Finally Out of the Sand

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1 Finally Out of the Sand A Guide to Success in the Bunker Written By: Master Teaching Professional Adam Kolloff

2 Introduction I can't tell you how many people roll their eyes when I ask them how there bunker game is. That s because the bunker is the most feared aspect of the game. Think about it, have you ever encountered anyone who is a great bunker player. I've been around the game my whole life and I can only think of one person. The point is; beginners and weekend golfers don't have any time to practice the bunker shot. Or, if they do find time, they don t know what to do. They've never had a lesson about the proper set up and technique for getting successfully and consistently out of the sand. Bunker play should be easy. There are only a few key adjustments that you need to make in order to be successful. The problem with most golfers is the mental aspect. They doubt themselves because of previous failures. What happens is a negative mindset that is a self fulfilling prophecy. They leave the ball in the bunker or skull it over the green. The cycle repeats and repeats. Most beginners and weekend golfers rely on second hand tips. They read Golf Digest or watch the Golf Channel and pick up a tip that works and pass it along. Although the tip might work for a little while, it does not have a lasting affect. That's because they never learned the foundation - a basic understanding of the dynamics at work during a bunker shot. illustrates the proper blend of set up and technique for consistent bunker play. Not only will you have more consistency, you will develop a better understanding of the dynamics at work. As a result, you will feel more confident. You will no longer dread the sand like so many of us do.

3 The Grip Most people make a mistake right away by opening the club face without adjusting their grip. They assume a normal grip and simply twist the club to an open position while addressing the ball. Even though the club begins in an open position it returns to a square position during the explosion because you never adjusted your grip. You don't want this to happen. You want a club face that remains open during the explosion. Here's what you want to do. Address the ball with a neutral grip with the club head in a square position. Now, loosen your grip and allow the shaft to rotate to an open position. If square represents 12:00, you want your club face at 1:00.

4 Now, re-grip the club in a neutral position with the club face at the 1:00. By doing this you have insurance the club face will remain open through the explosion. That's how you set up your grip with an open club face. Stance and Posture It's important to build a solid base in the bunker. In order to do this you need to bend your knees a more than normal. This lowers your center of gravity and keeps your lower body quiet a vital ingredient to successful bunker play. You also want a stance slightly wider than shoulder width. The adds more support to your base and will give you more balance throughout the swing.

5 Alignment Alignment is the most important aspect of the set up. If you can make the correct adjustments before every swing your results will be much more consistent. There are four aspects you need to be aware of your feet, shoulders, club face, and target. First, align your feet and shoulders 20 degrees open to the target line. This sets you up for an outside to inside path across the target line. Second, with your clubface at 1:00 it will point 20 degrees open on the opposite side of the target line. As a result, your club face alignment and feet and shoulders alignment will off set each other. Your ball will end up traveling down the target line.

6 Ball Position Since you want a swing that enters the sand 2-5 inches behind the ball, you want to make accommodations in your ball position. Think about it this way: if you can consistently enter the sand in middle of your stance then all you have to do is position the ball forward 2-5 inches forward in your stance. This way you don t have to make any changes in your swing. Your club bottoms out where it should, in the middle, and takes the right amount of sand because you moved the ball forward in your stance. Understanding Your Tool and the Sand Everyone thinks in order for the ball to leave the sand, the club must make contact with the ball. This is the most misunderstood concept about bunker play. Here's what you want to imagine: as the club enters the sand it propels the sand forward and upward. This creates a splashing effect. The movement of the sand from this splashing effect is the element that drives the ball out of the bunker, not your club. Your club never makes contact with the ball. In the following photograph look how my club has travelled passed the ball. There is no way I m able to produce this effect if my club made contact with the ball first. This was only possible by entering the sand first.

