How to Play a Sand Shot

By Joe Miegoc
Assess the situation to determine which type of shot to hit from the sand.
Assess the situation to determine which type of shot to hit from the sand.

Getting a ball out of a bunker might be the most challenging shot in golf for the medium to high handicapper. The variety of shots needed, the different situations presented by a ball in the sand and the methods of hitting each type of shot call for concentration and imagination. The club you use will depend on the situation -- a sand wedge, usually with 55 to 56 degrees of loft; a lob wedge, with 60 degrees of loft for shorter bunker shots; and a pitching wedge or club with 45 to 46 degrees of loft for longer bunker shots. Fairway bunker shots generally call for one more club than the distance would be from grass.

Set up with a level and open stance (line of the feet pointing well left of the target) on a shorter sand shot. Set your club face open (pointing right of the target). Position the ball forward in the stance, perhaps even with the heel of the front foot. Keep your swing easy and flowing. The club should enter the sand an inch or so behind the ball; the sand actually forces the ball out of the bunker, not the club. Your club should slide under and through the ball. Make a full follow through.

Play the ball slightly behind the lead foot for medium sand shots of 15 to 20 yards to the middle or rear of a green from a bunker. Open both the club face and the stance slightly, aiming 5 feet or so left of the target. As you hit this shot, your club should touch the sand an inch or so behind the ball. Finish with a complete follow through.

Select the appropriate club for the longer sand shot -- one of the hardest shots in golf -- and the fairway sand shot. Some instructors suggest using a pitching wedge on a long greenside sand shot. Place the ball in the middle of your stance and square the club face with the target (facing straight down the target line). Your swing will be longer and the club should enter the sand about a half-inch behind the ball. Complete your swing with a full follow through. For a fairway sand shot, play with one club more than the club you would use from the fairway at that distance. Play the ball forward in your stance and pick it cleanly off the sand.

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