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3 keys for getting out of bunkers with soft sand

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One of the most infuriating things in golf is to land in a bunker that has too much sand, or sand with the consistency of a truckload of talcum power. Now, I am not picking on the Superintendents; they do have to add new sand from time-to-time, so no hate mail please! It’s my fault for hitting it in the bunker in the first place, and bunkers are supposed to be hazards; I know that.

The one thing we will assume for this article is that even though we are in soft sand, we will have a good lie, not a plugged or semi-plugged one. We are in a bunker that just has a bunch of sand, or it’s soft and fluffy sand. Everyone asks me what the secret is to handling these types of conditions and I’m here to help you get better.

1) Get a wedge with the correct bounce

Let’s consider that you play the same golf course every weekend, or that you mostly play on courses that have the same type of playing conditions mostly. When you have this luxury, you should have wedges that fit the conditions you tend to play. So, if you have a low bounce wedge with a sharp flange and you’re playing from bunkers with lots of sand, then you are putting yourself at a disadvantage.

Why alter your swing if the wedge you have can help you? Use a high bounce wedge (9-12 degrees of bounce) for soft sand, and a low bounce wedge (6-8 degrees) for firm sand.

2) Control your Angle of Attack 

As with most things in golf, there are always things that you must pay attention to in order for you to have the odds in your favor. Simple things such as paying attention to the lie you have can help you save shots in the rough. In bunkers, you cannot test the surface, however, you can use your feet to feel the density of the sand. Pay attention to what you feel in the balls of your feet. If you feel a ton of sand below you, then you know you will have to alter your angle of attack if you want any chance to get out of the bunker successfully.

So what do I mean by this?

The setting of your wrists has a very dynamic effect on how much the wedge digs in or skids through the sand (assuming you have an open face). When there is a surplus of sand, you will find that a steeper attack caused by the maximum cocking of your wrists makes it much easier for the wedge to work too vertical and dig too deep. When you dig too deep, you will lose control of the ball as there is too much sand between the blade and the ball — it will not spin as much and won’t have the distance control you normally have.

The secret to playing from softer sand is a longer and wider bunker swing with much less wrist-set than you would use on your stock bunker shot. This action stops the club from digging too deep and makes it easier for you to keep moving through the ball and achieving the distance you need.

3) Keep your pivot moving

It’s nearly impossible to keep the rotation of your shoulders going when you take too much sand at impact, and the ball comes up short in that situation every time. When you take less sand, you will have a much easier time keeping your pivot moving. This is the final key to good soft-sand bunker play.

You have made your longer and more shallow backswing and are returning to the ball not quite as steeply as you normally do which is good… now the only thing left to do is keep your rear shoulder rotating through impact and beyond. This action helps you to make a fuller finish, and one that does not lose too much speed when the club impacts the sand. If you dig too deep, you cannot keep the rear shoulder moving and your shots will consistently come up short.

So if you are in a bunker with new sand, or an abundance of sand, remember to change your bounce, adjust your angle of attack, and keep your pivot moving to have a fighting chance.

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: tom.stickney@puntamita.com

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Briny Baird

    Aug 16, 2018 at 7:57 am

    Soft sand, swing hard.

    Hard sand, swing soft.

  2. Dave r

    Aug 15, 2018 at 12:25 pm

    Your just a bright ray of sunshine aren’t you . O sh t

  3. CrashTestDummy

    Aug 15, 2018 at 12:32 am

    One of the main issues with bunker practice is very few public courses have decent practice bunkers with good sand or any practice bunkers at all. Private courses are generally the only ones with good practice bunkers.

    • O sh t

      Aug 15, 2018 at 3:30 am

      We don’t care about them cheap muni places you play

      • Tom F. Stickney II

        Aug 15, 2018 at 8:45 pm

        O—

        Find something better to do than troll a golf website. Really. Find something to do. #loser

        • Hogwash

          Aug 16, 2018 at 10:25 am

          All who use # are losers. What the heck is a hashtag, it used to be called a pound sign. Why is everything accompanied with that sign. Why can’t people just talk to each other like normal people

  4. Tom

    Aug 14, 2018 at 8:47 pm

    Would you also recommend taking less sand and hitting closer to ball out of hard stuff?

    Thanks for tips

  5. Tom

    Aug 14, 2018 at 12:42 pm

    Can you do a similar article on hard sand? I live and play in Phoenix, and most of our bunkers are hard, with minimum sand. Thanks

    • Larry

      Aug 14, 2018 at 2:24 pm

      Just putt the ball out

    • Tom F. Stickney II

      Aug 14, 2018 at 5:44 pm

      Come in a touch more shallow with less bounce and it will work for you on the hard stuff!

    • O sh t

      Aug 15, 2018 at 3:31 am

      Just chip it out

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Instruction

Stickney: 8 quick tips for better golf

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One of the biggest myths in the golf swing is that you only “rotate or turn your hips” during the transition. Of course, you must rotate them at some point but as you see Tiger here in the photo above there is a very distinct bump AS the hips begin to rotate. If you only rotate you will tend to stay on your rear foot during the downswing causing over the top transitions and poor quality impact!

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