7 This type of understanding alone will help your bunker play. I can't tell you how many times I've shocked my students by telling them their club never makes contact with the ball. It's as though a light bulb goes on in their head right away - for a good reason. I really believe this is a major key to finding consistent success out of the sand. You also need to be aware of what part of the club enters the sand first. First lets discuss what you don't want to do. You don't want the leading edge of your club to enter the sand first. This will set you up for disaster because the leading edge will cause the club to dig deeply under the ball. What you want to do is utilize the bounce of the club. This piece of the club must enter the sand first. If you don't know what the bounce is let's define it. The bounce on a wedge is the distance that the bottom of the sole extends below the leading edge of the club face. In theory, the leading edge will never touch the sand, but of course, that s only a theory. It s designed to get you thinking correctly about how the club and sand interact. The part of the club that projects below the leading edge, the bounce, must enter the sand first. This only happens by keeping your club face open. By doing this you prevent the club from digging to deeply. Thus,

8 you create a bouncing board with the back of the your wedge, which produces the splashing effect. The Method of Swinging the Tool Here s what you want to think about as far as technique: swing the arms above the shoulders on both sides of the ball. This makes you generate a full swing. Also, hinge your wrists early on the backswing and unhinge them early on the downswing. This action keeps the club traveling on a narrow arc a necessary ingredient.

9

10 Another important element is acceleration. You must accelerate through the sand. If you don't you won t get out. Your club will not move enough sand to get the ball into the air and onto the green. The results will leave you with another bunker shot. Don t get yourself into this habit always accelerate through the sand. Don't allow your arc to look like a "v." I've seen it so many times when a golfer swings the club on a very steep angle. It looks like they are chopping down a tree. This type of motion produces very inconsistent results. Your ball will never leave the sand, or if it does you will never be able to anticipate distance, trajectory, or spin. The best solution is producing an arc that resembles an uppercase "U." Position your hands high on both sides of the ball. Controlling Distance Club selection is the best way to control distance out of the sand. From short distance you want the most lofted club in your bag. Take more club as you move gradually further from the hole. Since everyone s swing is unique, I recommend practicing with different clubs and get a feel for how far each one travels. This way you don t have to change the length of your swing. All you have to do is make slight adjustments in your tempo that s it. Also, the more sand you take the less the ball will travel in the air and more it will travel on the ground. On the other hand, the less sand you take the more it will travel in the air and less it will travel on the ground. Keep this in mind when you determine how far you want the ball to carry and how far you want it to release. Point of Entry and Depth Two major elements of bunker play is determining first, at what point do you enter the sand and second, how deep should you go. The following illustrations explain both elements clearly. They will give a good understanding about point of entry and depth appropriate for consistent results. Keep in mind as you continue to read, if you re a beginner golfer or just someone who constantly struggles in the sand, I'm certain your either entering the sand too far in front of the ball or digging too deeply just something to think about as you continue reading. Visual #1 2-5 inches Draw two lines, at two inches and at five inches behind the ball. This is your safety corridor your window of acceptable amount of sand that you take before the ball. Remember, you don't want your leading edge to enter this corridor first. This will not give us the necessary splashing effect. Therefore, use the back of your wedge and the bounce of the club. This part of the club must enter first.

11 The closer you enter at 2 inches, the more spin on the ball. The closer you enter at 5 inches the less spin on the ball. With this in mind, you can anticipate how the ball will release on the green. The reason I give you a wide range (between 2-5 inches) is because after studying other professional golfers and my own technique, I believe you can still be successful within that range. Just be aware that less sand means less release and more sand means more release. Anything outside the 2-5 range and your going to run into problems such as thinning the ball or leaving shots in the bunker. Visual #2 Don't Go to the Dark Side This is a great visual to help you determine the right depth of sand. After every shot I want you to look down and observe the area of sand you made contact with. What does the color look like? Does it match the color of the rest of the sand? Or, does it look darker than the rest of the sand? If the color matches the rest of the sand you took the appropriate amount. However, if the color of the sand is darker than the rest that means you were digging too deep. You went to the dark side! The point is; digging too deep will cause consistency problems. You will have trouble either getting the ball out of the sand or controlling its spin on the green. The solution is to shallow out your depth so monitor the color of your sand.

