What is a Greenside Bunker in Golf?

In the game of golf, bunkers are strategically placed hazards on the course that can pose challenges to golfers. One particular type of bunker, known as a “greenside bunker,” plays a significant role in golf, especially for those who aim to improve their short game skills. In this article, we will delve into what a greenside bunker is, its characteristics, and how golfers can effectively navigate these sand traps.

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Definition of a Greenside Bunker

A greenside bunker, often simply referred to as a bunker, is a sand-filled hazard situated near the green of a golf hole. Its primary purpose is to add difficulty to approach shots and short game situations, such as pitching and chipping, by penalizing golfers who miss the green. Greenside bunkers are strategically placed by golf course designers to test a golfer’s skill in getting the ball out of the sand and onto the green.

Characteristics of a Greenside Bunker

Greenside bunkers have several distinctive features that set them apart from other hazards on a golf course:

  1. Sand Composition: The sand in a greenside bunker is often referred to as “bunker sand” or “sand trap sand.” It is typically coarser and denser than the sand found on the beach, making it more challenging to control the ball when it lands in the bunker.
  2. Lip: The most notable characteristic of a greenside bunker is the lip. The lip is the raised edge of the bunker that golfers must clear to escape the bunker successfully. The height and steepness of the lip can vary from bunker to bunker, adding complexity to the shot.
  3. Raked Surface: To maintain fairness for all golfers, the sand in greenside bunkers is regularly raked and smoothed by golf course maintenance staff. This ensures that every golfer faces a consistent playing surface when they find themselves in a bunker.
  4. Strategic Placement: Golf course architects often strategically position greenside bunkers to challenge golfers’ accuracy and decision-making. Bunkers may be placed to guard the front, sides, or back of a green, requiring precision and strategy in approach shots.

Navigating a Greenside Bunker

Successfully navigating a greenside bunker is a skill that every golfer should develop to lower their scores. Here are some key tips for handling greenside bunkers effectively:

  1. Select the Right Club: Choose a club that will allow you to clear the lip of the bunker and control the distance of your shot. Typically, a sand wedge or lob wedge is the preferred choice for bunker shots due to their high loft and bounce.
  2. Open the Clubface: To create the necessary loft and prevent the club from digging into the sand, open the clubface slightly at address. This will promote a higher, softer shot that can land softly on the green.
  3. Position Your Stance: Place your feet in the sand with an open stance, positioning the ball forward in your stance, closer to your front foot. This setup helps create the proper angle of attack for bunker shots.
  4. Focus on the Sand, Not the Ball: In bunker shots, you should aim to hit the sand just behind the ball. The club should interact with the sand, not the ball. This “splash” of sand propels the ball out of the bunker.
  5. Follow Through: Ensure a full follow-through after striking the sand, and maintain a smooth, rhythmic swing to achieve the desired distance and trajectory.

Practice and Preparation

Bunker play is a skill that requires practice to master. Golfers can enhance their ability to handle greenside bunkers by dedicating time to practice sessions. Here are some practice tips to consider:

  1. Bunker Practice Area: Many golf courses provide practice bunkers where golfers can work on their bunker shots. Spend time in these areas to get comfortable with the feel of the sand and practice different types of bunker shots.
  2. Varied Lies: Practice bunker shots from different lies, including plugged lies, uphill lies, and downhill lies. This will help you become more versatile when encountering bunkers on the course.
  3. Distance Control: Work on your distance control by landing shots at different distances from the pin. This will allow you to adapt to various situations on the golf course.
  4. Mental Approach: Develop a confident and positive mental attitude when facing bunker shots. Instead of viewing them as challenges, consider them as opportunities to showcase your skills.
  5. Visualization: Before each bunker shot, visualize the trajectory and landing spot you want to achieve. Visualization can improve your focus and help you execute the shot more effectively.

