The sand shot in golf is one of those shots that strikes fear into just about every high-handicap golfer playing the game. It is ironic that the high level and professional golfer doesn’t view the shot with any trepidation. In fact, professionals would much rather hit a golf ball from a bunker than deep rough, because they have greater control of the ball when it’s in sand. But it is necessary to know how to play this shot to have a complete golf short game.
So let’s break down the difference. First let’s mention that even though professionals are very comfortable executing the shot, statistically only a few can get up and down in two less more than 60% of the time. In other words, don’t set your expectations too high. Getting out in one and two putting should be considered success.
Next, remember the biggest difference with the sand shot as opposed to all other shots: in a green side bunker you should never hit the ball first. That goes contrary to all of our thinking on ball striking, and until you really feel confident hitting sand shots that thought process will probably work against you. So your aim should be as much as two inches behind the ball, drive the club through the sand and let the sand take the ball to the green.
It all sounds pretty simple, and there really is a lot (relative to a normal shot) of margin for error. The next step can get dicey, and that’s blasting the ball out. It really shouldn’t be thought of as finesse shot, because if you try to finesse the ball out you won’t have the force of the club head necessary to get through all that sand. Most high-handicap golfers get the club head to the sand, sense its resistance and stop. And of course the sand stays where it is, and so does the golf ball.
To make sure this never happens, make sure you remain balanced in your stance (that is why you dig your feet into the sand at set-up), and then accelerate through the sand, always finishing high. Although some instruction will say to have a square stance to the ball, for me especially on shorter shots I open my stance. This makes it easier to accelerate through the ball, as you won’t lock the hips with an open stance.
One last thing to watch out for in the sand shot and you should be good to go. That is, keep your hands leading through the ball, or in other words don’t try to flip the ball out with a wrist motion.
If you look at the sand wedge loft, you will see that it is highly lofted. When you stop your arm movement and flip the club face, the loft of the club becomes even greater, almost to the point of being level to the ground. Instead of the club face taking the sand and ball and launching everything toward the green, the face of the club knifes under the ball, leaving the ball in the sand.
This is just a starter’s course on sand play. In another article I’ll elaborate on the different types of sand shots and how they all should be played a little differently. But if you can master these points, you should always have the confidence to get out of the sand every time.