Most golfers think they know how to hit shots from the bunker using a sand wedge. However, the results indicate otherwise! Sometimes a huge cloud of sand is produced but the ball barely moves. Alternately, the ball may be hit solidly, but it flies into the lip of the bunker and then rolls back down.
Bunker shots are quite unlike other golf shots, and therefore you need to do certain things differently to be successful with your bunker play.
Here are the five key tips you need to keep in mind to hit better sand wedge shots.
- Use a wider stance than you use for other shots. Justin Rose claims that his extra wide bunker stance is the
key to his successful bunker play. The wider stance creates a flatter swing arc. The effect of this flatter arc is to lengthen the portion of the swing where the clubhead is at the perfect plane for a successful sand shot. This is important because – as will be discussed later – when you are hitting a bunker shot the clubhead should not come into contact with the ball.
- Open the face of your sand wedge, and then grip the club. Most golfers have heard the instruction to open the face of your sand wedge. Doing this enables you to use the wedge to best advantage; swinging the club in the closed position will result in the leading edge of the clubhead cutting too deeply into the sand. Note that the correct orientation is achieved by FIRST resting the clubhead on the surface in an open position and THEN applying your grip. If you apply your grip first and then open the face, your hands will tend to return to their normal position as you go through your backswing, and consequently the club face will be closed when you perform your downswing.
- Ensure that the bounce of the clubhead of your sand wedge hits the sand first. Opening the face of the club – as discussed in the previous Tip – ensures that this happens. The bounce is the bulge on the sole of the sand wedge. The club is designed such that the bounce is lower than the leading edge when the club contacts the ground during your swing. This counteracts the digging action that would otherwise result when the leading edge hits the sand. If the leading edge contacts the sand AFTER the bounce hits the surface, the clubhead slides along just below the surface of the sand, rather than digging deeply.
- Hit sand only. If the sand is the normal, soft variety, you should aim to make contact with the surface an inch or more behind the ball. The clubhead should then pass underneath the ball, coming in contact with only sand. The design of the sand wedge and all the other instructions about making a good sand shot assume that you will NOT come into direct contact with the ball.
- Accelerate the clubhead through impact. Unless your ball is positioned very close to the lip of the bunker – in which case the incline may preclude a full follow-through – you should accelerate through impact and follow through with your hands high in the air. It is this acceleration that produces the “explosion shot” that was noted when Gene Sarazen invented the sand wedge. Stopping or decelerating your swing shortly after you make contact with the sand will result in the ball being punched forward. Accelerating through impact with the sand will result in the ball popping up high.
Following these instructions will result in sand wedge shots that pop the ball high over the lip of the bunker and safely onto the green or fairway.