Bunker Etiquette

In addition to mastering the technical aspects of bunker play, golfers should also be aware of bunker etiquette to ensure fair play and course maintenance:

  1. Rake the Bunker: After playing a shot from a bunker, it’s essential to rake the sand to smooth out footprints and divots. This ensures that the next golfer faces a consistent playing surface.
  2. Enter and Exit Properly: Enter and exit a bunker from the lowest point or designated access point. Avoid walking up the faces of the bunker to minimize damage to the lip and edge.
  3. No Practice Swings: Do not take practice swings in the bunker; these can disturb the sand and leave behind irregularities that affect subsequent golfers.
  4. Repair Your Footprints: If you leave a deep footprint in the bunker while exiting, take a moment to smooth it out with the rake.

Greenside Bunker Basics

TermDefinitionUsage ExampleCommon MistakesTips for Success
Greenside BunkerA sand trap located near the green of a golf hole, designed to challenge golfers’ short-game skills.Hitting from a greenside bunker requires finesse.Hitting the ball too hard can result in overshooting the green.Open the clubface and aim to hit the sand just behind the ball.
Sand WedgeA specialized golf club with a high loft, designed for playing shots from bunkers and soft lies.Using a sand wedge is essential in greenside bunker play.Using a regular iron club can lead to poor results.Practice your sand wedge shots to develop consistency.
Blast ShotA greenside bunker shot technique where the golfer aims to explode the ball out of the sand with a splash.The blast shot is useful when there’s a significant amount of sand between the ball and the clubhead.Hitting too shallow can cause the ball to stay in the bunker.Maintain a steady, rhythmic swing to pop the ball out of the bunker.
Lip of BunkerThe raised edge or wall of a bunker that can obstruct a golfer’s shot when it’s too close to the ball.Hitting the ball too close to the bunker lip can lead to disaster.Neglecting to check the bunker lip height can result in mishits.Assess the lip height and adjust your shot accordingly.
RakeA tool used by golfers to smooth and maintain the sand in bunkers after playing a shot.It’s etiquette to rake the bunker to leave it in good condition for the next golfer.Failing to rake the bunker can lead to complaints from other players.Always carry a rake and use it to leave the bunker in pristine condition.

Greenside Bunker Hazards

HazardDescriptionImpact on ScoreStrategyCommon Errors
Soft SandBunkers with soft, fluffy sand make it harder to control the ball’s trajectory and spin.Can result in longer bunker shots that are harder to judge.Use a steeper angle of attack to prevent the club from digging too deep.Hitting the sand too far behind the ball can cause a heavy shot.
Firm SandHard-packed sand in bunkers can lead to less forgiveness and more unpredictable outcomes.Shots may bounce or skid unpredictably, making it challenging to gauge distance.Choose a club with more loft to promote a higher, softer landing.Hitting the sand too shallow can cause the ball to come up short.
Deep BunkerBunkers with deep sand require a golfer to generate more power to escape and control the shot.Deep bunkers can result in longer recovery shots, increasing the risk of overhitting.Take a more aggressive swing with a full follow-through to carry the ball farther.Mishits can lead to shots that barely clear the bunker’s lip.
Wet SandBunkers with wet sand can cause the ball to stick, reducing distance and spin control.Shots from wet sand may lack the necessary backspin for stopping near the pin.Use a clean and crisp strike with proper wrist action to generate spin.Hitting the ball too cleanly can cause it to sail over the green.
Bunker SlopeBunkers often have sloped bottoms that can affect the ball’s roll and trajectory.Shots from sloped bunkers require precise control of the clubface and body alignment.Neglecting to account for the bunker’s slope can lead to wayward shots.Adjust your stance and club selection to compensate for the slope.