12 Visual #3 Cut the Tee in Half Here's what I want you to do: Tee the ball up in the sand, except push the ball all the way down so the tee disappears. It needs to look as though the ball is resting normally in the sand. You don't want any indication its on a tee. Now, take a normal swing and try to cut the tee in half. Don't go too deep that your club travels entirely under the tee. You want to cut though the middle of it. This is a great visualization for determining the depth of sand you need to take. Visual #4 Eggs Over Easy You just made you favorite breakfast - eggs over easy! Except, they're now in the bunker and you need to get them out! As you swing the club imagine your golf ball as the yoke of the egg. You don't want to puncture the yoke. You want to produce a swing that enters the right before the egg white and right after the egg white. We want the yoke untouched - or else it will spill everywhere. This is the right visual for getting the ball out of the sand. It reinforces the rule of not allowing our club to make contact with the ball. So, scoop the egg white and the yoke will follow. Visual #5 Don't Get Your Face Wet Imaging your standing at the edge of a pond with a club in your hands. You feel like making a big splash in the pond, except you don't want to get your face wet. So, you make a few practice swings experimenting with the right depth. You also notice that if your leading edge enters first it creates a much bigger splash. So, you decide to open up the club face and use the bounce. You finally learned that if you keep the club face open using the bounce and enter at the right depth, you can make a splash all day and your face won t get wet! The same technique applies in the sand.

13 A Pocket Guide for Getting Out of the Sand (from a normal lie) Like with everything in golf, we want to keep is simple. The simpler the motion the easier it is to repeat. The following is a guide for you to remember when you approach a bunker shot. So, let's go over the simple steps. 1. Re-grip the club with your club face at 1:00 (refer to the section on grip if you need to). 2. Take a wide stance and lower your center of gravity by bending your knees more than normal. 3. Open your feet and shoulders. 4. Play the ball position forward in your stance. 5. Swing the club back with an early wrist hinge and position the hands above the shoulders. 6. Swing the club back down to the ball and allow your wrists to unhinge before impact. 7. Accelerate through the sand with the back of your club using the bounce. 8. Finish in a high position with your hands above the shoulders. The Buried Lie A buried lie is a difficult shot. The key is not to get discouraged there is a technique that will get you out. In fact, there are two that you can choose from. Technique #1 Assume a typical bunker shot set up position. Now, the first thing you want to do is open your club face to an extreme open position. I want your club face pointing at 2:00. Remember, you want to rotate the shaft open first and then re grip the club so the face will remain open. You still want to enter between 2-5 inches behind the ball. But, this time I want you want to

14 transform your arc from a "U" into a "V." That's right, I want you to go much deeper than normal. Accelerate as best you can through the sand and the ball will pop right out. Technique #2 Assume a typical bunker shot set up position. Now, close the club face to an extreme closed position. I want your club face pointing at 10:00. Remember, you want to rotate the shaft first and then re grip the club. The makes sure the face will stay closed. You still want to enter between 2-5 inches behind the ball and go as deep as you can. Really focus on accelerating the club through the sand. The difference between closed face technique is that you need to be careful with the amount of force that you enter the sand. This technique produces overspin and gets the ball out of the bunker much quicker. Therefore, it will release much further when it reaches the green. So, keep this in mind as you experiment with different options. Fairway Bunkers Playing from a fairway bunker is a completely different approach. You don't want the club to enter the sand first anymore. You want to make direct contact with the ball, just like any other shot on the course. With that said, there's a couple minor adjustments you want to make in order to insure proper contact. Let's go over the steps before you even swing. 1. Take extra club. That means if your 150 yards from the green and that's a normally a seven iron, use a six iron. 2. Take a normal grip with your club face at 12: Choke up on the club 1/2-1 inch.

15 4. Play the ball in the middle of your stance. 5. Your stance should be no wider than shoulder width. 6. Align your feet and shoulder square to the target. Let's move on to the technique. Keep in mind, since you have more club than you need it's important not to swing as hard as you can. You want to make this an abbreviated swing. Let's go over the simple steps. 1. Take the club back low and slow. 2. Abbreviate the backswing and focus on keeping your head super still. (You want to swing to a position just above your right shoulder). 3. On the downswing you must accelerate through the ball and extend your arms through impact. Don't stab the ball. 4. Abbreviate the follow through and focus on keeping your head super still. (You want to swing to a position just above your left shoulder). The head moving around is the number one cause of inconsistent contact. So, the overall focus on the fairway bunker shot is abbreviating your swing while keeping your head very still. Your swing arc must not be a "V." You want to make your swing arc as wide as possible. This insures ball first contact - the most important ingredient to successful fairway bunker play. I hope you enjoyed reading,. Please send me an with any questions you might have to I would be happy to help you become a better bunker player! If you would like more information about golf lessons, full swing advice, short game tips and drills please visit my website Thank You!

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