Playing Hazards: How to get out of trouble

Playing Hazards: How to get out of trouble

Let’s face it, we’ve all gotten into trouble on the course at some point, after all, it’s not always a walk in the park to stay on the fairway or green. This tutorial will teach you how to deal with all sorts of sand bunkers and problems that you may face when you’re on the course.

Golfer getting out of a bunker playing hazard

Simple techniques to get out of a sand bunker

These techniques are designed to specifically help those of you who often leave the golf ball in the bunker, or shoot the ball out of the bunker.

A common method that most players employ is to try to use a lot of the bounce of the club, open the face and really splash the club off the sand. The problem that most people face with this technique, however, is that they scoop the ball too much and the bottom of the swing is too far back so they hit the sand, either too early or they are coming out of the sand and then thin the ball. It’s important to instead be descending when hitting the sand shot.

When practicing, have a look at the mark in the sand where your club strikes before making contact with the ball. Try to hit the sand 3-4 inches behind the ball, which should create a divot in front of where the ball was initially. The middle of the divot indicates the lowest point of the golf swing, and so remember that even though you’re aiming to hit the sand before the club swing reaches the ball to get reasonable contact, the club should still be descending and must reach the bottom of the swing beyond the ball. If you start bottoming out beforehand and begin your upswing when you reach the ball, you will really struggle.

Practice Drill

To help you master this technique, here is a great drill I recommend you to start with:

Stand opposite a golf ball and draw a line in the sand in a practice bunker between you and the ball. Practice setting a little bit more of your weight to your left, and swinging your club feeling like you’ve unhinged the club down to a low point in front of the line, as described above. Feel free to open up the club a little bit, it doesn’t have to be closed, but finish really low. The ball may only go 10-15 ft, but get the bottom of the swing in front of the ball. If you practice this, then you can tweak your swing by changing up your club face, but this will definitely help you improve your bunker play.

A Brief Instructional Video

How To Hit A Long Bunker Shot

Here we’re going to delve into how to hit a long bunker shot- a greenside bunker shot, but a long bunker shot nonetheless.

Imagine you’re having to hit a greenside bunker shot over a second bunker. That calls for a long greenside bunker shot, which is a pretty difficult shot. There are two real factors, which are pure physics, that control your ability to create a long bunker shot.

There are two controlling factors on how to make the ball go further in the bunker. They are very simple:

  1. Remember that you have to penetrate the sand a little bit to get the ‘sweet spot’ of the club against the ball. That slows the club down a little bit and it also gets sand between the ball and the club, which reduces the amount of compression of the ball, so speed is number one. You have to have a lot of speed to hit a bunker shot- I’m talking about clubhead speed. This is even truer when you have a long bunker shot. Consider giving a double dose of speed. If I was hitting a long bunker shot over a second bunker I would use the same speed I would with a full 9 iron shot. Simply put, speed is number one for a long bunker shot.
  2. The more the club contacts the ball near the bottom of the ball, which is very important, the less it compresses the ball. The ball skids off the face of the club head and goes up in the air. That, of course, is by design. It would be perfect if you’re trying to hit high balls that spin. However, that isn’t what we want here. Try to make contact with the ball more up to the equator (in other words a less lofted impact) much more pressure is applied to the ball when you do that. That’s why a driver goes so far because it hits it more like a T-square. You can really compress the ball when you hit it directly as opposed to the bottom of the ball.

    This leaves you with a couple of choices: either turn a little bit of loft back off the club, especially through impact, to force the ball forward, or consider taking a slightly less lofted club such as a pitching wedge. If you hit a ball with a pitching wedge you’re driving it more and not sliding under it nearly as much as with an open faced sand wedge.

    Remember, more clubhead speed and slightly less loft up to and including using a little bit less lofted club.

I hope going over those two controlling factors gives you clear indicators as to what is required to make the ball go further while in the sand. Obviously, the more skilled you are and the more consistent your impact is that will help. Certainly giving more power to your swing will make this shot much easier. If you want more content on that matter, you can always up your golf game with George. I hope this will help you to at least grasp the principles and not be afraid of that long greenside bunker shot.

How To Hit A High Bunker Shot

high sand bunker in golf

In this section, I will teach you how to hit a high bunker shot. Imagine you are in a bunker with a steep and tall face in front of you. That situation requires you to hit a high bunker shot in order to get out of trouble.

How do you hit a high bunker shot, you might ask? Don’t worry, I’ll give you all the details you need to get over that wall. There are two things that really control your high bunker shot. I’ll give you some parameters about what’s important around that, and I hope by the end of this section you’ll have a better understanding of what’s required.

The two things required to perform a good high bunker shot are (not too tricky) loft- meaning a lofted impact; and speed- the harder you swing, potentially, the higher the ball will go. Of course, there is some limitations on that depending on how long the bunker shot is. So, let’s get right into these two factors and learn to elevate our game:
Firstly, let’s talk about loft on the golf club. There are a couple of things you can do straight off the bat. You can select a more lofted club, such as a 58-degree sand wedge. You can also get sand wedges in 60, 62, and 64 degrees. If you have a lot of deep bunkers you might consider a more lofted club than a standard 56 sand wedge.
The other thing you can do is you can add loft to the club face (make the club ‘look up’ more). I know that makes the club aim a little bit to the right, but it shouldn’t affect direction too much because you’re going to put that club as close to under the ball as you can.
Remember this, it’s the lofted impact that counts, not the lofted address. You’ve got to try hard to master the ability to whip the club through and sort of slide it under the ball so it maintains lofted impact. Try practicing it on a small scale initially. I like to think of it as skipping a rock.

