Sand traps eventually get us all at one point. We stand in them looking out feeling helpless at times because we are completely clueless on how to go about executing a shot. Don’t want to leave the golf ball short and have it remain in the sand trap or hit it too far and have it fly over the green.
Now there are normally two separate situations when in a bunker or sand trap. Firstly are the fairway bunkers where you still have a good distance to the green where you are hitting a full or near full shot. These are easier to handle than the green side bunkers. To execute these golf shots you have to hit the golf ball clean. This is a must — NO fat shots. A fat shot will most likely get you out of the fairway bunker but it will probably sputter forward about 50 yards. At least your out? No. To hit a clean shot you must have a good golf swing where you take proper divots — a golf swing where you hit the ball before you hit the ground, which is how nearly (except green side bunkers) all golf shots should be. That is the bottom line for fairway bunkers: clean shot.
Now for green side sand traps where you are close to a green and possibly a pin and you need to get up and down. These golf shots take a lot more deftness. The secret to hitting the golf ball out is using the golf club properly. As you can see the bounce of the golf club is the angle between the ground and the leading edge of the golf club. Depending on the degree of the bounce the club will easily or not so easily dig into the sand. Clubs with more bounce are designed to help golfers keep from digging too deep into the sand when playing from a sand trap.
When hitting out of soft sand near a green there is one technique that works best. It is to try and hit a dollar bill sized divot into the sand. The beginning of the divot should start about 1.5 inches before the golf ball. You want to effectively “splash” a handful of sand out of the bunker carrying the golf ball with it onto the green. It is in the soft sand where a wedge with bounce will help. It will keep you from hitting too far into the sand killing your momentum and leaving the ball in the sand trap. You want a divot deep enough that after a dollar bill sized divot is taken it moves enough sand that would fit in just over a handful. This is best practiced before trying. You want to adjust the speed and angle into the golf ball to determine what works best for your golf swing and wedges. Also try experimenting with opening the club face way open too. This will help get lift on the shot to get out of deep bunkers or to help it land softly and not roll too far. Another thing that can help to hit before the golf ball is to let your hands and wrists release early sending your club head ahead of your hands and into the sand.
When playing out of hard sand it is important to not use a club with too much bounce because you’ll end up doing just that — bouncing, over the golf ball and topping it badly. You may want to take an alternative approach like running it out of the bunker or gambling on the shot because your margin for error is very small.
Remember: with soft, fluffy sand more bounce will help, with hard sand less bounce will help. Go for a dollar bill sized divot in the soft sand that starts about 1.5 inches before the golf ball.
Practice these techniques and you will be well on your way to adding more sand saves to your golf game.