What is it about the sand bunker shot that scares the pants off some Golfers?
Why is it that some Golfers can just hop in the sand, look at the target, wiggle their feet into the sand and get the ball out every time? Yet some Golfers go into the sand knowing what they exactly need to do, feel like they’re doing everything correctly – yet, the ball is often left in the sand or hit on a line drive over the green into perhaps another sand bunker?
Let me put it this way – The Sand Just Freaks Some People Out
If you’re one of these Golfers that aren’t a very successful Bunker Player – it may be that you’re too focused on what you need to do correctly every time in the sand. You may be too worried about setting up with an open clubface, too stressed about whether your stance is open enough, more concerned than necessary to take the club outside on your backswing, too focused on hitting exactly two inches behind the golf ball and/or trying too hard to make sure you follow-through.
Or you might be trying to play a shot that you’re not talented enough to play. Now, that statement might upset some people because nobody likes to be called untalented. Yet, I’m not calling you untalented – I’m sure you’re talented. I’m saying that some Golfers try to play some bunker shots to flags in tough positions when they could use a slightly different PLAN that’ll allow them to be more successful.
The best Golfers I see in the sand are more focused on the target. When I say target – I’m not necessarily saying the flag. It’s more about where to land the ball so the ball will end up in the best possible position to allow you an easy next shot (be it putter or wedge).
The best Golfers I see in the sand are focused on their PLAN. And their PLAN in this case is understanding what level of Bunker Player they are. GMS has classified four Skill Levels of Bunker Play in which every Golfer falls into:
Skill Level One – “I hate the sand. I just want to get out of it. I don’t care how I get out, but I want to get out in one shot as opposed to being stuck in here for 2 or 3 shots or even worse – flying the ball across the green into the water or another sand bunker.”
Skill Level Two – “I can get out of the sand every time in just one shot. I need to become more skilled with getting the golf ball on the green every time. I do get it on the green sometimes, though not every time. And although I never have to take two shots to get out – sometimes my golf ball goes a little over the green. Which is better than when I was at Skill Level One struggling to get out after two shots. My PLAN takes into account that I’m going to get the ball much closer to the hole from just off the green than I would having to hit another Bunker Shot.”
Skill Level Three – This Skill Level is usually reserved for PGA and LPGA Tour Professionals and top Amateur Players. This is the Golfer that can get the ball out of the sand with their eyes closed. This is the Golfer that has their ball end up on the green 99.9% of the time out of the sand. This is the Golfer that has a PLAN based on getting the golf ball close to the hole. Again, Skill Level Three is exclusively for PGA and LPGA Tour Professionals along with top Amateur Players – so if you’re reading this and not on the PGA, LPGA or played in the US Amateur; please stop nodding your head saying “This is me. I’m Level Three.”
Skill Level Four – This is the Elite of the Elite. This is where the best Touring Professionals are. 50% OF THE GUYS THAT PLAYED IN THE RYDER CUP AREN’T ON SKILL LEVEL FOUR. Skill Level Four is for the Golfer that has the Skills to try and make it in the hole from the sand. Enough said about Skill Level Four.
Now the question is – What Skill Level are you? Most likely 7 out 8 people reading this should be classified as a Skill Level One or Skill Level Two Bunker Player. And the sooner that you come to grips with that – the sooner you’ll allow yourself to make the jump to the next Skill Level.
The reason I say this is — well instead, let me ask you in a question: What’s the strategy for most Golfers when they’re in a greenside sand bunker that’s located below the green on the 5th hole – with the flag located just 6 or 7 steps onto the green? What do most Golfers try to do? What do you try to do?
In my experience in watching Golfers on the golf course – the answer is: “Get it close to the hole. All I have to do is get the ball to land just over the edge of the bunker so it’ll hit the hill and trickle down to the flag.” Which many times leads us to the question – “Are you a good Bunker Player?” And this question is often responded to with a “Sometimes. Sometimes I can get it close, but sometimes it takes me 2 or 3 shots to get out. This shot for instance, this is a tough shot – I need to be very precise with it or I could end up back in the sand and wasting strokes.”
This is a self admitted Skill Level One Bunker Player that’s trying to play a Skill Level Three shot – what do you think the Result will be?
7 out of 10 Golfers fall into the Skill Level One category. There’s nothing wrong with being at this level and you can still easily break 100, 90, or 80 at this Level. You just need to know what your PLAN should be for your shot. But, because so many Golfers are playing above what they’re capable of producing 8 out of 10 times – and by having their expectations running higher than their Skill Level is capable of producing – Disaster strikes more often than one wants to think it does.
Having the PLAN of – “I Can Do It Sometimes” – leads to many Blow-up Holes! How many times have you played a Par 4 hole that measured 400 yards – hit a very good drive, then a hit a pretty good long iron that might’ve just took an unfortunate bounce into the sand (maybe your two best ball strikes of the day), then it took 2 or 3 shots to get out of the sand (or fly your first shot over the green into the water or another sand bunker) – and walked away with a 6, 7, or 8?
As opposed to, if you had just made a PLAN to play to Skill Level One – where you disregarded the flag, played to the biggest area of the green so that it you gives you the most room to work with; then either hit on the green and 2 putt for Par (or 3 putt for a Bogey, which is still better than a 6, 7 or 8). Or at very worst – had the ball roll just off the green by a few feet, wedge it back onto the green and either 1 putt for Par or 2 putt for Bogey.
It may not be as exciting as getting your first shot close and one putting – but it sure can limit the number blow-up holes you experience each round!
Golfers that struggle in the sand remind me of the kid that goes to their favorite ice cream store and sees the banana split that’s big enough to feed the offensive line of the Green Bay Packers. Not even half way through, the kid can’t eat anymore and soon starts complaining of having a tummy ache. What do we say about this kid – “His/her eyes were bigger than their stomach.”
But enough about my childhood – that’s what most Golfers are like when they get into the sand: Their eyes are bigger than their Skill Level. Or you can say that they’re trying to bite off more than they can chew. Though, if you understand how much ice cream can comfortably fit in your stomach – you’ll enjoy the experience a whole lot more.
What’s your Skill Level in the Sand Bunker? What Skill Level did you try playing to the last time you were in the sand?
The Monkey will continue to try to play at Skill Level Three or Four because they can sometimes hit it close
The Player understands that when they PLAN to their skill level, it’s amazing how much better their Sand Bunker play becomes
Go ahead, be a Player!