Five tips to escape greenside bunkers

Bubba Watson
Getty Images
Bubba Watson was faced with a downhill lie in the bunker on No. 18.
By Andrew Prezioso

Problem Area: Bunkers
Series: Lesson Learned

Published: Sunday, November 09, 2014 | 7:28 p.m.

We saw an example of beautiful bunker play in the final round of the HSBC Champions by Bubba Watson, who holed out from a bunker near the final green for an eagle and a spot in a playoff.

That prompted us to reach out to Tommy Wolfenberger, PGA Head Professional at the Golf Club of Houston, to see what golfers can do when they're faced with the same situation as Watson. After all, the greenside bunker is one of the most common hazards, and can be one of the most frustrating to conquer. 

Watch: Bubba Watson holes out from bunker on No. 18 at HSBC Champions

Here are five tips from Wolfenberger on how to get your ball onto the green:

1. Swing with the slope.

On a downhill lie, you are going to be swinging with the slope and a lot of times the finish is a little bit shorter. The ball is going to come out lower, faster, and run a little bit more on a downhill lie. On an uphill lie, most of the time you’re going to have a lower swing and the ball comes out higher and softer.

2. Choose the right bounce of the wedge.

On a downhill lie, most of the time it’s better to use a wedge with less bounce to make sure that you’re digging in and swinging with the slope. If you have too much bounce, you'll catch the sand and there’s a good chance your ball will go over the green.

3. Examine your conditions.

You can test it when you’re digging your feet in. You can see if there’s a lot of sand or if it’s fluffy or tight lie. The conditions should dictate what type of shot you’re hitting. If it’s fluffy or a lot of sand, you need to use a lot of bounce. If it’s tighter, use a little bit less bounce.

PGA TEACHING PROFESSIONALS: Find an instructor near you

4. Make sure to release the club.

A lot of people fail to release the club. The release of the club puts the spin on the ball. When Watson was faced with that shot, he swung with the slope, had a little bit of a shorter finish and he released it. The release puts the spin on the ball. He released the clubhead like he would a full sand wedge. Too many amateurs get in there and don’t release it. A good release puts spin on the ball.

5. Don’t get too worried about being in the bunker.

A lot of times, the better players would rather be in the bunker than the rough because you can predict what type of shot you have. You don’t have to worry about the grass grabbing the clubface and you can generally see what type of lie you have. You don’t always have that luxury of seeing what type of lie or what’s under the grass in the rough.


Andrew Prezioso is a contributor for Have a good golf story? Send him an email at

Try this ...