Greenside Bunker Play – Key Takeaways

  • Lower handicappers have better chances to save par when in the greenside bunker.
  • Higher handicappers miss the green 50 percent of the time from the bunker.

Improved Performance Through Data

Big data is a powerful tool. Not only does it allow golfers to assess individual parts of the game but it provides an opportunity to examine performance from a variety of perspectives.

Golf stat tracking and performance management companies like Shot Scope help golfers better understand their on-course performance. However, by aggregating data from golfers around the world, we get a more complete picture of the realities of amateur performance.

So, as we dive into a relatively straightforward topic, think about where you find the most difficulty on the course. How many shots does it take to get out of the bunker? What’s the proximity to the hole when you do get the ball out?

Results From the Greenside Bunker

Shot Scope Results from Greenside Bunker Shots


  • Highest percentage of golfers who get the ball inside six feet are the two-handicappers.
  • The lowest percentage remains true with two-handicappers regarding missing the green. Two-handicappers show only a 10 percent likelihood of missing the green and only one percent of the time the ball is left in the bunker.
  • The highest handicappers get the ball inside six feet of the hole only five percent of the time, miss the green 50 percent of the time from the bunker and leave it in the bunker 21 percent of the time.

The trend shows the lower the handicap you have, the greater chance of getting it within six feet of the hole. Lower handicappers tend to hit the green a lot more than higher handicappers. A 26 handicapper misses the green 50 percent of the time from a greenside bunker.

Proximity to the Hole and Up-and-Down Percentage

Shot Scope Results from Greenside Bunkers


  • When hitting the ball out of the bunker, the average proximity to the hole by a two-handicapper is 12.5 feet.
  • The average proximity to the hole with a 26 handicapper is 17.7 feet.
  • The up-and-down percentage is highest among the lower handicappers and, in turn, lowest with the higher handicappers.

Again, nothing surprising here. The lower the handicap, the better chances you have hitting it inside six feet, closer to the pin, hitting the green and getting up and down. The higher the handicap, the percentages go down, proximity to the hole increases, your up-and-down percentage goes down and you’re more likely to miss the green.

Average Shots to Finish

Shot Scope Greenside Bunkers by Handicap

  • A two-handicapper hits the bunker shot to 12.5 feet on average and takes 2.68 shots once the ball is out to complete the hole.
  • There is a significant difference between two- and eight-handicap golfers in proximity to the hole.
  • A 26 handicapper takes 3.54 shots to finish once getting the ball out of the bunker.

The results are simple. The lower handicaps hit the ball closer to the hole and take fewer shots to finish than those with higher handicaps. The two-handicapper gains 0.86 of a shot on average against a 26-handicapper when in a bunker.

Putting It All Together

  • Lower handicaps hit the ball closer to the hole than higher handicappers.
  • The lower the handicap, the higher the percentage of getting up and down.
  • Higher handicappers struggle to get the ball out of the bunker in the first attempt and once it’s out, they take more shots to finish the hole compared to lower handicappers.
  • The average proximity to the hole across all handicappers is 15.6 feet and 3.07 shots to get it in the hole on average.

The reason for such differences between high and low handicappers are unconfirmed but it could relate to the lack of understanding of how to play bunker shots.

Greenside bunker shots require a very different skill compared to any other shot type. The sand must be hit first, not the ball. The golfer needs to play a lofted wedge for the best chance to save strokes.

All data points to the lower the handicap you have, the better your chance of shooting a lower score on that hole.

How Do You Compare?

Do you score better or worse than the Shot Scope database averages?

What’s your biggest takeaway? Where is there room for improvement in your game?

Post a comment below!

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