Reaching for the sand wedge when hitting from bunkers might not always be the best option.

When Should You Avoid The Golf Sand Wedge In The Bunker A

There are occasions when the sand wedge should be left in the bag and other weapons should be selected.

Fairway bunker shots

Many golfers feel they need to hit a sand wedge from fairway bunkers to be safe and get the ball back into play. But the best golfers know how to alter their set up and clubs to achieve their goals. When playing out of fairway bunkers, players can use this technique to help hit clubs with lower lofts and attack pins.

1. Grip the club more tightly with the back two fingers of the left hand (for right handed golfers). This will stop the club face rolling shut at impact. Players should also hold the club a little further down the grip; this will help pick the ball clean off the sand. The golfer needs to hit the ball first.

2. Players should shuffle their feet into the sand to avoid slipping.

3. Golfers should play the ball further back in the stance to ensure a clean contact, this will give a lower ball flight.

4. The swing goal should be to nip the ball from the surface. Golfers need to ensure no sand is caught between the club and ball; this could dramatically reduce distance achievable.

Long greenside bunker shots

Longer greenside bunker shots can be tackled by golfers using a solid technique, different lofts and different swings. The technique below adapts a normal bunker set up and swing to hit the ball further.

1. Rather than holding the club face open, grip as normal.

2. Place the grip high on the handle to aid acceleration through the ball.

3. Place the ball in the middle of the stance and move the body weight slightly forward on to the front foot which will help the golfer drive through the sand.

4. Hinge the wrists upwards and swing quickly through the sand entering an inch behind the ball.

5. By not opening the club face, the ball will come out a little lower but with more distance and backspin.

On these longer greenside bunker shots, different clubs can be experimented with. Rather than a sand wedge, players can use a gap wedge or pitching wedge. These clubs have less bounce and less loft meaning they will take off from the sand on a lower trajectory, they will ,however, go further meaning the golfer won't have to hit the ball so hard.

Under the lip lob wedge shots

Sometimes an approach shot into a green gets lodged underneath the lip of a bunker. This can be one of the most difficult shots to master. The first thing players must do is judge if the shot is playable at all, or if the safer course of action would be to play out sideways. However, if the golfer possesses a lob wedge, the extra loft could help get the ball up and on to the green. Players can use the following technique if stuck underneath the lip of a bunker.

1. Open the blade of the lob wedge until the club face is almost pointing at the sky. This will increase the amount of loft on the club.

2. After opening up the club face, take a grip on the club.

3. Open up the body so it points left of the target (for a right handed golfer) but keep the club face open and pointing right of the target. This will keep the club face open through impact and increase the height of the ball.

4. Shuffle the feet deep into the sand. This will reduce the golfers overall height so they should hold the club further down the shaft.

5. Place the ball just forward of centre in the stance and hinge the wrists quickly during the backswing. This will help slide the club quickly under the ball.

6. It's important to keep up acceleration though the ball. The added speed and open club face will get the ball up very quickly.

So when faced with different lengths and lies in bunkers, golfers don't need to automatically reach for the sand wedge, they should experiment with different techniques and clubs to find the correct method.

When Should You Avoid the Golf Sand Wedge in the Bunker?

When Should You Avoid the Golf Sand Wedge in the Bunker?

For a beginning golfer, picking clubs can be one of the biggest challenges faced on the course. How do you know which club to use at what time? You probably know that you should use the driver off the tee most of the time, and obviously you will use the putter when on the green. But otherwise, this can be an intimidating thing to figure out. And, the names of the clubs don't exactly help. What does it mean to use a five iron, or a seven iron? Those names don't seem to correlate with anything specific.

The exception, of course, is the sand wedge. The purpose of the club is right there in the title. It is called a sand wedge, and it is meant for use in the sand. While this club can actually be used for other things as well, it is appropriately named, and a great choice when you have to play out of a greenside bunker. For the standard greenside bunker explosion shot, you can simply reach for your sand wedge and get to work. In a game which is far from simple, this little bit of simplicity should be appreciated.

Unfortunately, this topic doesn't remain simple for long. Yes, a sand wedge is a great choice when you have a 'standard' bunker shot in front of you, but that isn't always going to be the case. If something is making this shot a little more challenging – like a bad lie, poor conditions, an awkward yardage, etc. – you will need to consider altering your club selection. Despite its name, the sand wedge is not always the best choice for the job. There are other clubs in your bag which are capable of playing quality sand shots, depending on the circumstances at hand.

In this article, we are going to take a look at how you can alter your club selection in the bunker to give yourself the best possible chance at success. You should still consider your sand wedge to be the default option when in a trap, but you should keep your mind open to other possibilities when the time is right. Just like playing any other shot around the course, club selection is key in this situation. Using the right club, along with the right swing, will give you a chance to reach a great result.

All of the content below is based on a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.

