Whether you are a scratch golfer or a weekend warrior, very few people enjoy hitting out of the sand trap. Every golf course has sand traps or bunkers on many of the holes. It is an aspect of the game that keeps things interesting. Playing a round without landing in the “Kitty Box” typically means your game was on point that day.
Most of us however, will see our ball land or end up in the sand trap at one point during our round. If you’re like me, you may have played a hole that has 5 sand traps on it and you end up finding yourself in 4 out of the 5 on the same hole. This happened to me and let me tell you I really had to hold back from breaking every single one of my clubs in half!
Hopefully you never have to experience something like this, but all of us struggle in some way when it comes to being consistently successful trying to get up and down in one stroke. Below are a few of my thoughts on how you can approach these types of obstacles with confidence.
Sand Traps are Focus Wrecking Events
Sand Traps, Bunkers, The Kitty Box, or the Beach. Whatever it is that you call that sandy hole in the ground that seems to attract your ball no matter which way you aim before you hit it, is there for one reason and one reason only, to totally wreck the focus of your game!
As I walk up to the tee box and look at the hole before me, I am looking to find the shortest and safest path to the hole. When I look down range and see the two offset fairway bunkers that are blocking my clear path to the green, my first thought is “OH GREAT!! Now all I am thinking about is trying not to hit my ball into those stroke killers”.
This is probably the hardest thing to overcome in the game. If you are not mentally prepared to handle the game one stroke at a time, You will always find your self digging a hole in those traps trying to get out. You have to find a way to leave the bad shots behind you and focus on the good ones.
Here are a few tips you can try:
- Have a pregame strategy – Take a look at the course before you play it. Think about which club is best on which hole. Knowing how far it is to those dreaded bunkers will help you determine before you even get to the hole which club is best for your success.
- Visualize your shots – Don’t worry about where the ball is sitting or how deep it is in the sand. You have the club and the ability to take that ball wherever it is and get a clean shot out of the trap. You need to visualize the club striking the spot in the sand just before the ball and watching it sail out of that bunker to safety. I would even take a 3rd person view of how this should go. How many times have you watched a buddy hitting out of the sand trap? Take a moment see yourself in that spot.
- Don’t overthink it – Ok yes, you’ve landed in the sand trap, but in reality I have found that sometimes it is a better lie than being in the rough or rolling up to the back of a tree. There are always worse spots for your ball to end up. Just allow the game to come to you.
Once you have your mind right it is time to move on to the mechanics of the shot. I am always shocked at much I love to practice putting but always seem to brush off that sand trap practice next to the green. Let’s get into the physical things you can do to successfully hit your ball out of that bunker you just plugged into.
Pick the Right Club and Assume the Position
As you approach the sand trap, you are running through the mental exercises noted above. Pulling next to the bunker you start thinking about how you are going to step into the sand and what your shot will look like coming out if this box.
At this point you will find that there is quite a bit of debate on which club is the best tool for hitting out of the sand trap you are stuck in. For me, I have used a “Master Grip Great Escape” for getting out of every trap I have found myself in. It is a very inexpensive club that is more of a Sand Wedge for Dummies. Using this club you pretty much just swing like a normal wedge and it will get you out every time. However, another favorite is the Cleveland CBX Sand Wedge which is on sale over at Amazon or the Callaway Mack Daddy 4 W Grind Sand Wedge.
Whichever club you decide to use, you will want to make sure that your approach and position at the ball is extremely important if you are to be successful in hitting out of the sand trap. You want to be careful not to disturb your lie. Your stance is like any other golf shot, you need to have solid footing, so you will want to make sure and work your feet into the sand a bit so that you do not slip your feet during the shot.
Make sure you are square as possible to the ball. Do not take a practice swing as that will count as a penalty stroke and of course could disturb the lie of your ball.
Visually you need to pick the spot where you want your ball to land. If you are around the green, you need to focus on your landing zone to get close to the hole, if you are in the fairway you will want to possibly pick a different club so that you can get a bit more distance out of your shot. Either way you want to pick a spot to hit to.
When I hit out of the sand I make sure that as I swing the club, I want to be standing more on the balls of my feet than the heels. I also want to make sure that as I swing through I will make sure that as I twist through my back swing I rotate my body over my forward leg.(If you are right-handed you will rotate most of your swing over your left leg and of course the opposite is the case if your are a left-handed golfer). This allows me to counteract the pull of the sand which can cause you to dip your back shoulder and hit off of the toe of the club.
Time to Hit the Ball with Confidence
So you are now mentally prepared for the shot you are going to make. You have the club you will use. You have your stance and position to the ball figured out. The only thing left to do is to hit the ball. This particular golf shot is not typically one of finesse. You need to aim about 1 inch behind the ball and take a full swing. If you baby this shot you will hit the lip of the bunker and the ball will just roll back to where it was before you hit it.
So take aim, and give it a full swing. I know it feels counter-intuitive but it is the best practice. The angle of the club and the cleanness of contact is what determines the distance that the ball flies.
Practice, Practice and Practice Some More
I am sure you will find that the first few times you try this approach you will see differing results. The idea here is to make sure you actually go to the driving range or golf course and practice this shot. We all love to go to the driving range and bring out the big guns, however, in this case we need to maybe just bring your sand wedge and a putter with a sleeve of balls to work with.
It would probably be a good idea to call your local golf course and ask if they have a practice bunker. Or you can check out the practice putting green and look for the practice bunker that should be close by. I would recommend some good music and headphones if it is not too busy around you, randomly tossing the balls you brought with you into the bunker and plan on working through the steps listed above.
After a few hours of practice you need to make sure you keep up a good routine of playing regularly this way you can regularly apply your new-found skills.
Show off Your New Found Skills
The next time you are with your buddies, and they are talking smack about the fact that you just plugged into that bunker left of the green. You will probably hear things like “Did you bring your flip-flops for the beach?” or “Wow that Sand Wedge gets more use than your putter!”. Just smile and say “Yeah, I sure hope I can get up and down in one”, (secretly smiling that you are about to show them the best shot they have ever seen of someone hitting out of a sand trap).
Putting these new-found skills to use will definitely take some strokes off of your game! Hopefully you do not end up in the sand very often but when you do, if you use these skills you will find yourself hitting that shot with confidence every time!
May your drives be long and your putts short!