that your hands are ‘high’ in the finish. Concentrating on ‘high hands’ will help you retain the loft on the club through impact to ensure you have plenty of height on the shot.