Getting out of the sand.

Nothing causes more angst for the average golfer than hitting into a green side bunker.  All over the world as we speak golfers are yelling, “stay short of it,” or, “get out of there.”

In two weeks the best players in the world are going to be yelling, “get in the bunker.”

Why the major difference?  Because getting the ball out of the sand and onto the green is the easiest thing to do in golf.  That’s right, the easiest.  The margin for error is the greatest.  I will say that being a great sand player is not easy, but just getting the ball onto the green is very easy.

For pros, it is much easier to control the distance and there is a greater ability to spin the ball.  That is a better prospect than being in the rough that is around the greens at most PGA events and the downright impossible rough of the US Open.

Again, why the disparity?

Because most golfers are too scared to hit sand shots the proper way.  Look at the sand wedges and/or L wedges in your bag.  They have something that no other iron has.  A giant hunk of metal sticking out of the back of the club that seems to have no purpose.

Ah, but there is a purpose for that.  It is to get out of the sand.  In golf, there are infinite ways to swing the club, chip and putt.  There is one way to hit sand shots.  You must open the face of your club significantly more than you think is correct.  You must also aim left, as a club face that open will shoot the ball to the right as bit.

99.9% of chops (see blog vocabulary) take a normal setup and try to pick the ball clean or slash it out of the sand.  This either results in the club digging in the sand and the ball moving about 6 inches, or a giant click that sends the ball 40 yards over the green or into another bunker on the far side.

It doesn’t assist matters that the old “help it in the air” syndrome (read previous rants down the blog page) takes an even bigger role in sand play.

These factors basically create fear, loathing and slow play.  I will say again, getting it out of the sand onto the green is the easiest thing to do in golf…all you have to do is make that your goal.  Not the bane of most golfers, unrealistic expectations.  “If I can just take the right amount of sand, I can put this in gimme range.”

As I said, club more open than you think so the hunk of metal(bounce) will hit the sand first and prevent it form digging. Make sure you take plenty of sand.  Taking plenty of sand and using the bounce on the back of the club is where the large margin of error comes in.  Most will want to swing the club at the pin, but that is incorrect.  You are setup to the left, the club face is pointed to the right, those things cancel out and you can just make your normal swing right down the line of your feet…and YOU MUST HIT DOWN ON THE BALL!!!!!!!!!!

You are always accelerating when hitting sand shots, the open club face and taking lots of sand makes the ball come out soft.  After you get comfortable with this technique, you will find the length of your back swing can be adjusted to control the distance you hit the sand shots and not hitting it easier or harder or taking more or less sand.

Reducing variables in your swing is the best way to improve your game.  Too many golfers try and manipulate the club to hit draws, fades, high, low, etc.  Setup changes and keeping the swing the same is a better avenue, but that is for a different time and post.

The question that arises now…”what happens if the golf course is a pile and there is no sand in the bunkers?”

Well, you are basically screwed.  Wait it till no one is watching and pull a Tip O’neill.




  1. Jim Santagata

    Good job, Monte. Scott mentioned that you welcome ideas for the blog. I know one situation that confuses a lot of average golfers (including me) is where to place the ball after hitting it into various lateral hazards. Some words on that would be helpful.

    By the way, I have spread your gospel on putting as I play with various co-hackers. I relate to them the story about you telling me I’m moving my head while putting. As I stood over the ball while denying it you grabbed my head and told me to putt. While stroking the putt, I could feel my head pulling against your grip, trying to get a look at the ball’s path.


    • Monte Scheinblum

      Jim, it all depends on the color of the stakes near the water.

      If they are red(lateral hazard), you need to find the point where the ball entered the hazard, either where the red line is, or where an imaginary line would be between the two red stakes. You have four choices.

      1. Take two club lengths, no closer to the hole, take a drop and a one stroke penalty. You may take this drop on either side of the water. This may get you into an open area in another fairway or other such better place. Either side of the hazard is fine.

      2. Take that point of entry and go back as far as you want. As long as you keep the point of entry into the hazard between you and the pin, you can go back as far as you want. This may be used to get a nice lie in the fairway, as near the water usually has rough. Also a one stroke penalty.

      3. You may play the shot over again that you hit into the hazard, with a “stroke and distance penalty” also known as 2.

      4. You may play the shot from a designated drop area, if there is one.

      If the stakes are yellow, option 1 is not available, just 2,3 and 4.

  2. Jim Santagata

    Thanks for that clarification, Monte.


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