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Golf Tips: Having a blast with good bunker shots

By: Shawn Kelly
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Gene “The Squire” Sarazan is the man credited for creating the original sand wedge back in the 1930s. His tinkering with a club by adding solder to the sole was then and is now one of the greatest inventions created to help a golfer play better and have more fun. Sand play can be one of the most frustrating parts of the game — but then sometimes it can become the most rewarding. Blasting a shot out of a bunker and watching it cozy up close to the hole is one of the grandest feelings in the game. Understanding the club’s bounce or sole of the club is a critical part of controlling this shot. The bounce or the flange of a sand wedge actually slides under the ball and then bounces it out, off the sand, like a ski in snow. The greenside bunker shot is the only golf shot where the clubface never touches the ball. The ball is actually blasted out of the trap on a cushion of sand. The Fundamentals: Grip – Start with a weaker grip (target hand turned open towards the target) in the target-side hand. This grip will prevent the wrist from rotating through impact. The backside hand should be in a neutral position. Aim – The aim is very tricky because both your clubface and your body are aiming on a line that should be open to the target line. Set up – Your stance should be a little wider than usual so the club can slide under the ball. The ball is positioned in the middle of your stance and your weight should be slightly on the target foot. Posture is always tall and balanced. The swing should follow the line of your toes so you will feel like you are swinging to the side of the target, but the ball will come out of the sand in the direction of the target. It is imperative to hit the sand slightly behind the ball. I always look one to two inches behind the ball and focus on that spot. The club will enter the sand, then slide under the ball and blast it out. Sand conditions will determine how far behind the ball you hit and how much the club will slide under the ball. You should hear kind of a “thunk” and once you become accustomed to the feel and sound of your sand wedge blasting a shot out of the bunker and onto the green you will then begin to understand the bunker shot and it’ll be a blast! Distance control is determined by how hard you swing and how open the clubface and body are opened. Want to hit it further? Simply close down the body and club and the ball will come out further. Obviously the harder you swing the father it will go as well. Drills for improvement: Draw a line in the sand. Straddle that line, while keeping it in the middle of your body. Your feet and hips should be slightly open to the line and your weight should be on the front foot. Swing the club and try to enter the sand on that line. You will start to feel the sand wedge bouncing or digging into the sand. If it’s digging in, then open the clubface to feel more bounce. Practice this drill until you can impact on the line and achieve a mark in the sand about the size of a dollar bill. When you feel the control of the club, place a ball in front of the line, repeat the drill and have fun with this shot.