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Tags: Greenside Bunker Techniquegreenside bunkersHow to Hit Bunker Shots
Paul Wilson is the creator of Swing Machine Golf and founder of Ignition Golf. Paul's golf swing technique is based on the Iron Byron swing machine.
Paul Wilson Golf and
Ignition Golf Tips.
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February 9, 2013
Thanks, I like it when you touch on specialty shots too. You mentioned hinge several times but not shoulder turn or load. Hard to tell in video but is this less turn and more of an arm swing on the backswing? I understand you still want the forward swing initiated with lower body.
February 10, 2013
You are doing basically the same turn (maybe a little less) because you are not quite going to parallel. The reason I am only talking about the hinge in the backswing is because I don’t want you thinking of 5 things as go back. I want the wrists to hinge so you generate the power to cut through the sand. If you hinge as I suggest you should be turning without thinking about it.
So you are hinging. Once hinged you are turning. You are not hitting anything. It will be hit if you turn. Keep it simple.
Hi Paul. I suspect the sand in Nevada is somewhat dryer and lighter than the more moist stuff we experience in Illinois. What alterations in technique do you recommend for wet or clumpy sand? I tend to skull the ball in these situations, turning a bogey at worst into a nightmare. Does squaring the clubface solve the problem?
Thanks, Ron Calabrese
I will do a tip on this in the future. For now:
Square up the face. Aim square. Do not grip down unless you cannot dig your feet in. Feel like you are picking it up more vertical going back. Turn through it as I suggest and feel the club descending. This should pop it out.
February 18, 2013
Hi Paul. Love the fact that you’re basically using the same principles as you do for full shots, etc. But I was wondering how do you adjust for different distances out of the bunker? Assuming one is using the same sand wedge everytime, it seems like hinging and swinging the arms to the same position and then turning your hips/belt buckle to the same follow thru position it would produce the same distance every time. Does it become a function of adjusting the club face and stance positions (open vs square)?
I will be doing a tip on this in the future. Basically, you can do it 4 ways:
1. Dig your feet in more or less.
2. Vary the degree the face is open.
3. Turn your hips faster or slower.
4. Use a combination of any of the above.
October 12, 2013
Pros have been telling me for 50 years to hit behind the ball. I just reviewed this tip and it’s fabulous. It makes clear to me for the first time for me why “hit behind the ball” is such bad advice. Just dig in your feet, hit the ball, and you will naturally hit behind it just as you want.
October 13, 2013
Exactly. Why hit if you don’t have to. If you do you are changing your normal golf swing. If you hit in bunkers you are activating your arms. Yikes!
February 21, 2014
May 17, 2014
Hi Paul. We play on a fairly nice public course, greens and fairways, but the bunkers are atrocious. Typically a mixture of some sand, mud, and clay. It’s very thick stuff, and many times we don’t even have to rake out our footsteps. When you try get under the ball, either the club bounces and you skull it, or the club loses all of its speed unless you really smash through it, leaving with you a variety of results. When you are just trying to pop it out, it seems almost impossible. Any tips or advice? Thanks. Mike
Here you go:
How to Hit Bunker Shots from Hard or Wet Sand: https://ignitiongolf.com/bunker-hard-wet/
I’am waiting for the video about distance control.
Here is the one for tucked pins.
How To Hit Short Greenside Bunker Shots to a Tight Pin: https://ignitiongolf.com/short-greenside-bunker-shots/
Longer pins don’t open the face much and turn faster.
May 18, 2014
Thanks again Paul.
Sorry, i had forgotten all these videos are already available.
Paul ,I believe the m
I am enjoying your tips and have put them into practice. I am getting better with your help. So many times when you are explaining what to do and what NOT to do and WHY not to do, a light bulb pops in my head! Yes of course you are correct. I just wanted to say Thank you for now!!
I have always been an arm hitter, now I am a golfer!!
May 19, 2014
I’m glad you are understanding the swing. I spent years with no answers so when I hear people have a better understanding of it I love hearing it.
I SAW THIS VIDEO ABOUT A YEAR AGO AND SINCE THEN I HAVE RARELY FAILED TO HIT A GREAT SAND SHOT. MY FRIENDS ARE AMAZED AND I HAVE RECOMMENDED YOU MANY TIMES. IT WORKS PERFECT. NOW I NEED TO HIT LONGER AND SHORTER BUNKER SHOTS AND WILL WATCH THE VIDEO. THANKS A MILLION!
