One of the reasons so many folks struggle from the sand is that they don't understand the importance of an open face at impact. This is especially critical around the greens and over deep-faced bunker edges where you need the ball to pop up in a hurry. By keeping the face open through impact, you'll also make things easier, mainly because an open face adds a lot of bounce to the bottom of your wedge, thus preventing you from digging too deep into the sand.
But how are you supposed to do that? The solution is simple. Instead of concentrating so much on where you are at impact, think more of the steps you need to take to get to the impact position with an open face. This means paying specific attention to the clubface angle at the top of your swing. Ideally, an open face at the top of your swing is positioned face down to the ground at the top of your swing. This is where my drill comes into play. Head over to the practice bunker and follow these steps. First, rake up a small pile of sand onto the face of the wedge. Then, with that sand on the face, make a backswing and try to throw the sand over your left shoulder. Keep trying until you can get the bulk of the sand to fling out in front of you as I'm doing here. Once you get a knack for it, you'll automatically know what it feels like to have an opened clubface at the top of your swing. And from there, swing as you normally would in the bunker, hitting the sand an inch or so behind the ball.
With this simple and fun drill, you'll ingrain an open-faced bunker shot into your bunker game, and in no time, you'll start hitting higher bunker shots.
Dale Abraham, PGA, is the director of instruction at Desert Mountain just north of Scottsdale, Ariz. For more information, visit daleabraham.com. BUNKER RULES
A bunker is a bunker, and always should be called a bunker. It's not a sand trap. It's a bunker. Second, knowing the rules in the bunkers is important, since there are so many different things that can go wrong. So let's cover three key rules you need to know.
1. You can't ground your club in the bunker. Most golfers know this. But this also applies to your hands, so no touching. The only thing that you can do is firmly plant your feet in the sand to hit your next shot. The only exception is when you're falling over or you need to identify a ball (Rule 13-3,4).
2. Loose impediments (leaves, debris, etc.) in the sand cannot be removed. This includes dead land crabs and half-eaten pear cores (Rule 23, Decision 3, 6).
3. If the ball lands up and against the rake, you can remove the rake without a penalty. Only, the ball has to be placed in the exact same spot. If you can't replace the ball in the exact same spot, without pushing it into the sand, then it has to be placed in the bunker where it comes to rest (Rule 20-3d).
Curious to learn more about golf rules? The USGA has a great website, with scores of rules and decisions to keep you entertained for hours. Visit usga.org.