How to Get Out of Greenside Bunkers
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Occasionally you’ll find yourself in a greenside bunker. Your first goal should be the same as that of the great Jack Nicklaus who was a poor sand player. He knew he wasn’t good out of the sand. What was his winning strategy? Your plan should be the same as his, don’t get into the sand in the first place. Harvey Penick would agree.
When you stand on the tee box or when you’re hitting your approach into the green, note where the trouble is and plan to avoid it. Aim away from trouble. You’ll never be perfect at avoiding trouble but if you avoid a few bunkers, along with avoiding a few other bad places on the golf course, you’ll find your handicap going lower and lower. Smart play will make breaking 100 easier than you might think.
When you find yourself in a sand trap, your goal should be to get out in one stroke and be somewhere on or near the green, close enough to the flag to get up and down. I know you can do it. I know you can.
My Daddy understands sand play. Daddy figures getting out of the sand is one of the easiest shots in golf. All you have to do, Daddy says, is open the face of your sand wedge, play the ball in the middle/front of your stance, lower your hands between your legs so you’ll hit the ground and pretend there’s half a grapefruit under your golf ball. If you hit the sand behind the ball and take out enough sand under the ball to equal half a grapefruit, the ball and sand will fly up and out of the sand trap in what will look like an explosion.
Here’s another way to think about it. Pretend your ball is lying on the center of a hundred page paperback book about the size of a dollar bill. Your ball is sitting on George Washington’s face on the cover of that unopened book. Open your clubface. With a full, firm swing, take away all the sand under the ball that would make up the thickness of the paperback book. If you take away that much sand from under the ball with a full swing, the ball MUST fly up and out of the sand trap.
- Use your sand wedge with a wide-open face. The clubface of your sand wedge at address in the sand trap will look like you’re going to miss the green to the right. Trust me. Open your clubface. You really can’t open it too much. Even though you have an open face, you’ll swing the clubhead on a line towards your target. If you open the clubface of your sand wedge substantially, the shaft end of the clubhead, the heel end, will hit the sand first and the head of the sand wedge will behave like a sled. The head of the sand wedge will slide through the sand and under the ball. The sand wedge will take a layer of sand on the clubface that will cushion the impact. Because of the open face, the clubhead won’t dig deep. Sleds don’t dig. Plows dig. You don’t want to swing a plow. A square clubface will plow the sand and go too deep. If you close the face of your sand wedge, as most beginners do, the toe will hit the sand first and your clubhead will dig like a plow and make it difficult to get the ball out of the bunker. Only close your clubface and swing your sand wedge like a plow when you have a buried lie in the sand.
- Hands and handle down lower to make the clubhead go lower. At address, push your hands straight down towards your knees to make the clubhead go lower, to make the clubhead describe a path under the golf ball. If you hold your hands up like a normal shot in the fairway off grass, you might only lightly brush the sand or not hit the sand at all. Hands and handle DOWN will help you take a nice, big divot of sand.
- The golf ball never touches the metal face of your sand wedge. You don’t hit the golf ball with your metal clubface. You take the sand out from under the ball. Your clubhead hits the sand a couple of inches before it gets to the ball and takes away a layer of sand. The clubhead comes out of the sand a couple of inches past the ball. If you take away a layer of sand under the ball, your clubhead will be covered in sand when it gets directly under the ball and the ball will be softly tossed out of the greenside bunker upon that lovely layer of soft sand. The golf ball NEVER touches the metal face of the sand wedge.
- Getting out of a greenside bunker requires a full swing. The sand absorbs a great deal of energy as the clubhead passes under the ball. You must not coast into impact when you’re coming out of a greenside bunker. You must not be afraid to take a full swing. Learn to use a full swing and take plenty of sand under the ball. The clubhead slides under the ball. The golf ball does NOT hit the metal of the clubface. You can’t be timid when you’re in a bunker. If you take a half swing at a ball in the bunker you’ll get half way out of the sand. Be firm. You can do this.
- You control distance by controlling the amount of sand you take from under the ball. The more sand you take, the slower the clubhead will be traveling when it gets to the ball. The less sand you take, the faster the clubhead will be traveling when it gets to the golf ball. Remember, never allow the metal of the clubhead to contact the golf ball. Once you begin getting out of the sand in one swing, you’ll learn to control distance better and better.
As you learn how to get out of the sand in one swing, you’ll learn how to get the ball closer and closer to the flag. There are lots of folks who know how to show you this on video but there’s no better way to learn how to get out of a greenside bunker than to take your sand wedge and a bucket of balls and go to the sand trap at the practice range. With a little work you’ll end up getting out of the sand with your first swing most of the time and you’ll break 100 more times than not.
Play Often, Have Fun, Respect the Game,
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