How to Hit Uphill Bunker Shots

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Published: February 16, 2014

As you learned from the "How to Hit Sand Shots Like a Pro" video, hitting shots out of the sand is very easy once you learn the few basic fundamentals. But what happens when faced with an uphill lie?

As you'll see in the golf instruction video, the same fundamentals apply, you simply need to understand a couple more things that will make the uphill sand shot much easier. The swing is the same, only the setup is slightly different.

uphill bunker shot

Note in the pictures above how my shoulders match the angle of the slope at address and impact. This is critical as it will keep you from stabbing the clubface into the slope and allow you to strike through the sand with speed.

Just like in a normal sand shot, the back of the clubface should slap the sand and quickly strike through without digging. If it is digging, it is likely that your shoulders are too flat in relation to the slope. Make sure you setup with your spine angle more perpindicular with the slope and keep it there throughout the swing.

In the first picture, note how I have a good amount of bend in my legs, more so than on a normal shot. This lowers my center of gravity and gives me a nice stable base to make an agressive swing without losing my balance.

Lowering your center of gravity like this also helps shallow out your swing path and helps the club glide through the sand on this shot. I also have a wider stance than normal to help with stability and shallowing out my swing path.

At the top of the swing, I have stayed very centered and have not allowed my weight to slide down with the direction of the slope. You need a very stable base to do this and it starts with the setup. My right leg is braced but not stiff and I have the club fully set at the top with the face open.

At impact, my shoulders match the angle of the slope and my spine is still perpendicular to the slope. Of important note, you can see that I have worked hard to get into my left side at impact rather than hanging back on my right side.

It is very important that your weight is more on your left side at impact, even though the slope wants to throw you off balance and to the right. Use your legs to get your body forward to keep from falling back off balance.

The uphill sand shot is really not difficult, but it's important that you set up correctly right from the beginning to give yourself the best opportunity to hit a good sand shot.


Checkpoints for Practice

  • Uphill bunker shots are handled using the usual sand techniques: Drawing the box, striking the match, acceleration, etc.
  • The only difference is in the setup - if you have a clean lie, your shoulder angle should match the slope
  • Balance your weight as best you can and make your normal bunker shot

Related RST/RS1 Articles & Videos:

Video Transcription: Uphill Bunker Shots

When faced with an uphill bunker shot, the same things apply that we've talked about in the Short Game DVD; talking about drawing our box, striking the match through the shot, acceleration, etc., etc., keeping the face open.

When we're on an uphill bunker shot, the same things apply. We're going to draw our box here. We're going to do the same width, same step as the other that we talked about on the DVD. We're going to swing through, we're going to strike that match.

Shoulders don't match slopeWhen the shoulders don't match the slope, the club drives into the sand

Now, what's important when I'm on an uphill slope here, as I talked about in the downhill bunker shot, is that my shoulders have to match the slope. If they don't, if I make my shoulders parallel and I get set up here, all I'm going to do is just drive my club straight down into the sand.

If I've got a buried lie, that's great, but on this shot where I've got a nice, clean lie, I need to make sure that my shoulders match the angle of the slope. That allows me to swing, and the bottom of my swing arc matches the slope more properly.

If I didn't, I'm going to swing really steep into it, and come in there really steep. All I want to do here is, as I set up to the ball, I'm going to set up with just a touch more weight on my back foot, simply because of the angle of the slope. I'm going to try and balance out my weight as best I can without losing my balance.

Shoulders match the slopeThe shoulders match the slope, so the bottom of the swing arc does too

I'm going to try to put just a touch more on the front to keep from getting too angled back, then I'm going to set up so that my shoulders match the angle of the slope here, or close to it. Now you can see I've set up. I'm not setting up with my shoulders flat. I'm matching the angle of the slope. The ball is still up in my stance, open the club face, and swing through.

All I did there, I made my same, normal swing. Nothing changed. It's my normal bunker shot. I'm going to strike through, accelerate through the sand. My shoulders are going to match the angle of the slope. If this is the ball, this is the angle of the slope, my shoulders match the angle of the slope. Open the club face up, keep it open, and accelerate through.

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