A Long List of Variables

A Long List of Variables

Most of the time, you will wind up with what would be considered a standard bunker shot when you venture into the sand. You will draw a good lie with the ball sitting on top of the sand, there will be plenty of fluffy sand beneath the ball, and the ground under your feet will be relatively flat. Also, you won't have to carry too much distance to get the ball to the hole. When you do draw this kind of setting, you can trust your sand wedge to do the job.

But what if you don't wind up facing a standard shot? When something changes, you need to adapt quickly and make a smart decision before making a swing. The following list includes a number of elements to watch for in the bunker.

  • Hard-packed sand. This is probably the most common adverse condition you will find in a bunker, and it is one of the most difficult to deal with. Since you won't be able to slide your sand wedge through fluffy sand and under the ball in this scenario, you are going to have to come up with a different kind of shot. If you were to stubbornly try to hit a standard bunker shot in this situation, the club would likely bounce off the top of the sand and the leading edge would collide with the ball. This kind of miss only leads to two outcomes – either the ball shoots directly into the face of the bunker in front of you, or it clears the lip and soars well over the target and into the distance. Either way, the outcome is not a good one. Whenever you are dealing with hard-packed sand on a greenside bunker shot, you need to accept that a traditional blast is not going to do the job.
  • A bad lie. Most of the time, drawing a bad lie in the sand means that the ball has plugged. It has come down into the bunker from a considerable height, and it has basically come to rest in its own hole. It is hard to get down to the ball in this situation, and this kind of shot typically comes out of the bunker with very little spin. Unlike the circumstance above, you can consider still playing your explosion shot here, but you shouldn't expect the same results as you get from a good lie. In addition to a plugged ball, you also may occasionally wind up in a footprint when another player fails to rake up the bunker. Depending on the specifics of this kind of lie, you might have trouble even getting the ball out of the sand at all.
  • Ball resting on a severe slope. This is a situation that is typically not discussed when talking about the bunker game. When your ball stops on a steep slope in the sand – which it is more likely to do in the sand than it is on the fairway – you will have trouble playing your usual shot. Sure, you can try to hit an explosion shot in this spot, but you may have trouble lofting the ball out of the trap as you could from a flat lie. When the ball stops near the back of the bunker, you will usually have a downhill lie, while the opposite will be true up near the front of the trap.
  • An awkward distance. What would be considered a 'standard' bunker shot would be played somewhere from 10 – 25 yards from the target (roughly). If you have to hit a greenside bunker shot which is longer than that, you are going to venture out into the awkward distance range that can be tough to handle. Hitting the ball far enough to reach the target from this kind of distance requires a big swing, and you will have very little margin for error. Even the pros struggle in this spot, so don't expect great results with your typical method. You may have to go to another type of technique if you hope to succeed with this shot.

The scariest part of any bunker shot is walking up to the trap to see what you are dealing with. You can draw a great lie which leads to an easy shot, or you can wind up in a terrible spot which leaves you almost no hope for an up and down. It is largely up to the luck of the draw as to what kind of situation you find yourself in when it comes to bunker play.

If you do find that you have drawn a bad lie or another difficult scenario, it is best if you have other options you can turn to besides a standard blast with a sand wedge. By preparing yourself with at least a couple other kinds of shots, you will be able to pick the best available option based on the circumstances you face.

Three Other Options

Three Other Options

So, if you aren't going to use your sand wedge for a given bunker shot, which club should you use? There are three options that most amateur golfers already have in the bag – the pitching wedge, the gap wedge, and the lob wedge. Each of these clubs is capable of hitting a good bunker shot in the right situation. As you might expect, you won't be able to simply use your standard explosion shot technique for all of these different shots, so there will be plenty of prep required. Use the information below to gain a better understanding of how these shots work.

  • Pitching wedge. When you decide to use the pitching wedge out of the sand, you do so because you have the space needed to hit a lower-than-usual shot. For instance, it is a great idea to turn to your pitching wedge when facing a long bunker shot as described above. For a bunker shot of 30-40 yards, you can use your pitching wedge and make a compact chipping swing to send the ball toward the hole. This will only work, however, if you have a low lip in front of you and a decent lie. Rather than trying to hit the sand before the ball, you will be playing this kind of shot in the same way you play your chip shots from the grass. You will try to hit the ball first before swinging the club down into the sand. When executed correctly, the ball comes out quick and has a lot of spin. After one or two bounces, the ball will settle down – hopefully within short range of the hole.
  • Gap wedge. As you probably know, the gap wedge is a club which usually has somewhere around 52* of loft. That places it in between the pitching wedge and the sand wedge. A gap wedge can actually stand in for a sand wedge in many cases, and some golfers even prefer to play most of their sand shots with this club. The best time to reach for a gap wedge is when you need just a little extra distance as compared to your normal explosion shot. For instance, if you are in a greenside bunker but the hole is located all the way on the other side of the green, the gap wedge may be a smart pick. Or, if the shot is uphill all the way, using a gap wedge could lead to a lower flight and a big bounce. You can also use a gap wedge to chip the ball off the top of hard-packed sand when your explosion shot is not really an option.
  • Lob wedge. Not surprisingly, you want to use your lob wedge for sand shots when it is imperative to get the ball up and out of the trap as fast as possible. This will usually be the case when you are playing from up close to the front slope of the trap. The lob wedge is the highest-lofted club you have in the bag, so take advantage of what it offers and use it to get out when you don't think a regular sand wedge would offer enough height. Ironically, you can use a lob wedge from the back of the bunker just as effectively as you can use it from the front. When you find your ball on a downslope in the back of a bunker, the added loft of a lob wedge is the best way to get the ball up in the air. Using a sand wedge will usually lead to a rather low shot – a shot that might not get out of the trap at all. Use your lob wedge in this spot and swing down along the slope to loft the ball safely up onto the green.

