Greenside Bunker "Blast" - By: Daryl Shipos, PGA

Here we are in June…. Wow. The heat and the longer days allow for more opportunity to get out on the golf course! I’m sure many of you have family trips to the beach scheduled and can already feel that sand between your toes. While trips to the beach are fun with the family, they are not so fun when you find yourself on the beach while playing a round of golf!

Here at Cranberry Highlands we have 91 bunkers just waiting to snatch errant shots. Most amateur golfers I talk to express anxiety when it comes to playing from the sand. For that reason, I have decided to make the greenside bunker shot the golf tip topic of the month! Before we get into the technique, I’ll let you ponder this food for thought….. The greenside bunker shot is the only shot in golf where we don’t actually have to make contact with the ball! There is much more room for error! For that reason, shouldn’t it be considered the EASIEST shot to play?!


The MOST IMPORTANT thing you need to accomplish when playing from the bunker is GETTING THE BALL OUT! Never lose sight of that and try to do too much. Everyone has tried to get “too cute” and left the ball in the sand.


Your setup for a greenside bunker shot is very important. Your stance should be open to your target line. Your clubface should also be open. A good way to know if your clubface is properly opened is to aim the score lines on your wedge at the toes on your leading foot. I see many players take their grip and then roll their hands and wrists over to achieve an open clubface. This will not work… Instead, open the clubface and then grip the club. Why are these setup keys important? Because they help you create LOFT. You will never be a good bunker player with a square stance and clubface. Use your sand wedge the way it was designed to be used and open that thing up!


Try to play the ball in the middle or slightly forward in your stance. Remember, we are hitting behind the ball and allowing it to come out with the sand. If your ball position starts to creep back in your stance, you will start to catch too much of the ball and you won’t like the outcome.


The sand wedge is very useful from the bunker but you are not limited to just that club. Choose a loft based on the shot you have to play. Is it a deep bunker? Do you have any green to work with? It is perfectly ok to play the greenside bunker shots with different clubs based on what your shot calls for. Another consideration is your equipment. Most lofted wedges have enough sole width and bounce to allow the club to pass through the sand easily and slide under the ball. If you find yourself digging too deep or skidding into the ball, you may want to look at your equipment and get some wedges that are more fitting to your home course sand conditions. Also, if you want help deciding if you have the correct wedges for your game/course conditions, feel free to contact a Cranberry Highlands golf professional!


OK… The moment of truth. Now that we have an open clubface/stance and proper ball position, it is time to play the shot! The final piece of “creating LOFT” is our swing path. Think “Outside, In.” Take the club outside your target line and finish to the left. (For right handed players) Keep the clubface open through impact and FOLLOW THROUGH. One of the biggest problems most golfers have from the bunker is decelerating and leaving the ball in the bunker as a result. Use the length of your backswing to control the distance, not your follow through.

Although there is a lot more to cover on sand play, these few tips should help get you started. Remember, your #1 goal is getting the ball out of the sand!

Thank you for reading and stay tuned for more golf tips from the Cranberry Highlands golf professionals! We hope to see you here at the course very soon!