4 different shots with four different clubs from greenside sand
With your 7- or 8-iron (depending on what trajectory you prefer), address the ball with your weight and hands forward, but with the ball positioned in the middle-back region of your stance. Your feet should align slightly open of your intended target, with the clubface facing the target and your shoulders parallel to the target line. To get a feel for the proper position, think of the stance and swing youd used for a greenside chip. Choke down on the iron, and with a descending blow, hit down onto the ball. Notice how my body is quiet and most of the motion is in my arms. Unlike a typical sand blast, in this case, you want to hit the ball first, and the sand second. The ball will come off the face low and with roll, so make sure you have some green to work with. Think of the 1⁄3-2⁄3 rule: the ball will carry 1⁄3 and roll 2⁄3 of the way toward the hole. Another great thing about this shot is its an effective way to control trajectory and distance from those hard-to-play fairway bunkers within 100 yards.
Pitching Wedge Pick-And-Chop
On occasion, youre going to encounter a shot thats either sunken or semi-buried in the sand. Despite what you may think, this shot isnt as difficult as it looks. The key is using the right club for the job, which in this case is the pitching wedge.
The pitching wedge, like a sand wedge, has plenty of loft, but more importantly, pitching wedges have lower bounce angles than sand wedges. What this means is the pitching wedge is more effective at digging into the sand, which is critical for playing from sunken lies. Address the ball with your feet slightly open and the ball in the back of your stance, with a stronger than usual grip. Make sure your hands are forward and the clubface is square or even slightly open to the target. The key here is to minimize body turn and make a steep, descending blow into the sand precisely where the ball and sand come into contact. I like to call this the pick-and-chop shot. Be sure to take the club back more upright than usual and descend into the ball with no followthrough. The club should stick into the ground, and the ball should lift out of the sand with plenty of height. Unlike a regular sand shot, this shot will produce some roll. Notice how my body remains relatively quiet, and my arms do most of the work.
Equip Tip: Sand Savers
The industry has recently unleashed several models made specifically to erase the difficulty of extricating the ball from a bunker. The Hogan Sure-Out is a modern iteration of The Hawks famed specialty club. Nowhere near as traditional is the F2 wedge, engineered with an onset hosel to encourage sand-first contact. MacGregors V-FOIL EZ-OUT features an oversized back structure to help the club glide through the sand. The crescent-cut sole on the innovative Solus wedge allows the golfer to add or remove bounce as needed.
Traditional Sand Wedge
Whether you have a good lie or a bad lie, the traditional sand blast is an effective shot when you havent much green to work with or youre faced with a huge lip between your ball and the hole. Begin by choosing either a 56- or 60-degree wedge, and address the ball with your body aligned to the left and the clubface aimed to the right. If you aim your body 20 degrees left of the target, then be sure to open the clubface 20 degrees to the right of the target.
When playing the traditional bunker blast, make an effort to swing along your body line—not the target line (remember, your body is open to the target). When you do this, youll find yourself taking the club back on an outside-in club path, which is ideal for helping you keep the clubface open through impact. In this shot, theres no release or flipping of the hands. Hold the face open as long as possible, and be sure your right hand remains under your left (for right-handers). Remember to open the clubface when you take your grip. Dont grip the club and twist your hands to open the face—thats a big no-no. Unlike the aforementioned bunker shots, in this case, you want to make contact an inch or two behind the ball, with a full followthrough. To negotiate different distances, simply adjust the degree your body and face angle are from the target. On closer shots, address the ball more openly. On longer bunker shots, address more squarely to the target. With this shot, youll generate some spin, so expect the ball to fly most of the way, hop and skid to a stop.
Playing from the bunkers requires an open and creative mind. But to really become proficient, like everything else in golf, solid bunker play requires solid practice time. Experiment with these shots and concentrate on how the ball reacts to these four different approaches. In no time, youll find yourself more confident in knowing exactly what to do.
Craig Bunker, PGA, is director of instruction for the John Jacobs Golf Schools, now with more than 30 locations nationwide. For more info, visit www.jacobsgolf.com.
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