Good stuff. Bunker shots really are easy. So many people try to change their swing hitting these shots or they try to hit the sand. Once they stop hitting the ball pops right out.
Here is the bunker tip when the pin is cut close:
May 26, 2014
Paul…You definately didn’t overly state how quick this lesson could be learned. Today after taking two practice swings in the range bunker I headed to my tee time. I found myself in a greenside bunker three times and with my new found skills I got out of each one and actually one putted two of them. I decided to take this new skill to the flop shot and used t successfully several times to my surprise, since I have been having trouble with that shot. This tip and lesson was the greatest and now I will really give it some practice time to fine tune the swing and even vary how much I can open the club face oN different shots. Question: Is it always best to open your stance approximately the same degee as you are opening your CLUBFAC
I never guess or joke about the golf swing. It really is that simple as you found out. The problem people have is that they do a different swing in the bunker. If so, they would have to practice twice as hard. People don’t have time to practice 1 swing never mind 2. If you can use your normal swing and get the ball out consistently why learn another one? I’m glad you see it and are confident with it.
I like the face to be aimed a little right of the target not right at it. I will have to explain why in a future tip but basically yes, your body is left the amount the face is open or thereabouts.
November 10, 2015
Whenever I have a greenside bunker shot that is longer, I swing harder and fly the ball over the green. I trusted that I would hit below the ball but it doesn’t happen all the easily for whatever reason. Any thoughts on what makes me do this?
November 11, 2015
You are too anxious to see the result. You need to hit it then look for it.
These will all help:
Stop Topping Your Fairway Woods: https://ignitiongolf.com/stop-topping-fairway-woods/
Topping: Watch for the Blur: https://ignitiongolf.com/watch-for-the-blur/
Are You Practicing Looking Early?: https://ignitiongolf.com/practice-looking-early/
You Will Top It: https://ignitiongolf.com/you-will-top-it/
November 16, 2015
Paul I need help from greenside bunkers — I fail to get out > half the time. I will try this technique, hope it works. One Q: you say open to 2 o’clock (C/F), hinge, turn thru w/ belt buckle to target line, and follow-thru: Is the turn thru different from the full swing when the emphasis is on the follow-thru and knees touching? Looks the same except shorter follow-thru. Your technique for the full swing has helped greatly. Help!! tom
If you are a poor bunker player you are trying to hit behind the ball. Never ever think of doing this. Do your normal swing with the set up adjustments. If so you will be great in no time.
This is your same golf swing. Full follow through. Touch legs touch head.
February 15, 2017
I use a 54 degree wedge from sand and for short chips. Should I switch to a 56 degree? Only reason I have 54 is that is what salesman recommended. How important is this?
February 17, 2017
A 54 is a little bit of a strong Sand Wedge. This is fine if your other clubs have the appropriate lofts. In this situation you would have a 58 degree lob wedge (if you have one) and 50 degree gap wedge. A pitching wedge is usually 48 degrees so this would not make sense.
Not sure why he would recommend a 54 degree SW but there had to be a reason. Maybe you hit a 56 too high resulting in a lack of distance. Not sure but really you should have your clubs at 4 degree loft increments. Might want to check the lofts on your irons by going to the manufacturers site. Maybe they are a little stronger.
On short chips at a 1:1 ratio you would use this club. It might get a little more roll than the 1:1 but you have to use what clubs you have. You could switch to a Lob wedge if you have one if you want a 1:1 ratio. Hopefully, you know the ratios? If not, here they are:
Chipping Ratios: https://ignitiongolf.com/short-pitch-shot-distances/
Once you know them use the club that will allow you to product them.
Hi Paul, firstly I must say that subscribing to ignition golf has been one of the smartest golfing decisions that I have ever made.
I have struggled with bunkers ever since I started playing golf, I’ve had lessons and lots of practice but never much luck.
I came across your bunker tips this week, watched them a couple of times but didn’t have a chance to practice them before today’s game.
On the 3rd hole I landed in the the bunker. I put all of your tips into action but it took me 3 shots to get out!
That turned out to be the practice that I needed.
I landed in another 3 bunkers.
Using the practice that I had just had and your tips I was able to chip in on one hole and next to the flag on the other 2.
