Ian Hardie Golfer Pacific NZ Column October 2018

Ian Hardie Golfer Pacific NZ Columns
Ian Hardie Golfer Pacific NZ Columns

How to get out of a bunker first shot, every time.


If there is one part of the game of golf that usually has most golfers twisted up in knots and almost guarantees a high score on a hole if they happen to end up in one – it’s those hazards on the golf course that are called ‘bunkers’ (known as a ‘sand trap’ in other parts of the world).

Remembering of course, that as we are talking about the game of golf here not everything makes sense, as under The Definitions of The Rules of Golf – a “hazard” is any bunker or water hazard.

The difference being that one is just slightly harder to play out of than the other (I’ll leave you to figure out your own personal favourite there) although, having witnessed many thousands of golfers approach their upcoming shots in bunkers over the years.

I’m not sure there is a lot of difference in most golfers’ minds between the likelihood of easily getting out of either of the two types of hazards.

Anyway, as most golfers walk up to play a shot out of a bunker, they will generally have a feeling of either bewilderment, as they aren’t sure how they are going to get their golf ball out at all or a feeling of fear as no doubt, many previous attempts have been unsuccessful over the years and as a result.

They are almost paralyzed with thoughts of not getting their golf ball out at all.

The bewilderment can be taken care of by reading the rest of this article or by taking a lesson or two from me or your local PGA Professional to find out exactly what you need to do to get out of a bunker first shot, every time.

A golfers fear of their upcoming shot on the other hand, takes a bit more effort to get past as it will have been built up by many years of failure in similar situations – something that most humans struggle to get past in other areas of life.

When we take a look at the definition of fear, we find that the most relevant meaning of the word is:

‘A strong, uncontrollable, unpleasant emotion caused by actual or perceived danger or threat.’

Now, obviously in some cases in other parts of life, that threat is an actual one but in terms of a golfer about to play a shot out of a bunker – that fear is of their perceived ‘danger’ which in real terms is the possibility that they may take more than one shot to come out of the bunker.

Not exactly equal to the actual threat of being chased by a stampeding elephant or a knife wielding assailant but oddly enough.

Most golfers that suffer from this problem experience a similar level of fear but it shouldn’t be like that.

In fact, it should be the easiest shot you play in a round of golf.

“Has Ian gone mad?” I hear you thinking.

I’m saying it, as the bunker shot is the only shot in golf where you don’t hit the golf ball.

That’s right, to get the golf ball out of most bunkers, you don’t actually hit it!

Considering, how much angst, just hitting the golf ball at all causes some golfers – it should be a cakewalk to finally get to play a shot – where you don’t have to contact it at all.

Take a minute to just think about that one.

The art of getting your golf ball out of a bunker is to play a shot that allows you to take ‘a divot’ of sand out with the club – this is how the ball comes out.

It’s pushed up and out of the bunker by the ‘divot’ of sand you make as you don’t hit the golf ball and to help you do that it is important that you not only have, but use a sand wedge for most of your sand shots.

What’s the big deal about using a sand wedge?

If you take a look at your golf clubs, you will notice that most of the other irons are made with quite flat soles (the bottom of the club) as they are used mainly for shots off (in theory) short grass.

This flat sole, while fine for most shots, causes problems when it is used for a bunker shot because it wants to dig down into the sand – with the end result being a poor shot.

A sand wedge is the one golf club that is specially designed for the shot by having the back of the sole (trailing edge) lower than the leading edge – this is known as bounce.

As the sand wedge goes down into the sand and under your golf ball, the trailing edge (at the back on the bottom of the sole) eventually hits the sand (a fraction of a second later) and effectively stops the sand wedge from digging into the sand, instead kicking it up and out of the sand allowing a flowing shot (the taking of the sand divot) and effective extraction of the ball.

So, use a sand wedge – it’s specifically designed to help you play the shot well!

There is another thing you may want to do to increase your chances of getting out of a bunker first shot, every time…………………..

If you watch any accomplished bunker player you will notice that they before they play the shot, they will have a different stance to most other shots they play.

Adjusting their stance to the line they are aiming on by pulling back their front foot – away from the line of the shot – this allows them to reduce or eliminate any possible leg action in the shot, as the bunker shot is played with basically an arm and shoulder turn only.

Any leg action that you use will cause the majority of your poor bunker shots!

Read that bit again, it was important.

The next part of bunker shots that we need to work out is where to focus your eyes – as of course for all of your other shots where you are looking at hitting the ball you will (hopefully) be looking directly at it but for shots out of the bunker you need to………………………

I’ll talk about that another day, until then.

Play well.

Want to learn how to get out of a bunker first shot, every time from me?

Take a look at my group session that does just that here.


Ian Hardie is Golfer Pacific’s Golf Professional contributor. He is Club Professional at Omanu Golf Club in Mount Maunganui. Ian’s time is split between the pro shop at the club and helping people to improve, while enjoying their golf more as a result of his golf coaching. Over the past few years, in an effort to help as many golfers as he can, Ian has been sharing his common sense golf advice with golfers around the world through his website golfhabits.com. With over 500 articles to read, it’s a great resource for any golfer looking to improve their golf game.

Location Omanu Golf Club, 98 Matapihi Road, Mount Maunganui Phone 0272222073 (txt is ok) or at Omanu Golf Club Pro Shop (07) 575 5957 E-mail ian@golfhabits.com Hours Coaching Times: Monday - All Day, Tuesday - All Day, Wednesday - Morning, Thursday - Afternoon, Friday - Sometimes, Saturday - Afternoon, Sunday - Rarely.
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