Practicing in a children’s sandbox can solve your bunker struggles
We all have golf emergencies where something just isn’t working. This week, my neighbor had a bunker SOS. He was hitting everything thin out of the bunker and flying greens, so I thought “why wait for the range?” and we got right to work in his children’s sandbox. I mean, why not? The sandbox is the perfect spot to practice and we didn’t have to travel any further than his backyard.
The first order of business was to clear out the toys. Then, we chose what direction was acceptable to spray sand (we chose an area where the grass was slacking because it probably needed some topdressing anyway). Lastly, we used acorns as practice balls. Foam balls are terrific if you have them but if you only have real balls, you need to be careful not to smash any windows.
Speaking of that, here’s how to avoid hitting the ball thin over the green (or into your neighbor’s window):
When you fly a green from the bunker it means you likely didn’t take enough sand, or that you didn’t take sand from the correct place. I first checked out where my neighbor’s club naturally splashed the sand. I did so by drawing two parallel lines and pretended that the ball was in the middle. “Go ahead and take a practice swing and splash both lines,” I said. His first three swings made contact with the backline but not the front line. He was hitting too far behind the ball. It was clear as day from the results we were seeing in the sand.
In his case, he was swinging the club too far from the inside (his club looked like a driver at the top, which is too flat for a bunker shot) and hanging back on his trail foot. No problem! Here are some universal keys I shared that will help you too if you struggle with hitting the ball out of the bunker.
1. Set up with a solid base
Move your feet shoulder-width apart and bend your knees in an athletic position. Dig your feet into the sand for stability. Avoid too much side bend (most amateurs tend to lean back from the target like you would a driver). A simple way to ensure that is to feel like your nose is in line with the ball.
2. Take a loose grip
You want the club to be able to “scoop” through impact. If you grip the club too tight, you’ll struggle to get the desired scoop action. You want to avoid leaning forward through impact, let the club do the work for you! That’s a nice idea for regular iron shots but not here where we want the loft of the club to help the ball get up and over the lip.
3. Swing swiftly and rotate toward the flag
The sand will slow the club waaaay down. Make sure you maintain clubspeed throughout your swing and avoid decelerating through impact. Use the flag as your target and rotate your body toward the flag in your follow-through. This will help you make better contact through the ball and not behind it.
4. Draw lines in the sand
As I did with my neighbor, put a line a few inches behind and in front of your ball. Fat shots will take out only the backline, thin shots will take out only the front line. If you’re making correct contact, you’ll notice your “splash” takes out both lines.
5. Clean up the sandbox
Playtime is over for you, it’s time to return the toys to the sandbox.