Going to the beach sounds like a great time…unless you’re on the golf course. Many golfers, from beginners to scratch golfers to professionals, have a difficult time getting the right spin, loft, or impact to get out of a sand trap safely in one stroke. The next time your ball lands in the bunker, don’t fear the shot, embrace it and use the proper technique to avoid a huge impact on your score card.
The way you swing and hit out of a sand-trap is dependent on your lie. Are you stuck in a fairway bunker or a greenside bunker? Are you buried in the sand or do you have a favorable lie on top of the sand? Are you faced with a big lip and an uphill shot? All these scenarios are common, and you should take each into consideration when you step into the sand. We’ll go through each scenario, and offer the best techniques and shots to ensure you’re out of the sand in two shots or less.
Greenside Bunker: Most greenside bunkers are positioned below the green, so you need loft to drop the ball right where you want. With your sand wedge, open up your clubface and don’t strike the ball directly. You want keep the ball way up in your stance and hit two to three inches behind the ball in order to get momentum from the sand and push it forward. You want to keep your weight forward, your arms soft, and the shaft vertical. When you swing, act as if it’s a pitch from a distance of 40-50 yards. Don’t swing too hard, but swing naturally. Remember to follow through and turn your body to the target for a full finish and optimal landing on the green.
Fairway Bunker: With the wide fairways you see at Northampton Valley, the last thing you’re thinking about is landing in a fairway bunker. When this happens, you’re probably far enough away from the green where you’ll have to use a lower iron. Varying from greenside bunkers, you want your first impact to be the ball, not the sand. For the best results, choke down on the grip of your club and keep the ball toward the middle of your stance. Keep your stance open and connect to the ball with a punch shot. You want some distance and some loft. Most of the time fairway bunkers don’t have big lips or bad lies, so your punch shot will work well when you open your stance, choke down, and keep the ball in the middle of your feet.
Buried in the Bunker: A ball buried deep in the sand is a stressful situation when you step down into the bunker. Instead of opening up the club face, close the face and swing hard and aggressive. You still want to hit the sand behind the ball, but put the ball in the back of your stance. When you close your clubface, swinging down hard will dig into the sand and should allow you to dislodge the ball for a clean sweep onto the green. PGA’s America Player of the Year in 2011, David Hutshell, spoke about the best practices for a buried bunker shot in an article on PGA.com.
Take a lofted club and open the face for greenside bunkers, but use a different approach for your fairway bunker shots. If you want some help mastering your bunker shots through various lies and areas on the course, our pros will give you a lesson and help you get over your fear of the “beach” on a golf course.