Afraid of the sand? Fret no more
Special to the Sun
You’re playing just above par when you hit that long drive on the 17th hole that lands in one of those nasty bunkers. The glare of the sun repels off the white sand, blinding you for an instant and reminding you that the sand frightens you.
Will you make the shot?
When playing bunker shots, keep in mind that sand bunkers are designed and intended to penalize you. Therefore, do whatever you can to make certain you expend only one shot getting the ball out of the sand.
Three variables must be considered when determining what kind of bunker shot to play.
Let the words LIE, LIP and LENGTH guide you in determining what shot is possible and how to approach it.
Start by assessing your LIE ” how the ball is sitting in the sand.
If faced with a good lie, like one that sits on fluffy sand, use your sand wedge to “splash” both the sand and the ball out of the bunker. Excessive digging causes golfers to hit too much sand, slowing the club and making it much more difficult to lift the ball.
Use your normal grip, and open the face of the club to about 2 o’clock for a right-handed golfer and 10 o’clock for a left-handed golfer. Play the ball up toward your front foot with your feet, knees, hips and shoulders parallel to your target line. Lean your sternum and weight slightly towards your target. Swing with speed, splashing the sand and thus the ball toward your target.
If faced with a bad lie, in which the ball breaks the surface of the sand or lies on some firm sand, use the sand wedge to dig through the sand. To do this, grip the club so the leading edge will be squared to the intended target line.
Unlike being faced with a good lie, with a bad lie don’t open the face of the club. Play the ball off your back foot with your feet, knees, hips and shoulders parallel to the target line. Lean your sternum and weight towards your target. This swing is slightly more aggressive and more vertical, making the club enter the sand with a more descending blow to the ball. Out of a bad lie, expect this shot to be a little lower with less spin and more roll.
Next, assess the height of the LIP of the bunker. A higher lip makes it more difficult to hit the ball out of the bunker. If the lie is bad, hitting over the lip will become even more challenging. Playing out of a sand bunker directly toward the target may not always be the most viable and practical approach. Play the percentages; you may have to play away from the high lip and be a hero with your putter once you’ve reached the green.
After assessing the LIE and the LIP, determine the LENGTH of the shot. The shot’s distance is determined by the length of your back swing. Since practice swings are not allowed in the bunker, take a few practice swings outside of the bunker establishing a feel for the length of your backswing and how far the ball will travel.
One last piece of advice: Whether you’re hitting a bunker shot or driving the ball, you will improve if you play to your strengths and practice to overcome your weaknesses!
Brian Floriani is the Director of Instruction at the Golf Digest School at Old Greenwood, which is a Tahoe Mountain Resorts golf course community. For more information regarding the Golf Digest School at Old Greenwood, visit them online at http://www.golfdigestschool.com or call 550-2670.
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