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How to Master the Downhill Bunker Shot

How to Master the Downhill Bunker Shot

How to Master the Downhill Bunker Shot

Imagining yourself in a greenside bunker. Your ball is on a downslope, and the bunker has a lip that the ball needs to fly over in order to hit the green. Would you feel a little scared? If so, keep on reading!

In the following you will learn how to hit a downhill bunker shot that has a decent height in order for it to clear a bunker lip, or land and stop recently fast on the green. There are 3 important steps you must know in order to success with this shot.

How to master the downhill bunker shot

You need to understand the challenge

The challenge with a downhill bunker shot that needs some height, is as following:

  1. It can be really challenging just to make a decent strike on the golf-ball because of the hill. Often players hit the sand way to early because the try to “lift” the ball up.
  2. The slope works against what we need. The downslope will bring the flight dramatically down, and as written before we need height in order to clear a lip or make the ball stop on the green.

1. What you need to change in your setup

The first thing you have to do is to put yourself in the best position as possible before you start swinging. But what is the best strating-postion for a downhill greenside bunkershot? Here is what to do:

  1. As for most bunkershots, open up you clubface to create more height and more exposure of the bounce (read about the 15 most important bunker shot basics here)
  2. Make you stance wider. Not just a little bit wider, but a lot.
  3. With the wide stance, tilt you upper body so its close to being perpendicular to the slope the ball is placed at.
  4. Your weight is now a lot on the front foot. Depending on the slope, it can be as much as 90-95% of the weight being on the front foot.
  5. Last thing you need to do in the setup, is to place your hands forward of the ball so that the shaft is leaning with the slope.

Below is a picture demonstrating the 5 above mentioned setup adjustments. The right picture demonstrates the opposite, but unfortunately very often seen setup for a downhill bunker shot.

Setup for a downhill bunker shot

2. Keep the tilt during the motion

Now that you have placed yourself in the correct setup position for the downhill bunkershot, its time to talk about what will need to happen during the swing. One very important element in the swing, is to keep the upper body tilt you established at setup. This mens keeping your weight a lot on the front foot, and trying to keep the lead shoulder (left shoulder for a right-handed player) low during the whole swing.

Swing downhill bunker shot

As you can see on the left pictures above, the weight is kept on the front foot, and the lead shoulder is keept down during the downswing. On the right pictures you will see what it looks like if the opposite is done. This is a disaster when hitting downhill bunker shots.

3. Swing downwards for correct contact

The last thing you need to change is more of a feeling than an actually major change. If you do the two above described things you´ve come a long way, but this final piece to the puzzle can be the game changer. Here is what you need to feel:

  1. In the downswing, you need to have a “narrow” swing-arc. What I mean by that, is that you have to maintain you “lag” for a long time in the downswing. See the picture on the left below.
  2. In the follow-through you will need to have a “wide” swing-arc. By this I mean that the hands should be traveling away from you body in a longer time than usual, and your wrists should be fully extended for a longer time as well. Look at the picture on the right below for demonstration.

Arc Downhill bunker shots


And below is how the opposite would look like. Weight going back, a wide arc in the downswing, and a narrow in the follow-through, almost trying to “lift” the ball in the air, which is a disaster.

Bad swing downhill bunker shot


You are now a downhill bunker shot master! But remember: This is a tricky shot to execute! You need to practice it before taking it to the course. I challenge you to use at least 4 x 15 minute of practice in the following month that comes. It might not seem as much, but I’ll bet that its 1 hour more of bunker practice than you otherwise would have done 😉

Place fell free to take 10 seconds to click on one of the share buttons bellow, so that other people can learn to master this tricky shot as well!

Nicolai Cetti Engstrøm

Nicolai Cetti Engstrøm is a PGA Teaching Professional, specialized in the Short Game of golf. He is a former pro-player, National Team player and Danish Junior Champion. He is the creator and owner of the World Of Short Game brand, and co-owner of the biggest golf-teaching company in Denmark, Danish Golf Academy.

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