2008-03-14 / Sports

Golf Instruction - Play The Sand,Not The Ball

By Joel Garyn

(Garyn is a USGFT golf professional. You can contact him for lessons at 347- 404-3751.)

When you're in a greenside bunker the club should never touch the ball.

You want your wedge to toss the sand beneath and behind the ball onto the green. The ball will float out on the whoosh of sand.

You must convince yourself that the ball is an afterthought on these shots. To practice this, stand in the flat part of a practice bunker and place two tees opposite your front step.

You don't need a ball. Hinge your wrists quickly on the back swing to create an upright Path-A "V"- shaped back swing and forward swing. Swing and let your sand wedge hit about two inches behind the tees. Make a full follow through, finishing with your hands at shoulder height. You'll see that the tees have flown up and toward the target along with the sand you have sprayed.

Repeat the drill 5 times and see how high and far you can make the tees fly. Then drop a ball down and repeat that swing. With a little practice, escaping bunkers will become routine…

Buried Lies

Be sure to keep most of your weight on your back foot by digging it deeper into the sand than your front foot.

(1) Make a full backswing, then slam the club powerfully into the sand an inch or two behind your ball, as if you're trying to bury the club head.

(2) Don't expect any follow-through, just a soft rebound effect as your club emerges lazily from the sand. Meanwhile your ball and a half-cup of sand are already crossing the bunker lip on their way to the green. This works because on this shot you are accelerating the club head not decelerating it. As a result you can still displace enough sand to get the ball up and out of the bunker on an almost vertical trajectory. One last though about this type of lie - - if the ball is only halfburied, use the same technique, but close the face and don't slam the club into the sand as hard…

40-Yard Shot

I know when you are in this type of bunker you start thinking "automatic bogey." Not true- - the secret is to keep your sand wedge in your bag and use an iron with less loft and more length, then treat this shot like your would any other bunker escape.

(1) Point your toe line to the left of the flagstick and dig in less with your feet.

(2) Rotate the clubface open 45 degrees and lean the shaft away from the pin.

(3) Make your everyday bunker swing, being careful to swing the club along with your toe line, blasting through the sand like you would from a greenside bunker, take less sand and try to "skid" your club under the ball.

For a shot of 40 yards, use your 9- iron. Drop down to an 8-iron for a 50- yard shot and use a pitching wedge for a 30-yard shot…

Next week we will talk about some more difficult escape-the-sand shots - "Quick Stop" Downhill and Ball above feet and Ball below feet. Wet sand and hard sand…

Again, it is important to absorb what is written and then to practice a great deal so it becomes permanent and you don't have to mechanically think while you are executing.

Please cut out my articles and keep them in your golf bag so you can refer to them when you go to range or practice areas.

The weather is starting to change for the better, which means you will have a greater opportunity to work on your golf game. To help when you practice, I suggest you purchase a shag bag. It will save a lot of wear and tear on your back… If you have any questions, please e-mail me at itchgolf@aol.com or call.

Have a great week and take care.

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