Category Archives: Bunkers

To Dig or to Dent?

A little more on FIRM SAND. 

Professionals love wet sand and firm sand.  Now at some point that changes from excitement to dismay as it reaches a certain firmness. 

No one loves the shots where you are led to believe that the sand is soft enough only to find the club bouncing back up into the golf ball because 1/2 inch under the sand is like BRICK!!!

As the sand gets firmer, or the depth of ‘soft sand’ decreases, the shot begins to get a bit tricky.  To some extent, you should be able to make an educated guess as to the depth of the ‘soft sand’ by walking into the bunker and gain a little more info as you ‘take your stance’ by wiggling your feet into the sand. 

Golf professionals want to open up the club face a little and SPLASH the sand (and ball) out of the sand.  It’s the shot they practice most, it’s the most predictable in terms of distance control and spin, mostly because it matches the DESIGN OF THE CLUB with proper technique. 

So the first consideration is:  CAN I INTRODUCE THE BOUNCE (SOLE) OF THE CLUB INTO THE SAND ON THIS SHOT?   If I lead with the BOUNCE,  will it be able to DENT the sand deep enough to get under and stay under the ball???

If the answer is yes, even if a little more DOWNWARD FORCE IS NEEDED,  it’s the shot we’ll choose!  (*remember, if you need a little more downward force, you’ll also need to manually add a little more rotational force because the downward force will destroy rotational force!  It’s rotational motion that keeps the club moving level….)

If my guess is that the thick BOUNCE on my club will not be able to get underneath this ball and STAY underneath the ball….  I then have to use the LEADING EDGE of the club (what I call ‘THE DIGGER’)  I’ll deloft the club at address so that the leading edge will be the first thing to hit the sand…  ‘THE DIGGER’ will then cut into the sand behind the ball and as long as I’m rotating around the PIVOTAL AXIS (have I mentioned the importance of the pivot???)  I should be able to splash the sand and ball out of the bunker. 

*****TECHNIQUE/SKILL is extremely important with these shots.  You must BUILD YOUR SKILLS OF IMPACT and ROTATION. 

*****Any attempt to lift, scoop, strike, or steer will engage the hands and arms and in most cases destroy the shot.  You’ll hit the sand too soon, or not at all, and DISASTER will ensue…. 

*Note, firm sand offers less resistance than soft sand.  Therefore, the ball will go further out of firm sand with the same swing energy. 

FINAL THOUGHT:  If your technique is not getting better, PRACTICE!!!  If it still does not improve, see a professional….  In the mean time, I suggest PUTTING OUT of really firm sand, even if you have to go out sideways….  

Technique Matters

But first:



A little more discussion on bunker play.  Soft sand is easier on the brain for high handicap golfers.  Taking too much sand is no good, but it isn’t as demoralizing as bouncing off hard sand into the golf ball and watching said ball get drilled 80 yards over the green…. 

Let’s discuss FIRM SAND TECHNIQUE.  

Remember that improving SKILL is critical to improving your game.  Recognize that complying with the laws of physics is the best way to improve one’s efficiency. 

OK, the SKILL to improve on firm sand is the SKILL OF IMPACT.  It’s the SKILL of ALLOWING the club to fall into the sand a little bit behind the ball (1-3 inches approx.).   To make this more efficient, it’s important to ROTATE the club forward with PIVOT, rather than with hands and arms.  The hands and arms are not very good at moving the club LEVEL.  Without PIVOTAL ROTATION, the club will too easily BOUNCE back up into the golf ball…. 

THUMP AND TURN.  You just have to be more PRECISE out of firm sand…. 

TIP:  NO WEIGHT SHIFT NECESSARY!  KEEP YOUR WEIGHT INTO THE FORWARD PIVOTAL AXIS THROUGHOUT THE SWING.  Simply SWING the arms back, then TURN the arms and club through the shot.  Any weight shift makes it very difficult to get into a consistent PIVOTAL AXIS. 

….We’ll go one step further in the next blog:  TO DIG, OR TO DENT? 

Soft Bunker Sand….

Ugh, tough stuff. 

Equipment is important when it comes to the really soft sand.  The club you choose should have plenty of ‘bounce’ on the bottom.  If it doesn’t, it just makes the shot that much harder.

12 or more degrees of bounce will help the club skid forward through the sand… less bounce than that and the club is more likely to simply get sucked down into the sand…. 

With great technique, you can still hit quality shots with little bounce, it’s just a bit tougher…


Full rotation is critical with soft sand.  The club must THUMP the sand (GRAVITY), and the turning of the body around the forward pivotal axis will sling the arms and club forward through the sand. 


**In general, soft sand creates more resistance than firmer sand.  A golfer must swing a bit fuller to move the ball a given distance compared with firmer sand. 

Keep it simple.  Splash the sand, FINISH IN BALANCE.

There is No “Down” Needed in a Bunker Shot

There are several reasons why golfers waste a lot of energy in the bunker.  One is poor set up.  They set up “high” so as to avoid touching the sand, which would be a penalty… Good.  But because of this stance, they must now use a downward force to get the club into the sand…. Bad. 

It’s unnecessary, and it wastes energy down, when what we really want is energy moving through the ball and out onto the green!

Set your knees flex and spine angle so that “IF” your arms were to hang straight, the club would extend about 1-2 inches below the surface of the sand.  To avoid touching the sand, simply raise the club by bending your elbows slightly.  This will ‘shorten’ your arms, keeping the club about the sand.  When you swing, HEAVE the tension out of the arms and then let GRAVITY AND ROTATION do the rest. 

GRAVITY will pull the club and the arms down (NO MUSCULAR FORCE NEEDED!!!) into the sand, and your forward ROTATION around the pivotal axis will allow the club to slide through the sand, sending the ball and sand out towards the target on a tangent to the arc of the swing. 

Just the weight of the club, the weight of the arms and gravity are way enough force to slam into the sand in almost every case.  Additional force from muscle is WASTED, and destroys forward rotation… Double WASTE!

MAKE IT EASIER!  Gravity and rotation.  Enjoy.