I think the days of my mates making side bets on how many shots it takes me to get out of the bunker are GONE!
February 19, 2017
That’s great news. I keep telling everyone that bunker shots are simple. You just need to swing through it instead of trying to hit the sand. Glad you tried it and saw the results. This is a huge part of the game that will allow you to save so many shots. Keep up the good work (and beat all of your friends).
March 8, 2017
Really looking forward to practising this shot. Love your site which I have only just joined.
How much to the left of your target do you aim?
March 10, 2017
Thank you for joining. Glad to have you on board. You would aim left based on how open the clubface is. Little open = little left etc. You should hit a few shots on the grass from square and see how the open face affects your shots then you will get a feel for how much you will have to aim to compensate.
Watch these tips to understand it then apply it to your bunker shots:
How To Open The Clubface On Flop Shots: https://ignitiongolf.com/open-face-flop/
How To Work On Flop Shots: https://ignitiongolf.com/work-on-flop-shots/
May 30, 2017
You are a great teacher Paul.
May 31, 2017
Thanks. I appreciate it.
Hi Paul. You are not loading the weight to the back foot as for full swings? Find it easier to hinge going back With more weight forward and then turning With Heavy arms. Is it correct?
I am coiling and loading going back with all clubs. In the bunker you still need to be doing this I just don’t want you thinking about it (unless you are not doing it). Once loaded you uncoil and let the arms go along for the ride.
August 13, 2017
Once you hinge with open club face and then turn to hit the shot ; the wrist will release to slap the sand with an open club face but HOLD open to the finish wth NO rollover on the wrist…Is this correct Paul???
No. This would be hitting. I just posted my bunker technique below. It is so simple. It is your real golf swing.
September 3, 2017
How do you control the distance on this shot?
You can vary the face open or more square and/or you can turn your body faster.
Longer shots you would have the face less open and turn faster.
October 7, 2017
Hi Paul thanks so much, I’m a really good bunker player but this just made me so much better. But I’m writing you this comment to let you know this tip actually helped me with my long game today. During my Skype lesson with Pete he wanted me to get more wrist hinge and told me to think butt end and butt end of the club, I have been working on it, but having worked on the bunker hinge for a few days and voila! I am hinging more on my longer clubs and hitting the ball much more effortlessly and further. My glutes Actually feel like they got a work out after my round today, not my arms.
Now back to work on my disastrous alignment… 🙂
October 9, 2017
Glad you liked it. Bunker shots are so simple.
The hinge is vital. Without that you will lose power and consistently. Just think. The wrists are a hinge. A hinge in life is loose. It hinges and re-hinges. That’s all it does. There is no power in it. If the hinge is tight you are hitting with arms. Sounds like you are getting it. This will be a huge breakthrough for you.
Alignment is the most important lesson in golf. I wouldn’t say this if it wasn’t. Need to always put down and alignment stick.
February 17, 2018
I never knew how to hit out of a bunker and these two videos will help immensely, because everything you have ever taught has helped me. When I land in the sand I almost without fail get a 9 or 10. With this maybe I can salvage a 7.
February 18, 2018
Bunker shots are simple. The problem people have is trying to hit behind the ball. In no way do I want you thinking that. Just do your normal golf swing. Open the face, aim left and dig in your feet. If you dig in your club will hit the sand first. The focus on my follow through. If so, you will hit perfect bunker shots in seconds. I prove this all of the time.
April 17, 2018
Paul is the swing path along the course of your foot alignment or the swing path along the aim to the green
April 18, 2018
The path would be where your body is aimed. This would vary with how much the face is open. The ball will go right due to the face being open.
April 27, 2018
Hi Paul, when practicing my pitch shots my thought process is hinge & turn, is this same swing thought for bunker shot, I realize set up is different. Also will stop thinking about a spot 2 in behind ball, which I now focus on & does not help my bunker play.
Yes, it is the same or you can just do your normal swing. I haven’t shot that tip yet but that makes it even easier. Give this a try. You will see amazing bunker shots in seconds. Trying to hit behind the ball is hitting. I don’t want you to hit anything.
Paul ,How do you play out from a greenside bunker when the pin is far from where the ball lies ,say 30/40 yards away .My way is to play the ball (supposing the ball is lying on top of the sand) like a normal pitch shot with a 52° gap wedge and not take any sand
Here are long bunkers shots to that distance.
