Upgrade Your Sand Game
Sand traps have always been a staple of golf; they’re a constant at every golf course ever built. Many players dread greenside bunkers because they do not know the best way to hit out of them. Their set-ups are often inconsistent, their swing paths are incorrect, and their ball position is off.
For consistent play in any aspect of the game, you need confidence. In order to gain this confidence, you must first learn and practice the most effective way to hit it close out of greenside traps. Here’s how to do it:
STEP 1: CHOOSE THE RIGHT CLUB
If you short-side yourself in a greenside bunker (meaning you don’t have a lot of green to work with), you want to pick a high-lofted wedge, like a 60 degree lob wedge. The ball will not role out as much. If you have some green to work with, you want a lower lofted wedge, such as a sand wedge (56 degrees) or a gap wedge (around 52 degrees). This will promote a slightly longer ball flight out of the trap.
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STEP 2: TAKE THE RIGHT SET UP
The right set up is the key to hitting an effective shot from the bunker. First, dig in: twist your feet into the sand. Besides having a good base for the shot, which is vital, you get a feel for how deep the sand is around your shot.
For most sand shots you face you want to play the ball off your front foot. The farther you move the ball back, the lower trajectory the ball will take and the more it will run out. This can be useful with some shots, but as a general rule, play the ball off your front foot. Keep in mind this is NOT a pitch and run. The shot is going to have backspin.
Next, open your stance AND the clubface. This is very important. This promotes a higher, softer ball flight and allows a good angle for the clubface to slide under the ball.
Finally, you need your weight on your front foot. The weight should be about 80%-20% favoring the front foot. This is vital as it causes a steep decent, creating the splash of sand (the digging) and backspin characteristic of a good bunker shot.Step 3: The swing
STEP 3: THE SWING
Now that you are dug in, with the ball forward in your stance, your weight on your front foot, and with your stance and clubface slightly open, it’s time to pull the trigger. You want an outside-in swing path with a slight wrist hinge at the top. How far back depends on how far you want the ball to fly. This swing path gets the ball to come out high and soft and with the maximum control. You will need to practice this until it feels natural.
STEP 4: THE FOLLOW THROUGH
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You must follow through and stay down longer on sand shots. If you decelerate or stop at impact, you chunk it. In a greenside bunker, you want to splash the ball out, and to do that you must have a steep swing and a high follow through. If you come up on it too soon, you’ll catch the shot thin and blade it. Don’t be afraid to take a slightly bigger swing; you are taking sand with the shot. It won’t go as far.
Once you are confident in your greenside sand shots, it’s time to get a little more technical.