Master the running bunker shot

GM Top 25 coach Andrew Reynolds explains the changes to club choice, set-up and thinking needed to play the 40- to 60-yard running bunker shot successfully

(Image credit: Mark Newcombe / visionsingolf.com)

GM Top 25 coach Andrew Reynolds explains the changes to club choice, set-up and thinking needed to play the 40- to 60-yard running bunker shot successfully

1) Change your club

The 40- to 60-yard bunker shot is commonly regarded as the hardest shot in golf, and as a pro it’s not one I particularly relish! In fact, even tour pros like Peter Uihlein refer to this as being one of the hardest shots in golf.

Little lob shots from the side of the green - they’re quite straightforward as you can use your most lofted sand iron to splash it high in the air. But on a shot like this, carrying it all the way is a very high-tariff shot, so you should be looking to get the ball running towards the hole with something like an 8-iron, depending on the height of the lip. Using the bounce in the sole of the club, you can hit the sand a little before the ball to send it out on much lower, running flight. It’s a much less risky shot.

2) Change your set-up

On a normal greenside bunker shot, you’ll have the ball a little forward in your stance and be aiming a little left of the flag, with your club then travelling outside the line and coming steeply back into the ball. But for the running bunker shot, that’s not what you want.

You should stand square to the target with the ball in the middle of your stance and play it much more like an ordinary pitch or chip depending on the distance, with your club travelling along, rather than across, the target line. I like to think of it as a kind of running hook that will then release and run up on to the green.

3) Allow for more roll

This, of course, means that the ball will come out much lower, and that’s just what you want – you want it to be pitching and running forwards, rather than stopping dead or spinning back. You need to factor that in and accept that it will be difficult to be precise as you just don’t know how the ball will run through the fairway or fringe.

But it’s about playing the percentages, and this is definitely the percentage shot from this range. Better to accept a longer putt than come really unstuck attempting a risky shot that would test even the top pros!

4) Practice is key

This sound obvious, but the harder the shot, the more you need to spend time working out how to play it and discovering which clubs you can use well for this type of shot. This really isn’t the kind of shot you're likely to be able to pull off at will out on the course if you haven’t practised it, so far better to spend some time experimenting so that when you do face just such a shot for real, you’ll have a much better idea of what you’re trying to do.

Jeremy Ellwood
Contributing Editor

Jeremy Ellwood has worked in the golf industry since 1993 and for Golf Monthly since 2002 when he started out as equipment editor. He is now a freelance journalist writing mainly for Golf Monthly across the whole spectrum from courses and Rules to equipment and instruction. He also edits The Golf Club Secretary Newsletter, a highly regarded trade publication for golf club secretaries and managers, and has authored or co-authored three books and written for a number of national papers including The Telegraph and The Independent. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 91 of the Next 100, making him well-qualified when it comes to assessing and comparing our premier golf courses. He has now played well over 950 golf courses worldwide in 35 countries, right across the spectrum from the humblest of nine-holers in the Scottish Highlands to the very grandest of international golf resorts, but put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content.

Jezz can be contacted via Twitter - @JezzEllwoodGolf


Jeremy is currently playing...

Driver: Ping G425 LST 10.5˚ (draw setting), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 55 S shaft

3 wood: Ping G425 Max 15˚ (set to flat +1), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 65 S shaft

Hybrid: Ping G425 17˚, Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro Orange 80 S shaft

Irons 3-PW: Ping i525, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts

Wedges: Ping Glide 4.0 50˚ and 54˚, 12˚ bounce, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts

Putter: Ping Fetch 2021 model, 33in shaft (set flat 2)

Ball: Varies but mostly now TaylorMade Tour Response