Sand Play

Written by Gary Buffington, Jr., 20 year Manager of Edwin Watts Golf Shop, Tampa, former academic All-American Golfer at University of West Florida, and former Professional Mini-Tour Golfer offers specific advice and drills for game improvement directly related to what is learned from the Statistical Outputs of the Golf Addiction Statistics Mobile App.  

The Basics of Sand Play
Bunkers are often difficult for amateurs, who rarely can get up and down from sand. Bunkers can be much easier than most amateurs make them. Important to remember out of bunkers is that the sand is what actually propels the ball—there should be no metal to ball contact. And the sand club was designed (by Gene Sarazan) specifically for the job! All you have to do is take the right amount of sand to get the ball out properly. The sand club design allows the club to skid (we don't like the word bounce) through the sand propelling sand and ball out of the bunker and close to the hole. Too much sand will lead to a chunk, while too little will lead to a skull. In order to find the proper sand entry point, get in a bunker and take a few practice swings hitting the sand. Once you see where in your stance you are making contact with the sand, you should place the ball about an inch and a half ahead of that spot (at the back of your divot). Take yur stance with the ball well forward in the stance. So, with the ball a bit ahead of the start of your divot, the sand will gently (perhaps actually violently!) move the ball out of the sand. In order to hit a soft bunker shot, the feet should be aligned left of the target and the club-face opened and aimed to the right of the target. By swinging toward the left or in the direction of your feet the ball will come out easily (after some practice). This will lead to a soft high bunker shot and more sand saves from these greenside bunkers!

Always, Always, Always Swing Through 
Often amateur golfers will quit their swing at the ball on bunker shots. This is the worst thing you can do in the sand. The consequences are dire as shots either get skulled or never leave the bunker. To hit shots from the bunker it is important to swing through to a point well after the ball is hit. The sand is what hits the ball out and much momentum is needed to accelerate through the sand. The swing doesn’t have to be violent, but a nice flowing swing that accelerates through the shot will lead to better bunker play more of the time.

What to Do When There Is Not Enough Sand, Or the Sand is Wet and Hard
The club will bounce more (dig less) giving a tendency to hit the shot way too far. When you step into your bunker shot, you should always wiggle your feet to get a firm stance in the sand, AND to feel the amount and hardness of the sand. This will help you keep your balance and hit better shots. If the sand is wet and firm or there is a deficiency of sand, an open the face will cause more bounce and a skull shot will result.. So how is this shot hit? It’s actually pretty simple. It becomes a survival shot, or one in which you want to avoid a big mistake. So, just how do you do with some amount of consistency?
This shot is played much like the standard bunker shot, with only one difference. The stance is the same; left of the target, but the difference is that the club-face is square (not opened). By leaving the face square to the target, you avoid bouncing off the hard sand and hitting a skull. To hit a soft shot, just swing left of the target towards where your feet are aimed and you will be escaping this tough shot with little problem!

The Soft Lob from the Sand
This is an extremely fun shot that can really impress your self and even a few friends. Many times golfers find themselves in bunkers with little green to work with. In these cases it is smart (and satisfying) to hit a higher shot. It is considered a difficult shot to play, but with a few days of practice anyone can pull it off. It is the same as the normal bunker shot, the only difference is that you open the face even more and it is aimed farther right. Then, feel as if you take the club back outside and swing through towards the left, as if you are coming across your body. The sand will pop the ball out extremely high and soft and the your fans and competitors will be amazed that you got up and down from a “dead” spot. Give it a try and have some fun to see how high you can make it fly!

The One Case When It Is Okay to Quit on the Shot
There is only one scenario in which it is okay to not swing as far through the ball, the key being “as far.” You still have to hit through the ball, but you stop your swing much sooner than if you were hitting a standard basic bunker shot. The scenario is when you have an extremely short distance to cover and need to stop the ball very quick. Play the shot like you would the lob bunker shot and take a fairly large back swing. Hit through the ball and stop your swing shorter than normal. The distance of the follow through varies for everyone so I cannot say exactly how far to follow through. Try to swing through to the knees, waist, or chest, or a distance in between. See which one works best for you; it can be fun to play around in the sand sometimes. By practicing this shot occasionally, you will be able to avoid disaster when short-sided and sometimes stun the gallery and your buddies as you get up and down from a tough position.