Often the shot most feared by the higher handicap amateur. This need not be the case. It is the only shot in the game where you don’t hit the ball at all. Hitting behind the ball off the tee or from the fairway usually produces undesirable results but in the sand that is precisely your objective.
When you’re stuck in a green-side bunker, the key is getting yourself out of that trouble and onto the green in as few strokes as possible. While you are learning it may well take you more than one attempt to get the ball on the green. Don’t be disheartened – even professional golfers sometimes don’t get out in one stroke, especially if they’re trying to be too cute.
There’s the basic sand shot for those lucky ones who have a good lie in the sand. First, you need to use the most lofted club you have. This is usually the sand iron. The idea is to open the club face to the right and aim your feet left so that the two average out to your intended landing area.
You need to make a steep swing and hit down about an inch or two behind the ball. The sand is what forces the ball out of the bunker once the club head makes contact. The key here is to finish the swing completely. Many amateurs fail with this shot because they quit on the stroke. Practice swinging through the ball just like you do with the driver off the tee.
For those who are unfortunate and walk up to their ball greeted with a “fried egg lie” or buried lie, there is still a way to get it on the green. When the ball is buried, the club has an extremely slim chance of scooping underneath the ball.
This unlucky lie causes the ball to have very little lift and spin. First, take your most lofted club and address the ball closing the club face and aligning your body as before. This will ensure that the toe of the club will dig through the sand better and make the ball pop out.
Take your normal steep swing as you would with any other sand shot and follow through. The ball’s result tends to be low and have a lot of roll. There is no need for a huge swing, just enough to get it out onto the green.
It’s important to use your highest lofted club – a sand wedge, as opposed to a pitching wedge – because that has the best chance of getting out and creating a little more spin, which will make the ball bite near the pin. The sand wedge has a wide sole designed to bounce through the sand rather than digging in so for best results always use the club that was designed for bunker shots.
Spend some time in the practice bunker at your course. Focus on making a complete swing through the ball. When that becomes second nature you can then adjust the length of your back swing according to the distance you need the ball to fly. By mastering any of these kinds of challenging sand shots, the next time you’re in the bunker, you won’t have to hesitate, just hit the shot you’ve been practicing.
Remember as Gary Player once said: “The more I practice the luckier I get”.