How To Hit Long Greenside Bunker Shots: https://ignitiongolf.com/long-bunker-shots
Longer bunker shots would be fairway bunker shots. You can do this your way too but I think this is little close to be picking it but if it works for you then do it. Just do my pitching technique without digging in too deep. Grip down a little and hinge and turn.
How about a couple of comments on the type of sand – soft fluffy vs hard compact. Also choice of club for the various conditions and amount of green to work with between the ball and the pin placement. I am leaving for Scotland the second week of May. How about those deeeeep bunkers? Maybe just hit it out sideways or even back?
I have a tip on hard wet sand here:
Pot bunkers – you have to make a decision if you can get out or not. Too close to the lip is tough plus you are under pressure. So you take the risk and try to get it out? If you don’t you have the same shot again which will be even closer to the lip so you will have to play it sideways or back so it is that first decision that counts.
Have fund in Scotland. Can I come with you?
April 30, 2018
Thank you for the links to 3 of your other bunker shots tips. The pot bunker thoughts are the same as when my ball is miss hit and ends up in a difficult position. If I do not want to end up with a BIG crooked number score on the hole, I need to consider my options. No need of compounding the first mis-hit. How awesome would it be to have you along on the trip – playing golf in Scotland and having my coach as my playing partner. Maybe next time.
Yes, no big numbers. If in doubt hit it out backwards or sideways. Just get it out. Just bad breaks you get on those courses sometimes. Enjoy your trip.
May 22, 2018
One questions on sand shots; on the downswing do your hands follow the pathnof your feet or do you swing out on the path of the target?
May 23, 2018
You swing down the line of your body The ball goes (almost) where the face is aimed. If you aim left swing left.
Use these 2 tips to work on it:
May 24, 2018
Hi Paul, It seems to look like the Pitching shots?
May 26, 2018
Yes, you this is similar to my pitching technique:
Short Game – Long Pitch Shot: https://ignitiongolf.com/long-pitch/
Short Game – Medium Pitch Shot: https://ignitiongolf.com/medium-pitch/
Short Game – Short Pitch Shot: https://ignitiongolf.com/short-pitch/
June 8, 2018
Just wanted to say Thank you for this great bunker tip. I have never had any confidence in the bunker, trying to hit the sand behind the ball. I might get out of the bunker, even make great shots. But lack of consistency. After trying out this technique, I will never ever go back to the old bunker swing. Make it simple, and it’ll work. Next step will be controlling the length and direction of the bunker shots. Looking forward to more practice and better scrambling!
Very good. Bunker shots are so easy yet everyone wants to make them complicated. This is really going to help you play better.
March 25, 2019
Do you straighten the left lead leg when you are in the bunker when you hinge & turn??
March 31, 2019
I swing through to my follow through. This means yes you would straighten your leg. Do not do the bunker swing of tour players unless you are a pro. Do you normal golf swing with the face open and aiming left. If you do a different swing in the bunker you now have 2 swings. You don’t have time to practice 1 swing never mind 2. Make it simple and get good at it.
May 4, 2019
You might of touched on this already, but do you coil like a regular swing or you follow the fairway bunker swing technique. Just getting a little confused.
May 8, 2019
Here are the fairway bunker tips:
Fairway Bunker Setup: https://ignitiongolf.com/fairway-bunker-set-up
Fairway Bunker How To: https://ignitiongolf.com/fairway-bunker-how-to
June 11, 2019
I apply all the elements that you describe, but i have a little problem, and i don’t find the solution.
Mostly the ball goes out of the bunker, in rolling with the good direction and distance. The ball don’t fly.
Thanks for your answer
June 19, 2019
Sounds like you are hitting it thin. If so, you are looking up and buckling your arms. So you need to dig your feet in and turn through the shot allowing the arms to extend so the club enters the sand. Watch:
Stop Hitting Thin Bunker Shots: https://ignitiongolf.com/thin-bunker-shots/
December 16, 2019
If I don ‘t want to think of hitting the sand behind the ball do I look at the ball at setup?
December 25, 2019
Sure, look at the ball but don’t be fixated on hitting 3″ behind it. Know you will hit behind it because you dug in your feet.
March 9, 2020
Hi Paul! Greenside bunker technique seems the same pitching technique and flop shot, doesn’t it?