Any of the three clubs above can be the perfect choice for a bunker shot, depending on the situation you face. As you gain experience on the course you should get better and better at picking the right club at the right time. If possible, spend some time practicing with each of these clubs in a bunker to make sure you are comfortable with them when the need arises during a round.

Never Assume

Never Assume

An easy way to get in trouble on the golf course is to assume that you know which club you should hit before you actually analyze the situation at hand. This mistake is seen commonly in the amateur game, and it will cost you strokes nearly every time. It is easy to fall into the trap of assuming from time to time, especially off the tee. When playing a par four or par five, you might just reach for your driver and get ready to swing away. Of course, not all par four and par five holes call for a driver, so this plan is a bad one.

Instead, you should be walking up to each tee shot with an open mind. Only after you take a good look at the layout of the hole and the conditions you face should you be willing to settle on a specific club. The right club for the job might end up being the driver, but it could also be one of your other long clubs. By not allowing yourself to assume, you can avoid falling into a trap that will cost you strokes.

The story is much the same when you find your ball in a bunker. When you see than an approach shot has fallen into a greenside bunker, you might be tempted to take your sand wedge out of the bag even before you start walking toward the green. After all, that is the club you are going to use most of the time, so why not get ready in advance? Unfortunately, planning ahead by taking your sand wedge from the bag can lock you into that way of thinking.

Instead, avoid making an assumption and instead wait until you arrive at the bunker to make your club choice. In fact, you should walk down into the bunker without a club in hand at first, just to get the lay of the land. Once you have taken a close look at what you are dealing with, you can walk back to your bag and choose the right stick for the job.

It will take some discipline to avoid the temptation to assume you know which club you are going to use in advance. You need to be patient to play this game properly, and holding off on your club selection is one way to demonstrate your patience. The rules of golf allow you to carry 14 clubs, so don't stick yourself with one automatically before you see what kind of shot you need to produce. The sand wedge is still likely to be the right club in most cases, but it would be a shame to waste a stroke because you used your sand wedge when it wasn't the right choice.

Staying Out of the Traps

Staying Out of the Traps

Even the best bunker player would rather avoid having to play out of the sand at all. Playing a bunker shot means that something has gone wrong along the way – you never want to wind up in a hazard. To wrap up this article, we are going to provide you with some tips on how you can steer clear of the bunkers in the first place.

  • Always have enough club. We have been talking a lot about club selection in this article, and that theme is going to continue here. When planning an approach shot into a green which is guarded by sand, make sure you have enough stick to carry the bunker in question. This might sound obvious, but you would be surprised to learn how many players hit shots into bunkers simply because they are holding the wrong club. You shouldn't just use a club which is going to carry the bunker by a yard or two, either – give yourself a little margin for error in case of a slight miss-hit. Using the right club won't guarantee that the ball will avoid the sand, but it is a great place to start.
  • Respect sand traps as a penalty. You don't need to be told that it is important to avoid water hazards while playing golf. You know that those are hazards, and they will add a stroke to your score. Therefore, you play carefully when water is guarding the green, taking a safe line and focusing on solid execution. Why aren't bunkers treated with the same respect? Although you can play from a bunker, they are still likely to add a stroke to your score in many cases. Respect the bunkers on your favorite course as the hazards that they are and you will immediately begin to make better course management decisions.
  • Watch for false edges. In many cases, the edge of a bunker is not what it seems. Although the grass might meet the sand at one point, that should not necessarily be considered the edge. If the slope of the ground outside the bunker is such that the ball will funnel into the sand, you should consider that perimeter part of the bunker as well. If your ball were to land on this sloped part of the course, the ball would kick down into the bunker and you would be left to scramble for your par. This design technique is popular on links-style courses, but it can be present on just about any course. Do your best to evaluate the slope of the terrain around a greenside bunker from back in the fairway and plan your shot accordingly.

As its name would suggest, the sand wedge is a great club to use in a greenside bunker. However, it is not a one-size-fits-all solution, so you will need to think carefully before you make any swing in the sand. When the sand wedge does not happen to be the right club for the job, you may wish to turn to other options such as the pitching wedge, the gap wedge, or the lob wedge. One of the best attributes a golfer can possess is flexibility. If you can turn to a variety of different shots based on what you are facing, you will be a better player overall. We hope that the advice contained in this article will be helpful as you work on improving your sand play. Good luck!