Play the Sand, Not the Ball


When you’re in a greenside bunker the club should never touch the ball. You want your wedge to toss the sand beneath and behind the ball onto the green. The ball will float out on the whoosh of sand.

You must convince yourself that the ball is an afterthought on these shots. To practice this, stand in the flat of a practice bunker and place two tees opposite your left instep.

You don’t need a ball. Hinge your wrists quickly on the backswing to create an upright path, then swing down and let your sand wedge hit about two inches behind the tees. Make a full follow-through, finishing with your hands at shoulder height. You’ll see that the tees have flown up and toward the hole along with the sand you sprayed.

Repeat the drill five times, and see how high and far you can make the tees fly. Then drop a ball down and repeat that swing. With a little practice, escaping bunkers will become an afterthought.

The half-buried lie
Using the traditional bunker escape from a fried-egg lie would require you to throw massive amounts of sand at the green. Instead, play the ball off your right instep, toe your wedge in and swing down so the club slams into the sand right behind the ball. This punch shot should dislodge the ball and get it out of the bunker. Expect it to run without any spin, but at least it’s out.

Mike Malaska teaches at Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club and is director of instruction for Nicklaus Academies.

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