March Golf Tip: Escaping From Hard-Packed Bunker Sand

We’d be lying if we said this winter wasn’t exactly ideal for golf, even, at times, in Myrtle Beach. But, spring is here and warmer temperatures have finally arrived! That means it’s time to get your golf game back in fighting form. Part of the thaw on your game will come in the form of renewed bunker prowess. And as is the case after most wet winters, you will probably find the bunkers a little firm and their sand hard-packed when you descend into them for the first few rounds of the new season. It is important to realize the difference between hard and wet and dry, fluffier sand because there is a difference in the relative techniques that are most effective with dealing with the two. Luckily, local teaching legend Mel Sole has some advice on how best to escape from wet, harder sand. The keys are threefold: proper club selection, low bounce and a shallower, aggressive swing.

“You definitely don’t want to use a sand wedge…or lob wedge,” out of hard-packed sand, says Sole. This is because those clubs tend to have a higher amount of bounce due to a larger sole on the bottom of the head. This feature is, according to Sole, “designed to help the club slide through sand,” which is normally crucial to hitting good bunker shots. In normal, softer sand, the bounce of a wedge helps kick the club up from under the ball, sending it flying high and softly toward the target, hopefully with some shot-stopping spin as well.

But from harder-packed sand, there is less material for the club to negotiate. This is why Sole recommends using a club with less bounce—even as little as a pitching wedge or 9 iron. These clubs have thinner soles that are designed primarily to cut through turf, producing (hopefully) an attractive divot and solid golf shots. That makes them better suited for duty in a hard-sand bunker, but only with an adjustment to your technique. Says Sole: “Address the ball as you would a normal bunker shot. Instead of cocking the wrists early in the swing as you would normally do, have less wrist cock and a [shallower] arc on the backswing, taking just a thin sliver of sand. Still hit about two inches behind the ball and keep [your hands] ‘under’ so that the club wont dig.”

Take heed of these principles and your early-season sand game should be impressive.

(posted 4/1/14)

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