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3 Keys to Successful Sand Play in Golf

The Fundamentals for Getting Out of Greenside Bunkers

From Marty Fleckman
Director of Instruction, BlackHorse Golf Club

Being successful out of the sand depends on three things: correct setup, proper technique and consistent point of entry.

You should use a sand wedge when playing short sand shots around the green. A sand wedge may vary from 55 to 58 degrees of loft with 8 to 12 degrees of bounce. I personally prefer a 58-degree sand wedge with 8 degrees of bounce.

sand shot basics bunker shot basics

For the correct setup, I like to draw or visualize three lines in the sand, as shown in the photos above. Each line has a specific purpose. The line going from the target to the ball and then extending beyond the ball is called the target line. The line that is about 10 degrees open to the target line is the angle of our feet or toes. Then I draw a line perpendicular to the target line originating at the ball. This represents ball position, which should be off the left heel for righthanded golfers (photo below).

3 keys to bunker shots Once you have the correct setup with the same amount of weight on each foot, the face of the club should be slightly open (photo at right). This puts loft on the ball and allows the back portion of the bottom of the club to bounce off the sand, as opposed to having the leading edge dig into the sand.

The start of the backswing (see Swing Sequence photos below) should be straight back or slightly outside the target line. There is an immediate breaking of the hands as you start this motion, producing a more vertical swing which encourages the club to enter the sand about two inches behind the ball (this is the point of entry).

What you are actually trying to do is to take as little sand as possible without contacting the ball. Allow the sand to lift the ball from the bunker. (You can work on getting a consistent point of entry with the Point of Entry Drill described here.)

As you make contact with the sand there should be a cupping of the left wrist. Let me explain "cupping." Assume you are wearing a watch on your left wrist and the face, as usual, is pointing outward. When contacting the sand on the forward swing, you should try to take the back of your left hand and move it towards your watch face, thereby creating wrinkles underneath your left wrist. This action is called "cupping of the wrist" and it is very necessary in producing quality sand shots. Since this motion prevents the club from closing, the ball is lifted in the air with backspin.

These are the three most important things regarding sand play around the greens. You don't have to be perfect to get out of a sand bunker, but you have enough of the basic principles to get started.

The Swing Sequence

These photos illustrate the swing sequence on greenside sand shots, incorporating a correct setup, proper technique and consistent point of entry.

(Click to View Larger Photos)
3 keys to sand shots

sand shot basics in golf

bunker shot basics in golf

bunker shot basics

(Click to View Larger Photos)

About the Author
Marty Fleckman is Director of Instruction at BlackHorse Golf Club in Cypress, Texas, in the Houston metropolitan area. Marty credits Byron Nelson, Carl Lohren and Jim Hardy for contributing to his success in golf. In 1964 Marty won the Texas State Amateur Championship, and followed that up in 1965 with the NCAA individual championship while playing for the University of Houston. He was a member of the United States Walker Cup team in 1967. Marty is one of only four players in the history of the PGA Tour to win in his first professional start. In 1986 he was inducted into the Texas Golf Hall of Fame. Marty is also a member of the PGA of America and the PGA Tour. Visit Marty's website for more info.

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