If there’s one place on the golf course that I have seen more people consistently struggle than anywhere else – it has to be the sand bunker. At GMS we have defined 4 Levels of Sand Bunker Players. And have found that once a Golfer knows their Level, understands why they’re at that Level and then starts implementing strategies to get to the next Level – they start to become more consistent out of the sand.
Though, before we get into to those Levels, you often see 3 types of Golfers in the sand – a Golfer that gets it out without any problem; a Golfer that can get it out sometimes, but struggle other times; and then you have the Golfer that would rather use the infamous “Hand Wedge” to get it out because they can’t do it with their sand wedge.
So if you’re the Golfer that has no problem getting the golf ball out of the sand (without using your “Hand Wedge”), you might find the following paragraphs ‘useless’. Though, when you think about it – just because you get it out every time, doesn’t mean you get it out “good” every time. That’s why we came up with the 4 Levels of Bunker Players.
Level 1 – “I hate the sand. I can hardly ever get out”
Level 2 – “I can get it out once-in-a-while, though sometimes when it goes out – it goes way over the green.”
Level 3 – “I have no problem getting the golf ball out of the sand and getting it on the green (I do that 10 out of 10 times), I want to get it close enough to make the putt.”
Level 4 – “I have the ability to try to hole just about every bunker shot.”
Where the problem lies with most Golfers is that in reality – most Golfers are in Level 1, with Level 2 running a distant second. Once you get to Level 3 – you’re starting to talk about a group that’s pretty much exclusive to PGA and LPGA Tour Players, along with zero handicaps. We haven’t seen many 18 handicaps (or 5 handicaps for that matter) that are Level 3 Bunker Players.
However, there are many golf techniques that many Golfers have heard and/or tried that could be making the sand tougher for you than it needs to be.
And Lord knows that there are as many different techniques employed in swinging a golf club to hit the golf ball out of the sand as their different flavors of Frappuccino’s at Starbucks. So to say that there’s only one way to swing the golf club to get the golf ball out of the sand would be ludicrous and/or an unintelligent thing to say.
Trust me when I say that I can relate to many Golfers that struggle out of the sand. Years ago I used to struggle out of the sand like you wouldn’t believe. I could hit greens pretty well, yet if I missed a green and landed in a green-side bunker – whoever I was playing against would instantly see dollar signs. I could hit 14 greens in a round, hitting 3 of those missed greens into the sand bunker and score much higher than you would think someone hitting 14 greens should score.
I’d leave my first shot in the bunker, second shot would fly over the green into the other bunker, two to get out of there and then because I was so flustered – three putt. And end up taking a 9 on a Par 4 – sometimes, two or three times a round. So if you struggle out of the bunker – trust me – I know your pain!
However, after much practice and experimentation – I was able to figure some things out. And some of what I figured out was that many of the golf techniques I was taught and read about – actually made it more difficult to get out of the sand than it needed to be.
First – One of the worst things that you can try to do is to intentionally try to hit or blast the sand. Yes, you do need to hit the sand before you hit the golf ball. Though, it was beaten into my thick head – that you need to hit the sand. “Hit the sand.” “Make sure you hit the sand.” “Feel like you’re throwing the sand onto the green.” “Make The Sand Explode.” “Blah, blah, blah, blah.”
Again, yes, you do need to have your club hit the sand – but the tip of “you need to hit the sand” and the way it’s often described has caused many Golfers to end up digging too deep. Which would cause you to hit a shot that doesn’t get out of the sand and that will possibly roll back to your feet. Which means that your next shot is going to be a line drive over the green. So the question you might have is – “well, then how much sand should I hit?”
That’s a great question.
In the GMS Survey we send to all Golfers that come to see us – it’s almost unanimous amongst our Golfers as far as if they improved and simplified their sand shots. Why is that? What do we do that makes it so much simpler?
Instead of thinking of all the Sand Shot Junk that has been pumped up to become the “How To Get Out Of The Sand Gospel” – we just have you make a golf swing like any other golf swing. Though, you do need to move your ball position slightly. But the good news is that there’s no opening up your clubface. There’s no having to open up your stance. There’s none of that swinging outside the line on your back swing mumbo jumbo. There’s none of that or any of the other stuff that’s often involved with making getting out of the sand more difficult than it needs to be.
All you need to do is make your golf swing – the golf swing that you would make on any iron shot. But, because you’re moving the golf ball more forward in your stance (as opposed to when it’s on the grass), you’ll end up automatically hitting the sand first – and allowing the sand to knock the ball out. As opposed to deliberately trying to hit the sand or blast it out or blah, blah, blah, blah.
Just make sure you move your body like you would on any other golf shot. Don’t be the Golfer that’s just all arms and doesn’t move their body. Why do these Golfers become all arms? Because they’re told to hit the sand. So what do they do? They lift the club up with their arms and then throw their arms down towards the sand because they want to hit it. And boy, they do hit the sand. Which has an influence on how you swing on your next shot. Because you don’t want to take too much sand on this next shot – you compensate somewhere in your golf swing (to avoid hitting too much sand) and hit the golf ball first.
“Fore, over the green!”
Trust me – in 1994 I was the worst Sand Bunker Player on the Planet. So I know how many of you feel about the sand. I hated the sand. Yet, now it’s not a big deal. It’s just like hitting an iron from the grass just off the green.
Next week – we may continue with the story of how to become a much better Sand Bunker Player by getting into the 4 Levels Of Bunker Players. You won’t believe how much more effective you can become out of the sand once you understand your Level and then learning to play to that Level. I have seen Golfers that have practiced sand shots for years that are still Level 1 Sand Players. However, I have met and worked with some Golfers that were almost as bad as I was in 1994 that quickly became Level 2 Sand Bunker Players by using the GMS way out of the sand while combining the concept of understanding their Level of Sand Play.The Monkey is trying to hit the sandThe Player hits the sand using their normal golf swingGo ahead, be a Player!
Marc Solomon – Your Instructor For Life