/23 Bunker Play Tips from our Panel of Expert Instructors

23 Bunker Play Tips from our Panel of Expert Instructors

In this expert guide to bunkers, we asked our panel of leading LPGA and PGA instructors for their best advice for golfers who want to play great shots out of the sand in greenside and fairway bunkers.

Instructors in this expert guide (alphabetical)

Alison Curdt | Anne Rollo | Brian Moose | Carlos BrownCathy Kim | Christina Ricci | Daniel Jackson | Deb Vangellow | Elena King | Erika Larkin | Kathy Hart Wood | Karen Palacios-Jansen | Lizzy Freemantle | Marvin Sangüesa | Michelle Holmes | Nancy Quarcelino | Nathalie Filler | Nicole Weller | Pete Kelbel | Sara Stephens | Simon Dewsbury | Stephanie Molloy | Susan Vail


Deb Vangellow

Deb Vangellow

  1. Set up with a slightly open clubface to add loft use the bounce angle of your club. Have the grip and shaft more straight and centered in your stance compared to your regular shots where you would normally be slightly ahead of center. The ball should be positioned slightly left of center.
  2. Dig your feet in to establish a solid footing with more knee-flex than your regular stance.
  3. Hit behind the ball to allow the sand to splash the shot on to the green. The sand will get the ball out of the bunker.
  4. Follow through to a full finish.

The length and speed of the swing for the greenside bunker shot will usually be greater than a shot equal in distance from the grass. This is because you will be moving sand to get the ball out of a greenside bunker. Study the sand with your feet and eyes to get a feel for the effort needed to take the amount of sand necessary to land the ball the desired distance on the green.

Deb Vangellow is an LPGA Master Professional and immediate past President of the LPGA Teaching and Club Professionals membership and teaches at the Riverbend Country Club in Houston, Texas. Follow Deb at debvangellowgolf.com, and on Facebook, and Twitter.

As our LPGA Director of Instruction Deb Vangellow leads the WomensGolf.com team of expert LPGA and PGA qualified instructors.

Cathy Kim

Cathy Kim

Fairway Bunker Shots
When hitting out of bunkers, control is key. When you’re hitting out of a fairway bunker, take one club more (assuming you can clear the lip in front of you), grip down on the club half an inch and make a three-quarter sized swing instead of a full swing. If you’re looking for some stability, dig your feet into the sand just enough to cover the outsole of your shoes.

Remember, you don’t have to feel like you’re “going after it” once your feet are dug in. Instead just swing to sweep!

Cathy Kim is the Director of Player Development at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas. She is TPI Certified and a U.S. Kids Golf Top 50 Teacher. Follow Cathy at cathykimgolf.com and on Instagram and Twitter.


Dr. Alison Curdt

Alison Curdt

Being successful out of the bunker requires repeatability with how much sand you take out. Taking too little sand can result in shots that fly far over the green, resulting in another chip or even another bunker shot! Taking too much sand leaves the ball in the bunker.

For practice, draw a small circle around the golf ball (about the size of a chocolate chip cookie) and practice trying to hit out the same amount of sand each time. You’ll be a bunker master in no time!

Dr. Alison Curdt is Director of Instruction at Wood Ranch Golf Club and a licensed clinical sport psychotherapist with a doctoral degree in clinical psychology. Contact Alison Curdt at her website alisoncurdtgolf.com and follow her online on FacebookTwitter, and Youtube

Alison also presents the Golf Psychology Section on WomensGolf.com with lots of great lessons on the mental side of golf.


Karen Palacios-Jansen WomensGolf.com
Karen Palacios-Jansen

Karen Palacios-Jansen

To hit a solid sand shot, you need to splash a cushion of sand out of the bunker that carries the ball to the hole. You need to generate a certain amount of clubhead speed to slide the club through the sand.

If you have low clubhead speed, then the sand will actually act as a barrier and stop the club from moving through the sand. You may leave the ball in the sand. Do that a few times, then you may try to take less sand; hit the ball thin and skull it across the green. Don’t get frustrated, just get stronger.

