What to Do When You Land in a Greenside Bunker (Besides Swear)
San Jose golf courses don’t boast beachfront property like some other golf regions of California, but that doesn’t mean players can’t still get plenty sandy. Greenside bunkers are, of course, one of the most common hazards on any golf course, so knowing how to escape one comes in handy whether you’re teeing up at Pebble Beach or San Jose Municipal Golf Course. Read on to learn the basic technique behind snagging sand saves.
Choose the Right Equipment
To escape the grainy clutches of a greenside bunker, players typically pull out one of the wedges in their bag—a standard sand wedge has 56 degrees of loft, but some may prefer to simply use their most lofted club. Anything from a pitching wedge to a lob wedge (usually 60 degrees or more) can be used effectively.
Address the Ball
Inside the bunker, take an open stance and give yourself a firm base. Some golfers really dig their feet into the sand to keep from slipping or twisting, though this may not always be necessary. Once you’ve got a good setup, rotate the club to open up the clubface, in effect increasing its loft.
While setup is important, it’s the swing itself that makes the sand shot truly unique. The sand trap is the only place on the course in which the ball shouldn’t be the first thing your club strikes on the downswing. Instead, aim 1–3 inches behind the ball and take as much sand as is appropriate for the shot—this is where practice, the situation, and even the sand itself really come into play. The goal is to lift the ball out of the bunker on a pillow of sand and have it land softly on the green. Feel free to take a three-quarters swing; due to the resistance from the sand, a swing that would normally produce a 40- to 50-yard shot will only launch the ball 15 to 20 feet.
A Word About the Rules
Rules forbid golfers from “grounding” their club (or touching any part of the sand) in a bunker before making their actual swing, so keep that in mind as you make any practice motions.
Remember to Rake
Raking sand traps is one of the most important things golfers can do to leave the course the way they found it—a major part of golf etiquette. After hitting the ball out of the bunker, grab one of the nearby rakes and rake away the evidence of your having been there, including footprints and the divot left by the club. Pro tip: don’t take your golf bag into the trap; that will only make for a wider area to clean up with a rake when you’re done.