A Plan In The Sand

Make bunker play easier with the right know-how

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To play successful shots from normal sand, set up with the clubface slightly open and the shaft neutral (up and down) to slightly back at address. This will allow for more use of the trailing edge or the bounce your sand wedge has built in. The trailing edge is what will help the club "bounce" out of the sand and prevent too much digging action.

If you use too much of the leading edge in this situation, the divot will be much deeper than our 1.5-inch goal. The result will be a ball that doesn't come out with enough energy.

Finally, I like to keep my weight slightly favoring my forward side, with a neutral grip pressure. Unlike the firm sand shot, I want my hands to release.

Practice hitting shots from different sand in the same bunker. Use the rake and simulate firm, soft and fluffy sand. You'll have a better understanding of how the sand reacts to different setups and swings.

The ideal plane for a bunker shot in normal sand is your natural one. Of the three, this shot is played most like a regular shot, only instead of hitting the ball first, you're aiming at the sand an inch or so behind the golf ball.

Play this shot with the face slightly open. You want to add some loft and bounce, but not so much that the club bounces off the sand and doesn't dig properly. How much should you open the face? That depends on your comfort level. Experiment with opening the face so you find just the right amount that works for you, only leave some room to open it even more (for fluffy lies).

Playing a bunker shot from normal sand should always be played aggressively. More often than not, I see my students get tentative and afraid of hitting the ball too far, or they hit too low in the sand. Both strategies lead to ugly results! Play your sand shots with some added vigor and don't be afraid of hitting it long, and at the same time, don't dig too much into the sand. Remember, 1.5 inches is plenty deep enough.

In the above photos, you can see I've made an aggressive strike and glided the club through the sand without slowing down. I've also released my wrists through the stroke since there's no need to try to hold the face square or open. A good trick to speed up the hands is to remember to make contact with the sand using the trailing edge of your wedge. You'll instinctively speed up the clubhead without excess digging.


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