Doing squats with a medicine ball can help you increase your lower body, core, and forearm strength so that you can maintain your knees flexed throughout the shot and, so you can power the wedge through the sand.

Karen Palacios-Jansen is an LPGA Class A Teaching Professional and a Certified Personal Trainer. Karen specializes in golf fitness and is the creator of Cardiogolf. Follow Karen online on Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube.

Don’t miss all of Karen’s instruction and golf fitness articles on WomensGolf.com

Michelle Holmes WomensGolf.com
Michelle Holmes

Michelle Holmes

For playing great shots out of fairway bunkers:

1. Club selection: take the club that you know is going to clear the lip, even if you know you are sacrificing distance.
2. Your address position should look like a standard iron shot from the fairway versus a greenside bunker shot.
3. Stand a little taller, play the ball a little more forward in your stance, and don’t be afraid to grip down on the club a little.
4. Remember, hitting it a little thin is OK! This thought will help you keep your height and maintain posture throughout the swing.

Michelle Holmes is Director of Instruction at the Michelle Holmes School of Golf and a Top 50 U.S. Kids Instructor in 2015 and 2016. Follow Michelle online at michelleholmesgolf.com, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Michelle is a junior golf specialist and presents the Junior Golf Section on WomensGolf.com giving juniors and their parents all the information and inspiration they need to build a lifelong love of the game.

Nancy Quarcelino WomensGolf.com
Nancy Quarcelino

Nancy Quarcelino

No need to make bunkers complicated! Keep a square stance, keep a square to open club face, widen your stance, open your target foot, keep your target knee over your target foot, play the ball position forward and now lower your hands (this move squares the clubface to the target)!

Hit this shot using your wrists and scoop the ball right out of the sand! Finish with your back hand palm up and watch the ball fly right out of the bunker!

Nancy Quarcelino is an LPGA T&CP Hall of Fame Instructor and Head Professional at Gaylord Springs Golf Links in Nashville, TN. Visit the Nancy Quarcelino School of Golf and follow Nancy on Facebook and Twitter.


Sung Hyun Park at the LPGA Meijer Classic in 2017 | Photo: Ben Harpring
Pete Kelbel WomensGolf.com
Pete Kelbel

Pete Kelbel

Use a sand wedge. Set your feet slightly to the left and work them into the sand an inch.  Align the shoulders to the target with an open clubface.  Weight is slightly on the front side.  The ball is slightly forward of the middle.

Make a slow Letter L half swing.  Splash the sand 2 inches behind the ball and 1 inch under the ball, pushing off the rear foot at the same time. Rotate your trunk to face the target and finish with the clubface high above the lip of the bunker with your right palm (for right-handers) facing the sky in the follow through.

Pete Kelbel is PGA Head Professional at Walloon Lake Country Club and coaches the boys and girl’s (winners of the 2017 State Championship) golf teams at Harbor Springs High School. Follow Pete online on Twitter and Instagram.

Don’t miss Pete’s very popular series of ‘What You Can Learn From …‘ where he analyses the swings of today’s LPGA stars.

Christina Ricci Women's Golf
Christina Ricci

Christina Ricci

The best advice or playing sand shots is direct from the late and incredible Seve Ballesteros. Get in a low sit like you are sitting on a low stool with your lower body. Maintain this stable seat back and through. You’ll feel like the upper body is doing all the work. That’s good.

The key, once your lower is stable, is fast hands through the sand, ensuring a clean thump.

Christina Ricci is an LPGA Class A Instructor and hosts national More Pars Camps at top resorts across the US. Christina is online at ChristinaRicciGolf.com and her popular YouTube video channel, as well as Facebook and Twitter.


Erika Larkin - WomensGolf.com
Erika Larkin

Erika Larkin

Many golfers setup way too open with their club and body and it creates many contact issues… Don’t over complicate the setup.  Stay square, use a proper sand wedge, a slightly forward ball position and follow through!!!

