Best Sand Wedge for Bunkers

Bunker - noun. a reinforced underground shelter, typically for use in wartime.

Sometimes it feels like a war with ourselves playing out of the piles of sand they rake nicely and nicely name, "bunkers".

But don't be disheartened, even the pros screw it up every now and then. With the right club and technique, the sand will look more like a zen garden to you than the trenches of war. Check out my guide to getting out of bunkers.

The good news is there's a formula for picking the best sand wedge for bunkers. And if you still have trouble even after using that formula, there are fool-proof, fail-safe sand wedges designed exclusively for the sand like the Cleveland Smart Sole or Tour Edge 1Out Plus. And if you're a more advanced player, check out my guide here on wedges.

There's a ball in this photo somewhere, can you see it?

Short list of best sand wedges for bunkers

  1. Cleveland Smart Sole 3  (best sand wedge for bunkers and around the greens)
  2. Callaway SureOut (best sand wedge for fluffy and normal bunkers)
  3. Tour Edge 1Out Plus (best sand wedge for all bunkers)
  4. Ray Cook Shot Saver Alien (best budget and casual golfer sand wedge

The ideal sand wedge specifications for bunkers

Loft angle and bounce angle made simple

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    ​56 or 58 degrees loft​​​
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    ​Thick wide sole with minimum 10 degrees bounce

Most manufacturers will state the loft and bounce angle for their wedges. Thick sole and high bounce are the key factors in hitting good bunker shots. 

​​Why bounce?

​​I covered golf bounce here in our high handicap wedge article. Basically, in combination with a big thick sole, the sand wedge BOUNCES off the sand instead of digging in and leaving the ball a few feet in front of you.

The reason we can't get out of bunkers is lack of follow-through and the club digging into the sand. Higher-bounce clubs produce shots where the ball pops out on a pillow of sand floating out of the bunker. 

From war time to zen time

With the right club (and technique), you won't have any fear of the sand anymore. You'll get out of the bunkers in one shot and slash strokes off your game. In fact, you'll look forward to impressing your buddies with all the sand saves you'll be racking up.

​From this...

​...to this

So now that you're all zen-like, let's earth and get grounded with some suggestions. Please note that these clubs are specialty bunker wedges and might not perform very well from longer distances on full swings.


​Looks

​Playability in bunkers

​Playability out of bunkers

​Top stroke saver ​around the greens

The Smart Sole S Wedge gets you out of the bunker and onto the green effortlessly. Despite the weird looks of the club, at address it looks like any other wedge. There is a massive difference between this one traditional wedges though.

The Smart Sole makes bunkers fun. You read right, fun. Fried egg lies, plugged lies, wet sand, dry sand, fluffy sand, good swing bad swing the ball will get out.

And you can do all of it with a square face - no need to open it up and manipulate the club. It does all the work for you.

​My experience 

I bought a Smart Sole S Wedge for a friend of mine. He was off a 14 handicap and a massive equipment snob. He would never play with a club like this but he couldn't get out of bunkers so I bought this as a joke. We laughed and he told me to f*** off but put it in his bag anyway. On the 4th hole and he's in the bunker, shaking like a dog passing a peach pip. I throw this wedge at him and he swings his usual scaredy cat bunker swing...

He hit it to 5 feet, made the par putt and hasn't stopped getting up and down from the bunkers since. He's also started using it around the greens. He now plays off a 10 handicap and hasn't changed anything else in his bag except including this club.

Pros
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    ​Makes bunker play actually fun
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    ​Point-and-shoot with a square face and get out alive
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    ​Can be used with full swings
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    ​Eliminates hitting it fat 
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    ​Playable from ​most lies on the course
Cons
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    50/50 on ​hard ground
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    ​Not for people who want to manipulate the club

​Looks

​Playability in bunkers

​Playability out of bunkers

Good for normal and fluffy sand

Callaway put a nice thick sole on the Sure Out like most of the specialist sand wedges, but they've also put grooves over the whole club face! Regardless of where you hit it on the face, it's going to have some zip on it.

Out of sand, the Sure Out does what it says - gets out! The best part is you don't need to open the face like Phil Mickelson - it's best to hit bunker shots with the face square. No more worrying about hitting it in the teeth and killing someone. 

Pros
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    ​Perfect for bunkers with fluffy soft sand and wet sand 
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    ​Ideal for high handicappers and beginners
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    ​Specifically designed for bunkers
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    ​Can be used for short pitch and chip shots especially from rough
Cons
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    ​Not well-suited to full swings
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    Difficult from firm sand and tight lies

​Looks

​Playability in bunkers

​Playability out of bunkers

​Specialist club from the stroke saving experts

A 56° sand wedge with 11 degrees of bounce makes this a perfect option for getting out of the sand and the 1Out Plus was born for this. 

That big fat sole you see in the picture slaps the sand hard and bounces off to pop the ball out onto the green in one. You just set up to the ball with a square club face and swing at it. Additionally, the thick sole glides through long rough and pops the ball out with ease. No tangling.

Tour Edge is famous for their stroke-saving clubs especially fairway woods. This wedge is another stroke-saving weapon to add to the arsenal.

Pros
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    ​Simple setup square to the ball and get out in one shot
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    ​Heavy head powers through sand
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    ​Rounded heavy sole smashed through long grass without tangling
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    ​Very good price
Cons
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    ​Shiny chrome sole will scar easily
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    Not well suited to fuller shots

​Looks

​Playability in bunkers

​Playability out of bunkers

Best budget sand-save machine

​If you're a casual, beginner or part-time golfer and ​are tired of leaving the ball in the bunker, ​The Ray Cook Alien is perfect for you. Low investment and maximum return. 56° loft with large sole and bounce.

A bit thick heavy sole provides ample weight and force to get the club though the sand and splashing the ball out onto the green. It can be used on fuller swings but be prepared to practice to get it right. None of these wedge are total miracle machines.

Calling something an Alien is hurtful and I had my fair share of being called that while living in Asia. But this club does look weird and with the rounded leading edge can be trick to line up. Use the painted bottom groove for better alignment.

Pros
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    ​Easy to get the ball out of the bunker and onto the green
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    ​Excellent from deep bunkers
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    ​Very low price
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    ​Good sand wedge for beginners, casual and part-time golfers
Cons
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    ​Quite a heavy clubhead might not be to everyone's tastes
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    ​Funny looking club people will ask questions about or make jokes about

Important information about these types of wedges

​The wedges outlined in this guide are unique and some things need to be remembered to gain full value from them without disappointment:

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    ​While they give you an edge, they aren't miracle clubs and ​practice is key
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    ​Opening the face can lead to some booming line drives if you hit it thin.
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    ​Priority has been given to BUNKER SHOTS with these wedges. Some are one-trick ponies. Can you dig that?

Shocking: Even ​the worlds best can screw it up

​Watch Rory McIlroy take 6 shots to get out a bunker. Someone get him a Smart Sole.

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