March 19, 2020
Exact same shot, just one you are digging your feet into the sand the other you’re not.
March 24, 2020
Many thanks Paul! I follow your technique. Now I am ok with bunker greenside shot but pitching shot is so bad. Sometimes I hit on top half of ball sometimes I hit on the land before ball. Please tell me what drill I should pratice to improve my pitches. Thank you!
March 25, 2020
Start with this tip
How To Pitch The Ball: https://ignitiongolf.com/pitch-ball/
After you watch that, please go to the drop down navigation bar and look for pitching tips.
March 31, 2020
On the bunker shot, I assume we control the distance of the ball with the speed of the hip turn. Is this correct?
Also, are the arms also powerless in this shot?
At one time I had attempted your technique and had good success with it. Over time I drifted back into my old “quiet lower body” method like many others teach and have had horrible results. Can’t wait to get out of this “house arrest” and get back to doing it the Wilson way. It looks so easy and like you said, it is consistent with your pitching technique so you don’t need to invent another swing method for the bunker.
April 2, 2020
Yes, you are controlling the distance by how fast you turn your body, faster you turn the futher the golf ball goes and vice versa. You can open the club face more or less to control distance also, the more open the face the higher the golf ball goes and less it goes forward plus more backspin. Yes, the arms are powerless. But you still want to make sure that you release the shot and have your arms stretched out…no chicken wing. This is one of the biggest faults that I see people make. Long story short; dont change your golf swing for the bunker shot.
May 20, 2020
Paul: I’m a terrible bunker player! I either shank my sand shots, fly them over the green, or barely get out of the sand and leave the ball on the fringe. Do you recommend having a wide stance and keeping the weight more on the left side? Thanks!
Normal stance and weight 50/50. You want to make sure that your posture is not too low if you are shanking shots. Dig your feet in a few inches, open the clubface (don’t grip down) and then think turn with your body. You really want to be focusing on turning, you probably need to turn faster.
May 25, 2020
Trying to follow your technique but just not working. In fact, terrible bunker play past 2 days has ruined my rounds. I’m able to hit pitch shots using your technique. Except for digging into sand with feet, and maybe a little more turn, seems pitch and bunker shots about the same. Why can’t I get bunker shots to work if I can hit OK pitching shots? Thanks Paul
May 26, 2020
Pitch shots and bunker shots are pretty similar. Dig your feet in, open the clubface and then think hige and turn. But you need to be turing pretty fast. Tough to tell what exactly you’re doing wrong without seeing it, are they fat/thin/shanked? If they are fat or thin, then you might need to turn faster. If your pitching is good then you should be hitting bunker shots well also. Pitching; you are usually taking a smaller swing and if you do the same out of the bunker then yes you will not be able to get it out of the sand, there is simply not enough speed. Please watch these tips:
Short Game – How To Hit Flop Shots: https://ignitiongolf.com/hit-flop-shots/
Short Game – Long Pitch Shot: https://ignitiongolf.com/long-pitch/
Settings Goals In the Bunker: https://ignitiongolf.com/settings-goals-bunker/
July 4, 2020
Hi Paul, recently I played two different courses where one the bunker sand is rock hard and the other brand new super soft beach sand….. So I hit way long on the hard sand and couldn’t get out of the super soft sand trap…… What is the correct technique ? Please help….. Ray
July 6, 2020
You are going to want to dig in either more or less depending on the thickness of the sand. With fluffier sand, dig in more and firmer sand dig in less. Do your normal bunker set up and then think normal golf swing; coiling in the backswing and then uncoiling to hit the golf ball. Check out this tip:
Bunker Technique: https://ignitiongolf.com/bunker-shots/
August 15, 2021
Not sure if you will reply to this, but if so, that would be appreciated.
When you complete your backswing, with the hinge and butt-end pointing to the sand, do you feel that your weight has shifted to your trail side as you would for all your clubs?
You are not really thinking about shifting nor not shifting your weight. You want your weight to stay pretty still in the bunker. It would be like a longer pitch shot, there would be a slight weight shift but I would never be focusing on it. Hinge and turn should be your most important thoughts. Getting all the way to the follow through positions will create enough speed to get the ball out of the bunker. Try some without the weight shift thoughts and turning as fast as you can using your legs and hips and then slow down from there.
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