If anything – instead of opening the face, just bend your knees and lower the grip handle closer to the ground. This will increase the loft and expose the “bounce” sole of the club to help you splash it out nice and high.

Erika Larkin is PGA Director of Instruction at The Club at Creighton Farms in Aldie, Virginia and has been recognized as one of America’s Best Young Teachers by Golf Digest since 2012. Visit www.ErikaLarkin.com and follow Erika on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Daniel Jackson - Womens Golf
Daniel Jackson

Daniel Jackson

Here’s my sure shot for greenside Bunkers.

Address the ball where it is just left of the middle of your stance. Have the clubface a little open. Now place slightly more weight on the lead foot. For this shot, we want to have very little wrist hinge in the backswing.

Now make a backswing and accelerate through the ball.  Setting up in this way will help to control the low point of the swing and the lack of hinge creates fewer moving parts and will enable more consistent strikes on the sand.

Daniel Jackson is the Assistant Director at the International Junior Golf Academy. Daniel began playing golf at 7 and has worked under some of the best coaches in the world including David Leadbetter. Follow Daniel on Instagram @danjackson_ijga

Megan Khang 2018 CME Group LPGA Championship | Photo: Ben Harpring
Nicole Weller for Womens Golf
Nicole Weller

Nicole Weller

Keep it simple for greenside bunker shots… FLOAT the club behind the ball, DIG those feet into the sand for firm footing and give all that sand a good SPLASH before and after where the ball is lying. I like to imagine a circle around the ball and splash that entire circle out of the bunker, along with the ball! Finish high and smile as you watch your ball and that sand sail out of the bunker and onto the green!

Nicole Weller is a U.S. Kids Master Kids Teacher and Head Teaching Professional at The Landings Club in Savannah, Georgia. Follow Nicole online at www.nicoleweller.com and on FacebookTwitter, and Youtube.

Elena King WomensGolf.com
Elena King

Elena King

First – Get fitted with a good Sand Wedge!! I find that the majority of women I teach do not have the proper equipment. A good sand wedge makes it so much easier to play out of a greenside bunker.

Second – Thump the sand with speed, the average clubhead speed for a greenside bunker is 50MPH. This requires a bigger swing and more speed than most use because they are fearful of blading the ball over the green. Sand first… then ball!

Elena King is an LPGA Class A Teaching Professional and the founder of ExperienceGolf. Elena King teaches in Aurora, Colorado at CommonGround Golf Course. Follow Elena online at experiencegolf.biz and on Facebook and Twitter. 

Simon Dewsbury Womens Golf
Simon Dewsbury

Simon Dewsbury

  1. Dig your feet in for stability, this also allows you to feel the texture of the sand
  2. Add more body weight to the target side leg
  3. Have a stable lower body through the entire swing
  4. Be Confident and “Attack the Sand”

The biggest mistake I see is fearing the sand itself during the swing when really it is your friend. This is the one shot where there is no direct club-ball contact, so be confident and understand that if the sand comes out of the bunker – the ball will come out of the bunker!

Simon Dewsbury is a former touring professional and now a PGA instructor at Belmont CC and the Snowmass Club in Aspen. Follow Simon at simondewsburygolf.com and on his YouTube channel


Lizzy Feemantle WomensGolf.com
Lizzy Freemantle

Lizzy Freemantle

Focus on the target, maintain weight distribution slightly forward and make a full body rotation to finish.

Allow the bottom of the club to feel like you are taking sand in front of the ball. This will also focus on keeping the weight on the leading side. For right-handed players everything from weight to ball position is focused on the left side for left-handed players everything is focused on the right side. Keep the backswing shorter to promote acceleration through the finish.

Lizzy Freemantle graduated from the University of Louisville to become PGA Professional at Oxmoor Country Club and is currently coaching in the UK. Follow Lizzy at freemantlegolf.com and on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter.