Greenside Bunker Etiquette

Etiquette RuleDescriptionImportanceCommon ViolationsTips for Compliance
Raking BunkersGolfers should always rake bunkers after playing a shot to leave them in good condition.Maintains the course’s integrity and fairness.Failing to rake bunkers can lead to complaints from other players.Carry a rake and use it to smooth the sand after each bunker shot.
Repairing FootprintsRepairing footprints and damage in bunkers is essential to preserve a consistent playing surface.Ensures that all golfers face the same bunker conditions.Neglecting to fix damage in bunkers can create unfair lies.Always carry a divot repair tool to address bunker damage promptly.
Entering/Exiting BunkerGolfers should enter and exit bunkers at designated points to minimize damage to the sand.Preserves the integrity of the bunker’s shape and structure.Walking in and out of bunkers at random points can create unnecessary wear and tear.Follow designated entry and exit points indicated by course signage.
Silence and RespectGolfers should maintain silence and respect for others when a player is in a bunker.Ensures a focused and respectful atmosphere on the course.Talking or making noise while someone is in a bunker can be distracting.Show consideration by staying quiet when others are in bunkers.
Line of PlayGolfers should avoid standing on or near the line of play of a bunker shot to avoid distractions.Helps the player in the bunker maintain concentration.Standing in the line of play can disrupt the golfer’s focus and rhythm.Stand well clear of the line of play, especially in competitive rounds.

Greenside Bunker Strategy

SituationStrategyClub SelectionSwing TechniqueCommon Pitfalls
Buried LieWhen the ball is buried in the sand, dig it out by opening the clubface and taking a steep swing.Use a sand wedge or lob wedge for maximum loft.Position the ball forward in your stance and accelerate through impact.Hitting too shallow can leave the ball in the bunker.
High LipWhen faced with a high bunker lip, take a lofted club and aim to carry the ball over the lip.Opt for a lob wedge or sand wedge with ample loft.Swing aggressively to clear the lip, but control your follow-through.Hitting the lip can result in a difficult recovery.
Short-SidedWhen the pin is close to the bunker, aim to carry the ball just over the lip and stop it quickly.Select a sand wedge or pitching wedge for precision.Focus on a crisp strike and generate backspin to control the shot.Hitting too hard can send the ball well past the hole.

Greenside Bunker Practice Drills

DrillDescriptionPurposeExecutionCommon Mistakes
Bunker Distance ControlPlace multiple targets at various distances in a bunker and practice landing the ball on them.Develops the ability to control the distance of bunker shots.Experiment with different club selections and swings to hit specific distances.Neglecting to focus on landing zones can lead to inconsistent results.
Raked vs. Unraked LiesPractice shots from both raked and unraked bunker lies to simulate real course conditions.Enhances adaptability and shot-making skills in different bunker situations.Use a practice rake to create unraked lies in a bunker and adjust your technique accordingly.Relying solely on perfect lies during practice can be detrimental on the course.
Buried Lie RecoveryBury the ball partially or completely in the sand and practice extracting it successfully.Develops confidence and technique for dealing with buried lies in bunkers.Experiment with different degrees of clubface openness and swing steepness to escape buried lies.Hitting too shallow can leave the ball in the bunker, while too steep can lead to overshots.
Lip Clearance DrillSet up targets just beyond a high bunker lip and practice clearing the lip with different clubs.Improves the ability to carry the ball over a high bunker lip.Focus on a controlled, lofted swing with an emphasis on clearing the lip without hitting it.Hitting the lip consistently can indicate the need for better club selection or technique.
Sloped Bunker ShotsPractice bunker shots on slopes of varying angles to develop skills for uphill and downhill lies.Builds confidence and adaptability in handling sloped bunker lies.Experiment with stance adjustments and club selection to account for different slope angles.Neglecting to adjust for slope can lead to inaccurate shots.


A greenside bunker in golf is a challenging hazard that can test a golfer’s skill and composure. Learning to navigate these sand traps effectively requires a combination of proper technique, practice, and mental fortitude. By honing your bunker play skills and adhering to bunker etiquette, you can approach greenside bunkers with confidence and improve your overall golfing experience. Remember that bunkers are an integral part of the game, adding an element of excitement and strategy that makes golf a unique and rewarding sport.


What is a Greenside Bunker in Golf


  • Anglo Carson

    Anglo Carson, a Certified Golf Instructor, embarked on a remarkable journey, driven by his unwavering love for golf. He founded The Golf Mine with a singular mission - to create a golfing haven where passion knows no boundaries. His lifelong love affair with golf, combined with his expertise as a Certified Golf Instructor, turned into a vision to share his extensive knowledge, inspire, and promote the game he holds dear.

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