Do you instinctively reach for the sand wedge any time you’re in a greenside bunker? If so, you could be costing yourself strokes.
With its loft, typically 56°, and the bounce on its sole, the sand wedge is really designed for shorter sand shots – 50 feet or less, generally speaking – when you need to get the ball up and stop it quickly. For longer bunker shots where there’s plenty of green between you and the hole, it’s better to take less sand and hit the ball lower, with less spin, so that it rolls forward after landing.
Depending on the length of the shot and the height of the lip you must clear, anything from a gap wedge to an 8-iron might be your best option. In fact, when facing a very low lip with firm sand beneath the ball, some golfers will adopt a chipping style to get the ball out.
Check the bounce on your sand wedge, which should be printed somewhere on the clubhead. A wedge with a high degree of bounce (12-16°) works well from soft sand, but will literally bounce off a compacted surface. If you carry a high-bounce wedge, consider a different club when bunker conditions are firm (after rain, for example). If you need extra height on the shot, simply open your stance and the clubface of your lob wedge, gap or pitching wedge a bit more than usual.
Consider eschewing the sand wedge from a buried lie, too, as the thinner blade of a gap or pitching wedge will slice more cleanly into the sand.