Team South Korea’s IK Kim at the 2018 UL international | Photo: Ben Harpring
Marvin Sangüesa WomensGolf
Marvin Sangüesa

Marvin Sangüesa

With greenside bunker shots, nothing is really different other than we can’t hit the ball first, in other words, the setup can be similar to a normal shot but let the bounce of the club do all the work. open the club face a tad bit and make a normal swing at it.

For an average ten yards try a lob wedge, for anything longer use a sand wedge, and for longer experiment with a gap wedge and so on. Never try to swing harder or longer with the same club, just change clubs.

Marvin Sangüesa is a PGA Professional Golf Coach at the Joey D Golf Sports Training Center. Follow Marvin on his Youtube channel where he posts regular instructional videos, and on TwitterFacebook & Instagram.


Susan Vail Womens Golf
Susan Vail

Susan Vail

If you want to be super savvy out of the sand – try my 3 power plays!

Play #1 – Address the ball one inch behind the ball and never hear the click of the ball contacting the club. To control shots out of the sand, understand that you never actually make contact with the ball.

Play #2 – Take your full swing. A bunker shot requires moving lots of sand, and it’s this movement of sand that moves the ball. Your ball is being lifted onto the green by the sand so you have to commit to taking a full swing…..as long as you don’t hear the ball at all, you will not hit it too far.

Play #3 – Understand that your club is your sand “tool”. An open face will slide through the sand while a square or closed face will dig. When there is wet sand or very little sand, for example, an open face will most likely glide and end up hitting the ball. Try using a square face to dig whatever sand you can, resulting in the sand moving the ball.

Good Luck with your Power Play from the Sand!

Susan Vail teaches at The Learning Center at Abacoa Golf Club and is the founder of Pink Peg Golf. For more information on Susan and Pink Peg Golf go to www.gopinkpeg.com and follow @pinkpeggolf on Twitter.


Ashleigh Buhai at the Indy Women in Tech Championship 2017 | Photo: Ben Harpring
Kathy Hart Wood WomensGolf.com
Kathy Hart Wood

Kathy Hart Wood

To hit more consistent bunker shots, you want to control the amount of sand displaced with each swing. Practice always entering the sand in a similar spot relative to the ball.

When you are practicing, draw a line in the sand from the ball to between your feet. First, take swings without a ball and splash the sand out of the bunker. Notice where the club enters the sand relative to the line. Try the same exercise with a ball. Focus on taking a 3/4 length swing and finishing on your lead foot in balance.

Kathy Hart Wood is a Top 50 LPGA Teacher and Furman University graduate. Kathy currently teaches at Fiddler’s Elbow Country Club in Bedminster, NJ. and can be followed online at KathyHartWood.com and NOWicangolf.comFacebook, and Instagram. If you are looking for help with your short game. Kathy is currently running her 7-day Short Game Challenge.


Hee Young Park at the 2017 Womens PGA ChampionshipHee Young Park at the 2017 Women’s PGA Championship | Photo: Ben Harpring
Brian Moose - Women's Golf
Brian Moose

Brian Moose

Don’t be afraid to use different clubs!

In a greenside bunker take your normal setup with ball position slightly forward, a little lean towards the target, stance open and clubface pointed at the intended landing spot.

For longer greenside bunker shots you can take your normal setup and use your gap wedge, pitching wedge or even 9 iron to get the ball to go different distances.   Keep in mind for whatever club you use it must have enough loft to get over the lip that is in front of you.   Lastly, splash that sand!

Brian Moose is PGA and U.S. Kids Golf certified and is Director of Instruction at RiverCrest Golf Club and Preserve and runs a Women’s Clinic Series tailored to all skill levels. Follow Brian online at FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Stephanie Molloy - Womens Golf

Stephanie Molloy

Bunker shots are funny because these are the only shots in golf where we intentionally want to miss the golf ball. For greenside bunkers, the best set up is an open stance and an open clubface.

Think of your face open at 2 o’clock and your stance at 10 o’clock. Set your grip only after you’ve set your stance and your clubface. Then, picture taking a dollar bill’s worth of sand behind the golfball!

