Bunker Fears? Smooth it Out!

Kim Anders
Director of Instruction
John Jacobs Golf Schools and Academies Estrella del Mar Golf and Beach Resort
Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico, AZ

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Are you one of those people that have trouble getting out of bunkers? Personally, I would much rather have a shot from the sand by the green than try to slash it out of the rough or pick it off a tight lie next to the green. Those are tough shots, much harder than splashing the ball off a clean lie in the sand.   

The problem is, somewhere back in golf history, bunkers (or “sand traps” as some like to call them) got a bad name. And, now after generations of play, we have convinced not only ourselves but our children, wives, and many of our friends, that playing out of the sand is difficult.   

Most of the difficulty comes from taking too short of a backswing. You take the club back about waist high, just as you would for a shot of the same distance off grass. Then, as you start the downswing, you realize you are never going to be able to generate enough clubhead speed to get the club through the sand and propel the ball out of the bunker. So, what do you do? You do whatever it takes in order to get the club to go from 0 to real fast in about 3 feet. Most of us know this is impossible but we still try by doing something involving a lot of muscle contracting in the hands, forearms, and buttocks.  

Let’s keep it simple. To start with, don’t worry about which foot you have 60 some percent of your weight on, or having the face of the club open 45 degrees, or having a quick wrist cock going back, or swinging from the outside across your body, or having the club enter the sand 1 inch behind the ball, or...you get the picture. For the standard bunker shot your normal swing will work fine. 

Take your sand wedge into the practice bunker and make a few full swings and feel like you are practically throwing the club into the sand WITH YOUR NORMAL SWING. If you have firm bunkers or the sand is wet, don’t open the face of the club much. A sand wedge is designed to bounce when it strikes the sand – you don’t want bounce when the sand is firm because you will end up sculling the ball across the green. If the sand is soft and fluffy, open the club up so it doesn’t dig into the sand – the bounce built into the club will keep the club from going too deep into the sand.

When you get the feel of the club “splashing” through the sand instead of digging into the sand, while using a long smooth swing, you are ready to use a ball. Same technique, just let the club do the work for you. The key is to keep your head still and use a long smooth swing!!  Once you start to trust the idea that your sand wedge will get the ball out of the bunker you’ll find you start looking at the sand as the preferred bail out spot because you know it’s easier to play from than the grassy areas near the green.

Kim Anders is Director of Golf at Estrella del Mar Golf & Beach Resort in Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico. You can reach Kim via email at Kanders@estrelladelmar.com or
call 1.888.587.0609, Ext. 3010. Find out more about the golf resort by visiting www.estrelladelmar.com.