Practice Away the Bunker Blues

How often does this happen? You’ve hit your ball into a bunker and now you stand over it, uncertain of what exactly to do. You take a swing.  The ball goes a few feet and lodges close to the lip of the trap. Now the lie is worse, your confidence is gone, and your mental game has unraveled. It’s the bunker blues.

If you hit a bunker ball without commitment and/or wrong technique, things can get worse fast. Here’s a practice routine and tips to conquer bunkers. Practice builds consistency, and consistency builds confidence and commitment. No one practices sand play enough!

new balance

In a typical bunker shot we’re just moving sand. We’re not even making contact with the ball. So let’s practice that, and practice it a lot.

  1. Forget about the ball. Really. This drill begins with NO ball. Just you and your sand wedge.
  2. Make a line in the sand, maybe 6’ long and straddle it, positioning it slightly forward in your stance. Practice hitting the line. Work your way down the line, splashing sand out of the bunker.
  3. Now focus on your divots. Smooth out the sand and make a new line. Try to make dollar bill sized divots that start on the line and extend forward. Keep splashing sand out of the bunker.
  4. A bad divot is one that starts too far behind the line. The club takes too much sand, the shot loses energy, and the ball stays in the bunker.
  5. Now introduce a ball. Make a new line. Place several balls just on the front of it and practice making that same divot you’ve been practicing. You never actually make contact with the ball. Just splash the sand and the ball will follow!


new balance 1600

  1. Open up club face (the face will be more UP)
  2. Think of  3 lefts
    1. Lean left with 60% of weight on left foot
    2. Aim left of target
    3. Position ball left of center
  3. Use pitch-chip or full pitch swing (see Sandy’s Cheat Sheet for specifics)

In your golf journal, keep track of what works and what challenges you in the bunker.
air max tailwind 4

Treat every bunker the same. The sand may be different, conditions may be different —  simply commit to your shot.  You’ve practiced the fundamentals of the bunker shot, now go with it.  Splash it out and leave the bunker behind!