Simply escaping the sand is a mission for some but what if you could master three different distances from any greenside trap?
By Alex Riggs
The bunker shot is one many amateurs find difficult to conceptualise. For most sand escapes, you need to make a swing that has enough speed to hit the ball three to four times further than the flag (compared to the feeling for a shot played from grass). You’re also trying to hit it fat intentionally and finally you want to scoop the shot through impact, all kryptonite to most normal short game thinking.
I tell higher handicappers that their objective from the sand must be to escape first and hit the green second. Only once they’re 99% sure both those objectives will be achieved should they even consider firing at flags.
To get it close you have to judge distance and I’ve developed a simple method for short, medium and long sand shots by controlling the length of my arm swing.
For starters, you need to remember the bunker fundamentals as ever – think a wide stance, more knee bend than normal, hands low, ball position forward in the stance, wrist hinge going back and re-hinge going through. All you need to do then is practice varying the backswing length as I am here at Al Zorah G.C.
Always feel an aggressive acceleration through the ball, even on the short shot. By shortening the backswing, you will limit the resultant club head speed and by lengthening the backswing, you will increase it. The key is to practice the three different length backswings so that you can decide on call which one any given shot demands.
You will also find out the maximum distance for your sand wedge with a splash technique. This is important as shots that are further than that yardage may require a gap wedge or a different style of shot altogether.
Get the fundamentals right and then practice three different length swings. It’s an effective way to have options when you find yourself needing to get up and down from a greenside trap to save par. Good luck with the putt. —with Kent Gray