If you play golf then it's likely that you've had a complete meltdown trying to get out of a sand trap. Whether it's the chunk a couple and leave it in the bunker, or the skull 40 yards over the green.. we've all been there. For most golfers and especially higher handicap players, sand traps can be a major reason for big numbers on the scorecard. I'm here to tell you that it doesn't have to be this way. After putting in much practice and trying different techniques, I have learned to not exactly love the sand, but in most cases would prefer to be trying to get up down from a sand trap rather than from the rough. I've found that the spin that I get out of the sand is much more consistent and easy to guess than the spin I'll get out of most lies in the rough. I'll discuss a couple techniques that have really worked for me and may be worth trying if you're struggling to get out of the bunker.
Different bunkers call for different shots to get out of that bunker. Sometimes you want a high and soft shot that lands like a sack of flour and sometimes you would prefer a lower shot that runs if you have a lot of green to work with. The high and soft shot has a similar technique to that of the flop shot. First, I like to set up with an open stance to the target-meaning my hips and feet are aimed left of the target. Next, I like to dig both of my feet into the sand. This not only helps having a stable base so you're not dancing around trying to hit the ball, but it also will give you a good idea about how much sand is in the bunker. The more sand you feel, the deeper you will have to dig with your wedge to lift the ball out of the trap. On shorter bunker shots I like to put more flex in my knees to help me get under the ball and help lift it out. Now that you're set up to the ball let's focus on the swing technique. There are 3 main things that I think about when I'm trying to get up and down out of the trap with a high and soft shot :Use a very light grip on the club. This helps me hinge my wrist, especially on the high soft shots, and also helps me get through the sand like a hot knife through butter while still following through completely. Once you have the light grip you want to take the club back outside away from your body more than you do on a regular shot and keep the face of your wedge open through the entire swing. After you hit the ball, keep the club face pointed towards the sky as long as you can while still following through. You can see examples of an open stance and taking the club outside below.
After your soft grip and taking it outside, you want to come down at the ball with a steeper angle than normal and make sure to follow through. Too many golfers just slap at he ball but you must follow through to lift the ball up and out of the trap. Coming down at the ball with a steep angle minimizes the amount of sand that the club head has to go through to get to the ball, thus increasing the spin you'll get on the shot. You'll want to use your highest lofted club on these bunker shots.
The longer bunker shots where you don't have a high lip to contend with and you have more green to work with calls for a slightly different approach. For me, it's the same technique as the high bunker shot but using a less drastic measure. For example: I don't dig in as much with my feet, my stance is a little less open, and I go after the ball with a less steep angle. All of these factors will contribute to a lower ball flight with less spin coming out of the trap. I prefer this method on longer shots because it's easier to run the ball to the hole rather than flying a ball all the way to the hole then having it spin. On these longer shots I generally use my 56' and my 52' wedges.
With all green side bunker shots, there are fundamental basics that will help in addition to the tips I discussed above: play the ball further up in your stance, accelerate through the ball quicker than you would from the rough, and try to get a nice firm base where you don't move your lower body and just rotate your shoulders. Practice these tips and I promise bunkers will be a day at the beach.