Finish your swing as if you’re finishing above the pin to help eliminate any dreaded deceleration.

Stephanie Molloy is an Assistant Golf Professional at Wee Burn Country Club in Darien, CT, and the Vice President for The Playground Golf Foundation, a non-profit aimed at growing the game of golf in schools.

Anne Rollo Women's Golf
Anne Rollo

Anne Rollo

3 steps to easy greenside bunkers.

  1. Aim to hit the sand 2 inches before the ball
  2. Take a fairly full swing (at least 3/4 length)
  3. Commit fully to the shot (give it some power) and follow through

Find a practice bunker somewhere and spend some time on the above steps and your bunkers will improve markedly


Anne Rollo was an All American college player at San Jose State and winner of 22 professional tournaments. Anne now teaches at the Muirfield Golf Club in Sydney, Australia and can be followed on fixmygolfswing.com.au, and on TwitterFacebook, and Youtube.

Nathalie Filler - Womens Golf
Nathalie Filler

Nathalie Filler

Fairway Bunkers

When playing from a fairway bunker, you need to check that you have the correct club for the given situation. As long as you have room do these four things in order to hit great fairway bunker shots:

  1. Grip down.
  2. Lean your weight forward.
  3. Put the ball slightly forward in your stance.
  4. Keep your lower body quiet throughout the swing.

Nathalie Filler Nathalie began her teaching career working with PGA president, Suzy Whaley, and now spends her summers teaching at The Philadelphia Cricket Club and her winters teaching at Old Palm Golf Club. Get personal instruction online at Nathalie Filler Golf, and follow Nathalie on Instagram @nattiegolf and Facebook.

Carlos Brown WomensGolf.com
Carlos Brown

Carlos Brown

For better greenside bunker shots …set up to catch a wave:

Use the sand to get the ball out of the bunker the same way a wave at the beach pushes you up and forward while on a boogie board. To achieve this, you have to set up with the golf shaft vertical so the clubhead glides through the sand, if the shaft is leaning towards the target then the leading edge will go through first and the club will dig too much making it really difficult to get out of the greenside bunker.

Carlos Brown is a teaching professional at Buffalo Creek Golf Club in Rockwall Texas and Director of Instruction at the Carlos Brown Golf Academy. Follow Carlos Brown online on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter

Sara Stephens Womens Golf
Sara Stephens

Sara Stephens

The setup elements to give yourself the best chance to hit a high, soft bunker shot include putting the ball forward in your stance, opening the club face (aim it right of the target. The more open, the higher it will go), and aim your body left of the target (also open).

Dig your feet into the sand to make sure they are stable. When you make a swing, focus on a point approximately an inch behind the ball and try to swing that open clubface into the sand at that spot. You should get a nice “splash” sound when the club face hits the sand and follow through to see that ball pop out of the sand high & soft near the flagstick.

Sara Stephens is a Class A PGA Professional and Co-Founder of The Stephens Golf Academy in Burlington, Kentucky, and is Trackman Level 1 and KVEST Level 3 Certified. She is a member of the PGA Lead class of 2018-2019. Visit Sara at StephensGolfAcademy.com, and you can follow Sara on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Instructors in this expert guide (alphabetical)

Alison Curdt | Anne Rollo | Brian Moose | Carlos BrownCathy Kim | Christina Ricci | Daniel Jackson | Deb Vangellow | Elena King | Erika Larkin | Kathy Hart Wood | Karen Palacios-Jansen | Lizzy Freemantle | Marvin Sangüesa | Michelle Holmes | Nancy Quarcelino | Nathalie Filler | Nicole Weller | Pete Kelbel | Sara Stephens | Simon Dewsbury | Stephanie Molloy | Susan Vail

If you enjoyed this expert guide to bunkers, please take a moment to thank the instructors in the comments below.

This is one of a series of very popular Expert Guides to Golf where a panel of leading LPGA and PGA instructors answer questions relating to learning, improving, and playing golf.

LPGA Teaching and Course Professionals

PGA of America for WomensGolf.com

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