Most amateurs are scared to death of sand traps. Here are some tips that will help make getting out of traps a piece of cake.
When you play a sand shot the most important aspect of playing it is that you must play with an open clubface. Hold the club open and then take your grip. Now when you swing through this will allow you to keep your clubface open when you come through the shot. As far as set up is concerned, dig your feet in, put the ball forward in your stance and swing the golf club back along the line of your body.
So if my body is aimed a little bit to the left of the target with an open stance for a bunker shot, I take the club back right along the line of my feet making a full swing back and a full swing through.
Don't make the mistake of keeping the club square and then just rolling the face open because that will give you a real strong grip, something we don't want to have. There are four basic thoughts:
- Open the face of your club
- Put the ball forward in your stance
- Use a fairly wide stance
- Stand quite a bit further away from the ball.
If you try your normal bunker shot where the ball is forward in your stance and the clubface is open exposing the bounce the club is going to hit off the sand behind the ball and right into the middle, sending a low shot right across the green.
- To hit the shot correctly, when you can feel that there is no sand underneath your feet, you want to take the bounce off and get the leading edge a little bit more exposed.
- So to do that, I'm going to go from this normal position, to squaring up the face up just a little bit and then moving the ball back and my hands a little forward.
- That will make the leading edge dig a little into the sand. It is almost looks like a chip shot.
How do you get out of a bunker. It is so easy even a kid can do it and we are going to prove that right now.
- The first thing I am going to ask him to do is to open up his clubface when he set the club down.
- The next thing I am going to have him do is open his stance.
- Then all I am going to ask him to do is hit about two inches behind the ball and splash some sand.
The pin from the fringe is only about fifteen feet away. And talk about a vertical facing, that is scary.
I am going to put it on the clubface and it is going to show you my 56 degrees of loft without opening the clubface. So for all of you who are playing this shot with an wide open clubface, it really is not necessary because if I could just get 56 degrees of loft to the sand correctly the ball is going to pop up beautifully without me trying to manipulate it.
Here is what we are going to do. I have a nice lie here in the bunker, I am going to aim the club right at the pin, I am going to set up with the ball off my front foot.
I only change two things: where I play the ball; and the motion of my golf swing to reflect the fact that the club is going to hit the sand, not the ball.
What I do with people when they start out is to show them how they should splash sand. We take their bunker club, and you know the bunker club is built to bounce or skip through the sand, the leading edge is higher than the trailing edge, so you hit the trailing edge in and that skips through the sand.
Two big tips, let's go over them.
- Don't let the club touch the ball, let the sand cushion the shot.
- Number two, keep your spine angle more on top of that shot and let that club ride right through the sand.
Put the clubface square, align the body square or maybe a fraction left of the target but basically square and play the swing as a pitch that you are going to hit fat.
Don't try anything fancy here, you are just trying to get out to the green and let the ball roll up, no spin on this one. Not everyone can play on the PGA Tour but everyone should be able to get out of a greenside bunker on their first go.
I've got the ball sitting up on top of the sand and I've got about 30 or 40 feet to go. I view this shot as your smooth full swing with three adjustments.
- First, You have to get the clubface in a position where the bottom will work in your favor. Your sand wedge is built so that the back of the club sits a little bit lower than the front edge. So when you hit the sand it will create a skidding effect. If you close the clubface the leading edge will come down, it will actually make it dig into the sand, and you don't want that. So your first adjustment is to open the clubface. Take the club in your hand and actually set the face open and then re-grip it.
- Adjustment number two and three, I'm going to draw a couple of lines in the bunker. So let's identify our target line, that's where I'm trying to go. Keep in mind you can not do this on the golf course, just when you are practicing. Here is another line at a right angle which would identify my ball position line.
- Now in most of your shots you're playing the ball position a couple inches off the left heel but in the bunker you're trying to actually hit behind the ball. I am actually going to circle my body around the ball so that now my stance is a little bit open and the ball position is up off my left instep. So those are your three adjustments.
The stance is very similar to a typical bunker shot, the primary difference is the plane of the sand wedge. You're going to pick the club up a little more abruptly; it's going to be more of a 'V' type swing plane. I'm going to pick it up abruptly and as I swing through I am going to swing with great acceleration in my left arm.
- My head stays behind the ball, which is very important.
- My left arm is going to swing through and the left arm is going to fold in toward my body.
The more that left arm folds in the more spin you're going to achieve. It's going to be like the sensation of bouncing the club off the sand. Don't be afraid of hitting it too hard because the more acceleration, the greater control. This is going to help you a great deal on those very difficult sand shots.
The first thing I like to get my students to do is work their feet into the sand. The purpose of this is not really for a solid base, it’s to feel the texture of the sand; the more packed the sand, the more you reduce bounce on the club. The fluffier the more you open the sand wedge to increase the bounce angle.
Then position the ball about an inch ahead of the center of your stance, kind of right under your sternum being a point about an inch behind the ball. Weight fairly balanced, club shaft straight up and down. I know a lot of you have heard that your suppose to aim left and make a cutting motion, that is a way to play bunker shots, but not the way I teach it. I teach it as just a normal golf swing. So my aim would be if anything, maybe, just slightly left of target.
Your distance control really comes from how much sand you knock out of the bunker and where you splash the sand, so that’s really where I want your focus. Once you get set-up, just practice knocking an area of sand out of the bunker.
You always hear about people reading the greens, but how about reading the sand? You read the sand with your feet a little bit and you read it with your eyes. You read it with your feet to feel depth. If it is real deep and soft you have to swing harder, that is all there is too it.