The Five Indisputable Rules of Bunker Play
By Terry Koehler, The Wedge Guy
Terry Koehler has been in the golf industry for over 30 years and currently spends his days as the President of EIDOLON Golf, a small premium wedge company in Victoria, Texas. He's been blogging for over 3 years and has written hundreds of articles ranging from golf tips to equipment issues. His blog will appear on ClubSG twice per week. You can reach Terry to have your golf questions answered at email@example.com.
Over the past few years of writing this blog, I have covered a lot of ground, and answered a number of inquiries about how to hit this shot or that one. But I received a particularly interesting question this week from Art S., who said he has read all the tips about how to hit different sand shots, from different sand conditions, but it would be helpful to know why. Specifically, here's what Art had to say:
"I recently found myself in a few sand traps in multiple lies and multiple degrees of wetness. I tried remembering all of the "rules" of how to stand, how much to open my club, how much weight to shift forward or back, etc. based on the Golf Channel but was hoping that you might be able to do a blog on the 'why' of sand play so that we can understand it rather than memorizing what to do. Is there any way you can discuss what the club is doing and why you open the club, open your stance, what you're aiming for when you open up, and any other tips?"Well, Art, you asked a very good question, so let's try to cover the basics of sand play – the "geometry and physics" at work in the bunkers – and see if we can make all of this more clear for you.
First of all, I think bunkers are among the toughest of places to find your ball. We see the tour players hit these spectacular bunker shots every week, but realize that they are playing courses where the bunkers are maintained to PGA standards, so they are pretty much the same every hole and every week. This helps the players to produce the “product” the tour is trying to deliver – excitement. Of course, those guys also practice bunker play every day.
All of us, on the other hand, play courses where the bunkers are different from one another. This one is a little firmer, that one a little softer. So, let me see if I can shed a little light on the "whys and wherefores" of bunker play.
The sand wedge has a sole with a downward/backward angle built into it – we call that bounce. It’s sole (no pun intended) function is to provide a measure of “rejection” force or lift when the club makes contact with the sand. The more bounce that is built into the sole of the wedge, the more this rejection force is applied. And when we open the face of the wedge, we increase the effective bounce so that this force is increased as well.
The most basic thing you have to assess when you step into a bunker is the firmness of the sand. It stands to reason that the firmer the texture, the more it will reject the digging effect of the wedge. That "rejection quotient" also determines the most desirable swing path for the shot at hand. Firmer sand will reject the club more, so you can hit the shot with a slightly more descending clubhead path. Conversely, softer or fluffier sand will provide less rejection force, so you need to hit the shot with a shallower clubhead path so that you don’t dig a trench.
So, with these basic principles at work, it makes sense to remember these "Five Indisputable Rules of Bunker Play":
1. Firmer sand will provide more rejection force – open the club less and play the ball back a little to steepen the bottom of the clubhead path.So, there you go, Art. I hope this gives you the basics you were seeking. And hopefully that new EIDOLON V-SOLE wedge you just won will add a measure of assistance to any bunker shot you might encounter.
As always, I invite all of you to send in your questions to be considered for a future article. It can be about anything related to golf equipment or playing the game – just send it in. You can't win if you don't ask!
* The Wedge Guy's views and opinions are his own do not necessarily reflect those of SkyGolf.
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Thank you so much for writing this article. I have always felt that knowing how/why something worked helps my game a lot better than just saying, "grip it like this" or "keep your stance open". This gave me better insight as to how to use the bounce properly and am really thankful that you mentioned the part about the path of the ball being halfway between the alignment of the body and the direction of the face. Hopefully I don't need to test out all the varieties of bunkers but if/when I'm in one, this will come in handy.
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