Play The Sand Shot
A very frequently asked question indeed; how to play the sand shot or the bunker shot.
Before we get to the bunker play tips, I have to preface what you are about to read with but one word… practice. Once you get the basics (which are forthcoming) you’ve got to take the time to practice and gain confidence in the execution.
Believe me; getting your sand play up to a decent level is well worth the time spent on it. With a decent sand game, it is actually more advantageous to be in a bunker around many greens than it is to be buried in the rough just a few yards away! And you’ll score better as a result.
For good bunker play you need to understand some basic techniques. Actually, before we discuss technique, you need to have a sand wedge in your bag… not a pitching wedge… I’ll tell you why in a moment.
First all, with your set up you want to open you stance, hips, and shoulders to the left of the target (right handed golfers) and the ball positioned slightly forward in your stance. Establish solid footing by digging into the sand just a bit.
With your setup to the left of the target, you now want to open the clubface (rotate the sand wedge so the more of the clubface is exposed).
As far as the swing path goes, you want your swing path to follow the alignment of your body just like you other shots.
With a sand shot you want you club to enter the sand a couple of inches behind the ball. I like to have people imagine that just underneath the ball in the sand, the golf ball is sitting on a tee; and what you are trying to do is clip the tee out from under the ball without disturbing the ball itself.
Keep your wrists firm until well after impact. You don’t want get ‘flippy’ with your hands when it comes to sand shots.
When you are first learning to play a bunker shot, strive to gain consistency with your entry point behind the ball and consistently extracting the ball onto a putt-able position on the green.
The next step for you will be to alter the distance of your bunker shot using your swing speed with you ‘basic’ bunker swing and shot. However, the first and primary goal is to gain a consistency with your swing tempo and your entry point. For the beginning sand player, gaining confidence in getting the ball consistently out of the bunker and putting is the first goal and the first building block. Just getting this first basic skill established fluently will save you strokes immediately. Don’t worry so much about variations to your bunker play… these can come later… just get comfortable and confident with that fact that you’ll be out and putting. Rome wasn’t built in a day… or something like that.
I touched on this earlier and now I want to give you a bit more detail on your bunker equipment (sand wedge) and why you must have one.
First of all, believe it or not, the sand wedge is designed for sand play.
Bounce – the sand wedge has a rounded sole that actually sits lower in comparison to the blade of the club. This feature allows the club to glide through the sand rather than dig into it.
Loft – greater loft that the pitching wedge – 55-60 degrees as opposed to 48-52 degrees. This gets you ball up and over the lips of the bunkers more readily rather than trying to ‘manufacture’ a shot with your pitching wedge.
Toe to Heel Design – this what gives the sand wedge the oval appearance – but more than this – it is what keeps the sand wedge from digging in and allows you to ‘splash’ the ball out of the bunker.
Bottom line – if you’re not using a sand wedge for your sand shots; you’re making things much more difficult than they need be.
Practice breeds confidence and confidence breeds relaxation over a shot. Particularly the sand shot. Tension and nervousness are shot killers. The basic sand shot is not at all a difficult shot to extract, it’s just that those who fear them are those who don’t take the time to practice them… think about it this way… it’s the only shot where you are going to actually purposely miss the ball!
So get out there and find a place to practice and get better. Remember first things first… just work to gain consistency and you’ll start improving your game.