Use the right tool in the sand

OTHER HELPFUL TIPS: Tweak your finish to work the ball & Width = Power

Doug Hammer

Scottsdale, AZ (Sports Network) -- I read a lot of golf magazines to keep up on what is being taught by other teachers, just to see where we agree, or might disagree. One subject that is not explained well very often, in my opinion at least, is the bunker, the place where you believe children should be seen playing with shovels and pails, not golfers like yourselves. However, it is a reality of life and you must know how to "play" when you find your ball hiding there. I have not had many students come to the lesson tee and tell me that they are great out of the bunker. Most of the time the response I get when I ask about bunker play is "I just try to avoid them." More easily said than done and not reality. So, that becomes a bad plan and approach since it is inevitable you will be in more than one again...and again! That is why they are strategically placed...where your ball is likely to go. I believe that golfers are only as good as their weakest link, so let?s try to make that weak link a little stronger.

The first thing to understand about a bunker is that your sand wedge can be used as two different "tools." For example, if the sharp leading edge of the club face impacts the sand first, the club will dig into the sand, making a much deeper divot and displacing more sand. If the more rounded trailing edge, called the bounce, impacts the sand first, the club will "bounce" and take a much shallower divot.

Squaring the club
The positioning of the sand wedge can vary from each sand trap.
A good bunker shot begins when you assess the lie of the ball and decide which "tool" to use. If the ball is embedded in the sand or if the sand is hardpan, then you need a digging tool by closing the club face slightly before gripping the club. This will allow the club to dig out all of the sand around the ball or, in the case of hardpan, dig into the compressed sand where the ball lies to create the explosion shot you need to be successful in the bunker.

If the ball is resting on top of the sand and you can feel/determine/see that the sand has some give and is fluffy, then you need a bouncing tool. You can create a bouncing tool by opening the face slightly, before gripping the club.

This will allow the club to take the shallow top layer off the sand, creating a high soft sand shot.

Now that you know what tool to use, you must execute the shot correctly. Here is where I feel things are not explained correctly. Most of you know to hit behind the ball. But do you know that the divot should end well after the ball? I think too much emphasis is put on striking the ground behind the ball causing the golf swing to turn into a confusing mess. There is no need to change your golf swing to hit behind the ball. Simply move the ball forward in your stance to assure you hit the sand first and concentrate on swinging through the ball. In the photo I am demonstrating the "erase the line" drill. Simply draw a line in the sand and address it as if it is the golf ball. Make sure the line is even with or slightly inside your forward heel as shown. Simply practice erasing the line by making sure your divot starts before the line and ends after. Try to hit the sand hard enough to fly out of the bunker.

Use this drill to perfect your bunker play. Combine the proper technique with using the right "tool" for the lie of the ball and you cannot fail in the bunker!

Doug Hammer * Director of Instruction * Troon North Golf Club p 480-585-5300 ext. 251 * f 480-585-5161 * 10320 E Dynamite Blvd. * Scottsdale, AZ 85262 Managed by Troon Golf? *

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