Sand Is Child’s Play
On the Practice Tee
with Joe Giles
PGA Professional and
Southern Ohio PGA Teacher of the Year
Think back to your childhood. Remember how much fun you had playing in the sand? Building sand forts, digging holes with your shovel, or covering your brother or sister with the fluffy stuff.
As you got older and started playing golf, memories of those happy times in the sand box were replaced with agonizing attempts to remove your golf ball from a sandy grave known as a bunker. I think golfers and whales have a lot in common. When either of them find themselves in the sand, a slow death seems inevitable. Let me try to return you to your youthful days when sand was your friend, by offering a little advice on how to execute the shot correctly.
First, let’s talk about hitting a shot from a fairway bunker. The key to hitting this shot a long distance, depends on the type of lie that you have. Is the ball sitting up in the sand? Is there a lip (or mound) above the ball, preventing you from hitting a less lofted club used for distance? Are you standing uphill or downhill? All these factors will affect your club selection.
If you are able to hit a long iron or wood out of the bunker safely, here are some fundamentals to help you:
- Dig your feet into the sand to anchor your body
- Choke down a bit on the club to compensate for your lower posture
- Keep the legs still during the swing
- Use more club since you are only swinging with your arms and hands
- Play the ball in the middle of your stance so contact is made at the bottom of your swing arc.
- Don’t touch the sand with your club prior to making your swing, that’s a two stroke penalty
- To avoid hitting the ball heavy, try to maintain the same weight level throughout the swing
The greenside bunker can be a very exciting shot as you watch the ball blast onto the green and spinning back towards the hole. Or this shot can be very disheartening when it takes more than one try to get it out.
My teaching method for hitting shots out of a greenside bunker is very simple:
- Dig your feet as you did on the long shot
- Open your stance considerably (aim left)
- Open the face of the club
- Adjust your weight and how high you grip the club according to the length of the shot. For a longer shot stand more upright and grip high on the club. For a shorter shot, bend more and choke way down on the club. Your grip and body weight will determine how deep the club penetrates the sand which will determine the distance of the shot.
- Take the club back on the same line as your feet (It will be outside the target line)
- Hinge, don’t cock your wrists
- Pull through in a sliding motion as if you’re cutting through a tomato
- Above all make a long follow through.
Hopefully, with a little practice, using these simple tips, hitting out of a bunker will seem like just another day at the beach.