A couple words of caution: if you’re not a very skilled golfer or if you struggle at hitting your short iron solidly, you may not want to try to manipulate your impact too much and do all that fancy club face work. If you worry too much about that you may upset your ability to just hit a decent bunker shot. Be sure to weigh that according to your skill set.

The other thing you need to know is the quality of your lie. If there is a little bit of an upslope with plenty of sand under the ball then it will be easier to slide the club under the ball. If the ball is sitting a bit farther down in a rut or a dip then the club is more likely to not make it under the ball, resulting in the club slamming into the ball. If it is a poor lie, don’t try to turn the face of the club to look up at you too much.

Playing Hazards in Golf

Another thing I will caution you of is that a lot of bunker shot articles may advise you to open the face of your club in the backswing, meaning to add some loft in your backswing. While that is true, you can add some loft in the backswing, I would just advise you to be careful about that unless you’re a highly skilled player. If you begin to twist the club in the air a lot you could get yourself so far out of sorts that it becomes pretty difficult to make consistent contact. If you completely foul out one-in-three shots but get a couple of good ones, that is worse than three mediocre shots. Don’t get too tricky unless your skill level is fairly high. 

Like everything, the more you practice, the more you will increase your skill sets, the more you will be able to discern that.

Now, let’s talk about the effect of speed on the bunker shot. There is only so fast you can swing when the pin is fairly close to you. If you can get the club as open as I prescribed in the above loft section and you literally slide the club right under the ball, just like you see on T.V., the ball will actually go slower than the club.

If you get that far under it, the ball won’t go that far. My point is that if you can keep the club open through impact you will be surprised at how hard you can swing and still only hit a fairly short distance. If you were to hit the ball as hard with a square face off the fairway as you would in a bunker, the ball would go 50-60 yards on the fairway as opposed to only eight or nine yards out of the bunker. So, get as much speed as you can.

True or False?

  • Wrist cocking makes the ball go higher. True? Not directly. Speed makes the ball go higher. Wrist cock is likely to add some speed to the swing. If you have a fairly decent sized swing go ahead and cock your wrist. Just be careful not to overdo it, as mentioned in the above section on loft.
  • Picking the club up (bring the club higher) makes the ball go higher. True? Not at all, do not do that. If anything that makes the ball go lower. Picking the club up can definitely make you hit steeper in the sand. This may be useful in a plugged lie or something similar, however, it does not in and of itself make the ball go higher- just the opposite in fact. I would recommend staying on a good plane, one that suits the golf club. One that you would employ if you were hitting a T shot or something like that. 
To summarize, loft is very important. You’ve got to understand how to do that and use it to your advantage. You’ve also go to understand when to try to go that. The other thing, again, is speed. How are you going to get good at these things? Get yourself into a practice bunker and experiment a little bit. You’ve got to get a feel for yourself, and as always these are all based on the template of sound & good swing mechanics.

How To Hit Out Of A Fairway Bunker

The first thing to note when trying to hit a ball out of a fairway bunker is that solid contact is key. Depending on your skill set, the size of the lip etc, you might not always be in a situation where you can get the ball right on the green, but you’ve got to make good enough contact to advance the ball significantly so as to take out a lot of the penalty of being in a fairway bunker.

how to hit a golf ball out of a fairway bunker

To consistently make solid contact with the ball, here are a few key things that will help:

  1. Setup: Your stance and foot placement are very important. Don’t be afraid to wiggle your feet well into the sand to ensure that you have a firm footing. If you stand on top of the sand without digging your feet in and start swinging with speed and just slip slightly, you are guaranteed to almost always miss hit the ball. Some players recommend slightly bending your knees inwards slightly and wedging your ankles and shoes in which can be helpful, however, it’s a little restrictive of the size of the swing but certainly gives you stability.
  2. To compensate for your stance and feet firmly planted well into the sand, you will need to shorten your grip on the club. Most people don’t do this enough, however, there should be some depth to your footprints and so when standing in them, the club would then be measured as too long. To help you measure how far down you should place your hands on the club, when standing in front of the ball, slide your hands down the club until you feel a comfortable extension of your arms without any interference. Practice taking a few swings and the club shouldn’t be hitting the sand.
  3. Move the ball back a little in your stance, about the width of a golf ball. It is all up to personal preference, but this will help to ensure that your club hits the ball before hitting any sand. If you can do this, you will get significantly more distance with the ball than if you hit the sand first. Remember that as your feet are firmly planted and dug into the sand, you won’t be as mobile as you normally would be and you can’t use your lower body quite with the same energy as you would normally. Consequently, in all likelihood, you are going to release the club a little bit sooner than your best swing on the fairway, and again this also requires that your stance be a little bit further back so that you don’t hit the sand first.
  4. Swing within yourself. This is important as when your feet are planted into the sand, you won’t be able to swing as hard, your balance will be off and having shortened the club will cost you distance. No matter what you try, in this situation, you just won’t make as good of a club-to-ball connection when it’s down in the sand a little bit as you would if it was sitting up on the grass. So for all these reasons, you are going to lose a little bit of yardage, but swing within yourself and remember the points listed above and you’ve got a pretty good chance of hitting a decent shot.


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