Short-sided in a greenside bunker? Here’s how to get up and down

If you're struggling with mishits from greenside bunkers, Cleveland Golf ambassador Jake Hutt shares some tips to see improvement

With the help of Jake Hutt, you can become more comfortable hitting from greenside bunkers.

Welcome to Shaving Strokes, a series in which we’re sharing improvements, learnings and takeaways from amateur golfers just like you — including some of the speed bumps and challenges they faced along the way.

Ed. note: This article was published in partnership with Cleveland/Srixon.


Some bunker shots are tougher than the others.

Among the toughest: the short-sided variety, which can cause all sorts of issues if you don’t have the right approach and equipment.

During a recent visit to Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. — a stunning par-3 course with Pacific Ocean views — I met up with golf instructor Jake Hutt, who didn’t just give me a lesson greenside bunker shots but also challenged me to a closest-to-the-pin contest.

Naturally, I panicked. In fact, I’m quite sure a few profanities slipped out of my mouth when he picked the shot we’d be going head-to-head on. But it’s important to work on all aspects of your game, so I tried to be a good sport.

First, Hutt handed me a new lob wedge: Cleveland’s CBX 4 ZipCore Wedge, which provides a little more forgiveness compared to the RTX 6 Zipcore Wedge model he was using.

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In the video below, you can see the two of us duke it out from the sand — and learn why using a more forgiving lob wedge, like the CBX 4, is a good option for greenside bunker shots.

Do this to escape nasty greenside bunkers

When we were settled in the bunker, Hutt busted some common myths about greenside-bunker play — to which many amateurs often fall victim.

“One of the biggest misconceptions from the bunker is that the ball position gets way too far forward, and generally players get their hands further behind the ball and try to scoop the ball out of the bunker,” Hutt told me. “In fact, we want that club bottoming out a little bit further behind the ball, and, if you get it right, you can actually add a little bit of spin.”

After identifying some traps to avoid, Hutt assessed the level of difficulty of this greenside bunker shot.

“This is a tough shot,” he said. “We’re short-sided, so I want to get the clubface open a little bit more, and I want a longer swing since the face is so open — making the ball pop up into the air.

“I almost want you to feel like you’re slapping the sand with the back part of the wedge here.”

Hutt took a practice swing to show me how it should look — emphasizing how he sprays the sand — then hit his shot.

“You can see my follow-through, I went all the way through. And then you just want to make a little thump there. The ball should come out relatively soft.”

After taking his shot and leaving it about five feet from the pin, Hutt had me set up to the ball, walking me through the steps to stick the shot close.

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I tend to use a wider stance, squat down quite a bit, lower the butt of the club to about the mid-thigh and keep my hands back to ensure I use the bounce.

But before taking my shot, Hutt adjusted a few things in my setup.

“I would get a little less wide, and give yourself a little bit of toe flare with some knee bend,” he said. “Now open that face all the way.”

He grabbed the club shaft to exaggerate how the swing should feel, reminding me to release the club and “throw” the clubhead toward the sand to get that thump.

After taking my shot, I mis-hit it a tad, but thanks to the swing adjustments — and some forgiveness from the CBX 4 — the ball hit the front of the putting surface, used the slope and speed of the green and rolled about four feet from the pin.

“We lightened your grip pressure a little bit, gripped further towards the butt of the club so you could feel the weight a little better, released it — which is how you’re going to square the face — and then when you hit the sand in the right place, the ball’s going to pop up and land nice and soft,” Hutt said. “So that shot was awesome.”

Who am I to disagree?

Nick Dimengo Editor