A USGA rule change for the 2019 season allows players to now remove loose impediments such as leaves, rocks, and other debris from bunkers. However, you are still not allowed to test the sand with a practice swing nor ground your club at address before you take your shot. But understanding what to do when the sand is hard and firm, when it’s soft and fluffy, and what that pesky wedge is made to do will no doubt help you get up and down from more sand traps. 

Soft & fluffy sand: The softer and deeper the sand the more important it is to use the bounce of your wedge. So a higher bounce in this case is more beneficial. Open your stance a tad and play the ball forward of middle. An open stance helps us swing a little a steeper and across our body. The bounce of the wedge if the trailing edge of the sole. This is what is actually splashes through the sand and advances your ball high and forward. Open the face of your wedge and picture your ball lying right on the president’s face of a dollar bill. So, right in the middle. Your club should enter the sand at the edge of the bill, about 2 inches behind the ball. The bigger the swing, the further the ball will travel. The more velocity on the swing, the more spin the ball should come out with. Many amateurs are afraid of skulling the ball across the green with a big swing, so they decelerate. This is because they don’t have the confidence to stay down and through the shot. They are not committed to splashing the sand and they do not trust the loft of the wedge to get the ball airborne. So they raise up and hit it thin. 

Hard, packed sand: We’ve all been in a hard, packed, shallow bunker at some point in our golf careers. This is due to heavy rains just days before, or on a course that unfortunately isn’t as maintained to the standard we’d all love to play on. Whatever the case may be, hard sand requires a different technique altogether. First and foremost you may not always have to play your sand wedge. Choice of loft depends on the distance from you to the flag and the height of the lip in front of you. Because you will be taking less sand at impact due to the firmness, you do not need to open your face. Opening the face will get the bounce too involved and the sole will skip off the surface sending your ball 30 yards over the green. Instead, keep the face and your stance more square to the target. Play the ball in the middle of your stance and try to pick it more cleanly like a pitch or bump and run. Remember, the more forward you play the ball the higher it will fly, and playing it further back in your stance will make the ball travel lower. 

Practice makes perfect and improves confidence. The more you hit a shot and see the result over and over, the less freaked out you are when you are faced with that same shot when it matters most; on the course. Not every course or club offers a short game area or practice bunker. But if you can, go out and play 9 holes later in the evening when it’s not as busy and you have time to hit some different shots around the greens. This is my favorite time of day to play and practice. Also, come on in to Golf HQ or your local shop with a certified fitter and get fitted for wedges. See what lofts you need to fill your gaps and keep your spacing consistent from club to club. Make sure you get the correct bounce to match your attack angle and the course conditions you play most. A properly fit set of wedges will ensure you get up and down more, and nothing drops your scores faster than more pars and less bogies. 

The 2019/2020 PGA Tour season kicks off this week after a super long 2 week break! Here are my 3 picks for the Military Tribute at the Greenbrier.
Sleeper: Harold Varner III – T5 last year and his tee-to-green game fits this old school layout. A cold putter will be the only thing to keep him out of the winner’s circle. 
Will contend: Kevin Na – Defending champ and has a career scoring average on the Old White Course of 67.50. Can you say good mojo?
Winner: Jason Kokrak – Coming off the best season of his career and first top-30 berth to the Tour Championship. He tied for 3rd here last year.

Enjoy the game and each other,

Writted by Seth Zipay, Head Golf Professional
Published by Craig Walton