How To: Greenside Bunker Shots

Greenside bunkers are feared by both amateurs and pros. When the approach shot goes wrong you don’t want to find yourself stuck in a greenside bunker trying to make par. Fear not- they are tricky shots but can be mastered and we will help discuss hot to hit greenside bunker shots if you ever find yourself in one!

Greenside bunkers, often referred to simply as “bunkers” or “sand traps,” are hazards located near the putting greens on a golf course. These areas are filled with sand and are strategically placed to challenge golfers’ skills and decision-making. Players aim to avoid landing their ball in these bunkers, as the sand can make shots more difficult due to its inconsistent texture. Hitting from a greenside bunker requires a specific technique involving hitting the sand before the ball, which helps lift the ball out while minimizing its distance traveled. Successfully navigating greenside bunkers is an essential aspect of a golfer’s short game proficiency.

Greenside Bunkers Technique

The best greenside bunker technique to hit a perfect shot involves a combination of skill, strategy, and execution. Follow these steps for a successful greenside bunker shot:

Club Selection

Opt for a sand wedge or lob wedge with sufficient loft (around 54-60 degrees). The loft assists in getting the ball out of the sand and onto the green. I love the xE1 Sand Wedge & Lob Wedge making it easy to escape those greenside bunkers.

Setup and Stance

Open your stance by aligning your body slightly left of the target (for right-handed golfers). This setup encourages an out-to-in swing path that strikes the sand before the ball. Position the ball just forward of center in your stance, ensuring it’s closer to your front foot. To maintain balance in the sand, slightly dig your feet into the sand to anchor yourself to get the best ball contact.


Maintain a firm grip, but avoid excessive tension. A controlled grip allows your wrists to hinge naturally, facilitating better clubhead movement to allow the wedge to scoop the ball out of the sandy position.

Keep the Clubface Open

Prior to gripping the club, open the clubface slightly. This increases the club’s effective loft, aiding in the ball’s elevation from the sand.

Swing Technique

The key is striking the sand rather than the ball. Aim to hit the sand about 1 to 2 inches behind the ball. This allows the sand to lift the ball out. Keep your lower body stable and allow your wrists to hinge on the backswing, ensuring the club moves steeply into the sand.

Follow Through

Continue your swing with confidence, feeling the clubface naturally release through impact. Your follow-through should be higher than your backswing. This assists the ball in lofting out and landing softly on the green.

Adapt to Lie

Assess the lie before every bunker shot. If the ball is sitting down in the sand, you might need to take a slightly deeper divot. For a ball perched up on the sand, adjust your swing to ensure clean contact.

How To Hit from Varying Bunker Lies

  1. Firm Lie:
    • Use a sand wedge or lob wedge with a square clubface.
    • Address the ball slightly back in your stance.
    • Make a steep swing into the sand to create spin and control.
  2. Buried Lie:
    • Select a sand wedge or lob wedge.
    • Open the clubface and stance, creating a steeper angle.
    • Position the ball forward in your stance.
    • Swing aggressively behind the ball to pop it out.
  3. Sitting Down Lie:
    • Opt for a high-lofted wedge, like a lob wedge.
    • Place the ball in the center of your stance.
    • Swing steeply with a full follow-through to lift the ball.
  4. Upslope Lie:
    • Choose a sand wedge or lob wedge.
    • Address the ball higher on the clubface.
    • Swing vertically to counter the upslope and land softly.
  5. Downslope Lie:
    • Use a less-lofted club, like a pitching wedge.
    • Place the ball back in your stance.
    • Execute a shallower swing to prevent the ball from ballooning.

Greenside Bunker Shots from Differing Sand Conditions

Wet Sand: When facing wet sand in a greenside bunker, opt for a sand wedge or lob wedge. To prevent excessive digging, slightly widen your stance for improved stability. Aim to strike the sand a bit earlier than usual, which will help you avoid digging too deep. Focus on executing a smoother swing to maintain control and prevent the club from getting caught up in the wet sand’s resistance.

Soft/Crumbly Sand: In scenarios where the sand is soft and crumbly, go for a sand wedge with higher bounce. Open the clubface slightly and adjust your stance to accommodate the conditions. Employ a smooth and controlled swing, allowing the club to glide through the sand. The higher bounce on the wedge prevents it from digging too deeply into the soft sand, ensuring clean contact with the ball.

Firm Sand: When confronted with firm sand in the bunker, select a sand wedge with less bounce. Address the ball slightly forward in your stance and make a slightly steeper swing than usual. The goal is to strike the sand just behind the ball to avoid bouncing off the hard surface. Focus on clean and crisp contact with the sand to pop the ball out with control.

Deep/Rough Sand: For deep or rough sand conditions, choose a sand wedge or lob wedge. Open your clubface and stance to increase loft, then position the ball slightly forward in your stance. Swing aggressively, focusing on hitting the sand behind the ball to generate enough force to lift it out of the deep sand. The aggressive approach helps overcome the resistance of the sand.

Wet and Compact Sand: In scenarios where the sand is wet but compact, opt for a sand wedge with moderate bounce. Slightly narrow your stance and focus on hitting the sand a bit before the ball to ensure smooth contact. The compactness of the sand minimizes the need for excessive digging, so your swing can remain controlled and effective.

Dry and Fluffy Sand: When dealing with dry and fluffy sand, choose a sand wedge or lob wedge. Widen your stance for stability and address the ball slightly back in your stance. Execute a smooth swing through the sand, allowing the loft of the club to lift the ball. The goal is to make clean contact with the sand beneath the ball, allowing it to pop out and onto the green.


In conclusion, while greenside bunkers may appear intimidating, they should not evoke fear in golfers. Instead, they offer an opportunity to showcase one’s skill, finesse, and adaptability. By mastering the techniques outlined for different lies and sand conditions, golfers can transform bunkers from obstacles into opportunities. Practice, understanding the dynamics of sand interaction, and maintaining a positive mindset are key to confidently approaching greenside bunkers. Embrace the challenge, view each shot as a chance to learn and improve, and remember that overcoming bunker challenges can significantly enhance your overall short game proficiency. With time, dedication, and the right approach, greenside bunkers can become a segment of the course where you excel and display your prowess as a versatile golfer.

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