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Surviving a Greenside Bunker: Splashing in the Sand
Sand bunkers can be intimidating obstacles, but they can be conquered easily with the right technique. Read on to learn the basic technique behind snagging sand saves.
Perhaps because it’s alternatively referred to as a “sand trap,” the sand bunker can be one of the most harrowing features on a golf course. But the method of escaping from a bunker is much easier than diving into a pool of quicksand to unplug the drain. To escape the grainy clutches of a greenside bunker, players typically snag 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. Then it's time to descend into the bunker. (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.)
Once inside, take an open stance and rotate the club to open up the clubface, in effect increasing its loft. Though these adjustments may feel a little unusual, 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 three inches behind the ball and attempt to take a scoop of sand that will jettison the ball as it splashes. 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. Another word of caution: 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.