If you want to see what fear looks like, check out a high handicap golfer as he walks up to a green and figures out his ball has ended up in a bunker.
It’s safe to say that casual golfers are more scared of sand shots than any other shots. Pros, on the other hand, would rather see their ball in the sand than in long rough around the green. Pros get their ball up and in out of the sand more than 60% of the time. Imagine how happy you would be if you just got your ball nicely on the green 60% of the time!
Newer golfers could save dozens of shots every season if they could just get their ball from the sand onto the green and then two-putt. If you are one of those struggling golfers, here are 10 steps to better sand shots:
Get The Right Tools: There is a big difference between a quality sand wedge and the sand wedge that matches your perimeter weighted set. If you want to have any chance in the sand, get fitted with a sand wedge with the right amount of loft and bounce for you and your swing.
Take A Bunker Lesson: It’s hard to do something consistently well if you’re not exactly sure how to do it. Most newer players I see have poor fundamentals in the sand. You’ll have much more success if you learn the proper set-up and understand how to swing the club. Most of the fear over sand shots is caused from confusion and lack of understanding.
Change Your Focus: Why are you looking at the ball in the sand when you are trying to hit a spot two inches behind the ball? Place your club two inches behind the ball instead of directly behind it at address. Focus all your attention on that spot and try to get your club to enter the sand there.
Stay Deadly Still: One of the biggest keys to consistent bunker play is to get your club to enter the sand in the same spot every time. The best way to do that is to keep your swing as quiet as possible. If you move your legs or hips too much, or even lift or shift as you swing, you’ll be much more likely to be inconsistent at best and skull the ball out of bounds at worst. Consistent sand play is more likely with a stable base and less moving parts.
Spend Some Time In The Sand: How many of you can say you’ve ever spent an hour hitting an entire bucket of balls out of a bunker? Too many golfers complain about lousy bunker play, but then do nothing about it. Success will come with a quality wedge, a lesson or two, but mostly with lots of practice.
Don’t Swing So Hard: It doesn’t take that much power to displace a couple of inches of sand. With the right technique, your swing should be rhythmic and actually quite soft. If you need to swing really hard to get your ball out of the sand, you’re doing it wrong.
Move The Ball Forward: Since you want to hit a spot two inches behind the ball, you should move the ball two inches forward of where you would play the same shot from grass. To pitch a ball in grass, I position the ball one inch forward of centre in my stance, so in the sand I position the ball three inches forward of the centre of my stance.
Flex, Flex, Flex: Since you want to slide your club under the ball, you’ll need to add a little knee flex to your address position and keep it during your swing. Digging in your feet will also help you slide under the ball and give you stable footing in the sand.
Open Up: Next time you’re practising your sand play, try opening up your stance slightly and open up your club face slightly. This set-up will help you swing the club more out-to-in with an open club face, which is your best way to slide your club under the ball consistently.
Practise On Game Day: Every day you play the sand will be slightly different because of moisture and maintenance practices. Also, different courses use different sand suppliers. A few sand shots must be part of your pre-game warm-up every day.
Kevin Haime is a winner of the PGA Teacher of the Year award for Canada. He hosts Tee It Up, a weekly live radio talk show on the TEAM Radio Network, and owns the Kevin Haime Golf School in Kanata. Got a problem with your game? Something you want to know? E-mail your golf questions to Kevin Haime at email@example.com and he will answer one with each column.