Professional golfers sure make sand shots look easy, don’t they? Then why do amateurs struggle so mightily just to get the ball out of bunkers, let alone knock it close?

Several common mistakes plague the average player’s sand game. Primary examples include:

  • Decelerating on the downswing.
  • Trying to lift the ball up and out by flipping the hands.
  • Failure to rotate the body through the shot.
  • Leaving weight on the back foot.

Now let’s go through some quick cures for each cause:

    leaving bunker shots 1

  • Deceleration – swing through the shot: When we’re afraid, we get tentative. In a bunker, this translates into a swing that’s actually slowing down as the club approaches the ball. As long as you hit 2-3 inches behind it, there’s nothing to fear. Keep your eye on a spot behind the ball and smack it with your wedge, making a follow through that matches the length of your backswing. Remember, the only thing to fear is leaving the ball in the bunker.
  • leaving bunker shots 2

  • Flipping the hands – hold clubface open on follow-through: When you try to lift the ball with your wrists, you’re more likely to scoop it weakly or hit it thin. Prevent this flipping action by keeping your left wrist firm through impact and into the follow-through, with the clubface pointing up.
  • leaving bunker shots 3

  • Failure to rotate – use your big muscles: While you typically want to limit lower-body action in the sand, using an arms-only swing is a recipe for disaster. Turn your body back and through the shot, with your chest facing the target at the finish.
  • Poor weight transfer – better setup balance: Another way golfers try to lift the ball is by placing more weight on their right side and leaving it there as they swing. This moves the bottom of your swing arc (where the club enters the sand) too far behind the ball. At address, your weight should be evenly balanced across the feet, or slightly favoring your left side. It should shift very little going back and through.