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Dave Pelz's Fast New Ways to Lower Your Handicap

Robin Griggs

As handicaps increase, the skill to enter sand in the right place and carry shots the proper distance decreases (see number of shots hit short and long of the green below).

Your big problem
You make "funky" swings in sand

My New Research on SAND PLAY
You need to work on ball position, entry point and target selection


Up-and-Down Percentages From Sand


Distance to hole PGA Tour 0 Handicap 10 Handicap 20 Handicap 30 Handicap
10-20 yds 52% 10% 11% 21% 0%
20-30 yds 46% 30% 10% 0% 0%
30+ yds 31% 14% 13% 5% 0%


Average Proximity to Hole From Sand


PGA Tour 9'9"
0 Handicap 18'9"
10 Handicap 19'2"
20 Handicap 18'4"
30 Handicap 26'2"


Why your numbers are bad

1. PROS play the ball forward in their stance and use an almost standard wedge swing. They open the clubface and slap the sand to get the ball out, but otherwise the mechanics of their swing are smooth and normal.
YOU make unique, funky swings in sand.
(In analyzing play at Arrowhead Country Club, we saw hard swings, vertical-V swings, reverse pivots, players falling backwards, players stopping their swing immediately after impact, etc.)

2. PROS practice making sure their club enters the sand the same distance behind the ball every time.
YOU never hit the sand in the same place twice. Sometimes you contact the ball before sand — or hit very close behind it — and send it flying over the green. Other times you hit too far behind the ball and leave it in the hazard.
(Even when they made good contact two inches behind the ball, the amateurs we measured often swung either too hard or too easy and, as a result, carried the ball too far or too short.)

How to make them better

Play the ball forward
Try this: Hit a normal wedge shot from grass. Notice how your divot is forward (toward the target) of the center of your stance. This exact same swing which contacts the ball before it hits the ground on fairway shots can also serve as your sand swing. It will correctly hit two inches behind the ball in sand if you simply position the ball forward, out from the instep of your left foot.

Give yourself room to work
Play to reasonably safe sections of the green. Look at the sand shot I'm hitting: I need to carry the ball four steps just to get out, but if I carry it four steps past the flag it ends up in the bunker on the other side of the green. Based on ShotLink data, Tour pros should take dead aim at this flagstick because they'll end up within about 10 feet of the hole. But if your average leave distance is longer (see handicap data, far left), you'd be wise to aim out to the right where there's more green to work with.

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