Bunker Lesson 2 - Plugged Lies

In the second instalment of this bunker series, PGA Advanced Fellow Professional Dr Noel Rousseau discusses plugged lies with former European Tour player David Griffiths.

The pros adopt two methods when playing from a plugged lie in the bunker, and Noel and David take you through both in the video below.

Remember, shot planning is crucial for whichever method you choose to replicate.

You should just be aiming to get the ball on the green. Bear in mind that the ball will not be coming out with any spin and thus will roll. Choose a ‘fat’ part of the green so the ball has plenty of room to roll out.

Plugged Lie Set up and Swing Shape

The two plugged lie bunker methods in the video are essentially about how you use the club to ‘dig’ into the sand. The set up and swing shape are the same. 

  • Dig your feet well into the sand so that your soles are beneath the level of the ball.
  • Get plenty of weight on your front foot and lean towards the target. This will aid in that steep downwards motion into the sand and underneath the golf ball.
  • The back swing is predominantly a ‘picking up’ motion made with the hinge of your wrists. We are trying to create a ‘V’ shape with the club head.
  • Aim to strike down hard into the sand 5cm behind the ball and get the golf club down and underneath the ball.

Plugged Lie Method 1

The club is still open and we just hit down much steeper than usual. You can even open the club face and use the hosel to gouge into the sand if you really need loft on these shots.

Plugged Lie Method 2

As bizarre as this shot may seem, I actually think it is the easier of the two options.

Turn the club face in so it is very closed. The toe-end of the club will dig down and therefore the shot requires less speed and power as method 1.

Don’t forget to aim right so as to counter the closed face. I am told that this method uses ‘displacement’ to force the sand upwards and the ball with it. “Eureka”!

Movement Psychology

The key to setting this shot up mentally is to allow enough green (with your aim) so that you can be really aggressive with the shot. The last thing you want to be doing in a plugged lie is being tentative through the hit.

Clarity is key to making a bold movement.


Why do I blade the ball into the bunker face?

You contact point with the sand is at the ball so you may be moving around too much. All the speed and force in this shot is created with the arms and wrist. Stay very much on your lead leg.

The ball isn’t going far enough?

There is no element of using the bounce in this shot so if the ball isn’t travelling far enough then you are either hitting too far back or simply don’t have enough speed on the club.

Won’t the closed clubface hit it very low?

Actually no! Ordinarily, this would be the case but it is the sand that pushes the ball upwards and the more you ‘toe the club in’ the higher the ball seems to go. Practice recommended.

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