All golfers will find themselves in a sand trap sooner or later if they play enough rounds on courses that have sand traps. It is going to happen, so get ready for it now.
For those new to golf, a few things to know about sand trap etiquette.
Always enter the trap from behind your ball or the far side.
Do not walk around in the trap anymore than you have to.
Do not let your club touch the sand until you hit the ball. This is called grounding. Grounding your club in a sand trap will cost you a two-stroke penalty.
After you make your shot, use the rake to smooth out the sand that you disturbed, and be sure to leave the rake outside of the trap when you finish.
Now, let’s talk about getting out of that sand trap.
There is no rule that says you must use your sand wedge to get out of a bunker. You can use whatever club you like. But, before you grab your seven-iron to get out of a fairway bunker, consider this: sometimes the best shot is simply to get your ball back into play, and never mind the distance. This is something you have to decide on your own.
If you are in a fairway bunker and your ball is sitting on top of the sand, you have more options when it comes to club selection.
If your ball is even slightly buried in the sand, consider taking the safe shot out of the fairway bunker.
Bunkers that are close to the green often do require the use of the sand wedge, and that is the club we will discuss here.
One of the key elements to getting out of a sand trap is to keep the face of your wedge open. An open face will allow the bounce angle of the club to work for you rather than against you. The bounce angle of a wedge is designed to move through the sand instead of digging into it. So, keep the face open.
The opened face of a wedge also allows you to increase the degree of loft you get from the club. This results in higher shots that land softer on the green.
How to Do It
As you take your stance in the sand trap, keep your feet closer together than normal. Position yourself so that your golf ball is in line with the instep of your left foot. This allows the wedge to enter the sand just behind the golf ball. This entrance behind the ball is critical to making a good sand shot.
The next step in your stance is to move your left foot back. This is called an open stance. If you could draw a line along your heels, the line would be pointing left of the target.
Your knees should be only slightly flexed. So slight, in fact, that you should be able to see your shoes if you look straight down.
Your shoulders need to be in an open position as well. This is important. If they are not open, you will not be able to make the swing path needed for a good sand shot.
At this point, you should dig your feet into the sand for better balance and stability. This also lowers the point of contact for the club, which is what you want.
Put slightly more weight on your left foot now.
The amount of backswing will depend on how much distance you need to cover. When you begin your downswing make sure you accelerate into the shot. The common mistake is to slow down, but avoid that. You must accelerate the club through the shot in order to compensate for the drag the sand will create on the club face.
Continue with a follow through that is at least as long as your backswing. Avoid the temptation to “chunk” the ball. A smooth follow through is needed to complete this type of shot.
Many golfers make the mistake of not practicing their sand game. If you are lucky enough to have a course nearby that has a practice sand trap, take advantage of it. Absolutely nothing will improve your sand play as much as practicing.
Maximize your sand practice time by working on a variety of shots and variety of ball lies, including buried balls. As you become more experienced in the sand trap, your confidence level will improve dramatically.