Jack Nicklaus reveals the perfect bunker shot technique

If you’ve had a blow-up hole in your golf career, there’s a good chance a sand shot is at least partially to blame. Bunker play is one of the most skill-dependent shots in the game of golf, but that doesn’t mean a shot from the sand has to ruin your round.

In today’s Flashback Jack, Nicklaus breaks down the intricacies of proper bunker technique—an endeavor that may be simpler than you think.

“Does (a sand) shot scare you?” Nicklaus asked. “Well it really shouldn’t, it’s the only shot in golf where you don’t have to hit the ball first.”

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With that in mind, Nicklaus says the first major shift in your sand shot should be in your setup. Whereas players will typically focus on keeping the ball toward the back of their stance when working short game, sand shots are different given the buffer provided by the ground.

“Instead of having the ball off the left heel, I move the ball up to the in-step of my other foot,” he says. “It’s about an inch, two inches in front of my (right) heel, but I still enter the sand approximately off my left heel.”

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Focus on keeping the ball to the front of your stance but swing as if it’s still in the center of your feet. This will allow you more freedom to splash the sand as you swing through. Once you’re in the right position, keep your hands back as you swing.

“The clubface is slightly open, I use a fairly wristy stroke,” he says. “I want to make sure that the handle of the club does not pass the middle of my body until after I make contact with the sand and the ball. That’s how I control how deep and how far behind the ball I hit.”

Practice that stroke a few times to establish feel and muscle memory. Suddenly, you might find the “dreaded bunker shot” has even become a strength of your game.

“Give it a try, it might help your sand play,” Nicklaus said.


James Colgan

Golf.com Editor

James Colgan is an assistant editor at GOLF, contributing stories for the website and magazine. He writes the Hot Mic, GOLF’s weekly media column, and utilizes his broadcast experience across the brand’s social media and video platforms. A 2019 graduate of Syracuse University, James — and evidently, his golf game — is still defrosting from four years in the snow. Prior to joining GOLF, James was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from. He can be reached at james.colgan@golf.com.