Don’t hit the ball out of a sand trap


“Too much ambition is a bad thing to have in a bunker.” – Bobby Jones

By Ian Hardie

Walking up to play a shot out of a sand trap, most golfers will have a feeling of either bewilderment or fear as to how they are going to get the ball out but it shouldn’t be like that.

It should be the easiest shot you play in a round!


The sand shot is the only shot in golf where you don’t hit the ball.

Yes, you read that right – to get the ball out, you don’t actually hit it.

The art of getting out of the sand trap is to play a shot that allows you to take ‘a divot’ of sand out with the club.

This is how the ball comes out – it’s pushed up and out by the sand.

To help you do that it is important that you not only have but use a sand wedge.

In your set of clubs the other irons are made with quite flat soles (the bottom of the club) as they are used mainly for shots off grass.

This flat sole, while fine for most shots, causes problems when it is used for a sand shot because it wants to dig down into the sand – with the end result being a poor shot.

A sand wedge is specially designed for the shot by having the back of the sole (trailing edge) lower than the leading edge – this is known as bounce.

As the sand wedge goes down into the sand the trailing edge at the back hits the sand and effectively stops the sand wedge from digging into the sand, instead kicking it up and out of the sand allowing a flowing shot (the taking of the divot) and effective extraction of the ball.

So use the sand wedge – it’s specifically designed to help you play the shot well.

There is one other thing you may want to do to increase your chances of getting out.

If you watch an accomplished sand player you will notice that they before they play the shot, they will have a different stance to most other shots they play.

They will have adjusted their stance to the line they are aiming on by both pulling back and turning their front foot – open to the line of the shot.

This allows them to reduce or eliminate any possible leg action in the shot as the sand shot is played with basically an arm and shoulder turn only.

Any leg action that you use will cause the majority of your bad sand shots. 

As Bobby Jones’s quote above says – it’s best that you not get too ambitious from the sand trap.

The priority of a sand shot for most golfers is to get the ball out of the sand and onto some grass as soon as possible.

And this does not always mean shooting straight at the pin or even the green on occasion.

A lot of the sand shots that you have may need to be hit out sideways (or even backwards) because of the lie of the ball or the lip of the sand.

Don’t make the common error that most golfers do of blindly shooting at the flag and still being in the sand trap 3 or 4 shots later.

After all – it’s better to have a 20 or 30 foot putt for par – than another sand shot.

Oh, I nearly forgot.

There are 2 ways that your sand shots can be improved.

By practicing them a lot and then practicing them some more.

Play well


Related posts

How to hit a sand wedge from the fairway

The ultimate chipping question – up or along?

My best ever simple putting tip

Phil Mickelson’s: Secrets of the Short Game

2 thoughts on “Don’t hit the ball out of a sand trap”

  1. Ian

    You have hit the nail on the head. What degree of sand wedge do you recommend. I use a 56 degree old ping eye two red dot. Also, if I want to replace it, what degree of bounce do you recommend?


  2. Hey Jim,

    Thanks for that comment.

    As to what degree of sand wedge and what bounce to have I would suggest it depends on the type of sand you play out of most often.

    Softer sand generally requires a higher degree of bounce and less loft, whereas hard packed sand needs a lot less bounce and more loft to give a similar shot.

    If you are going to replace your sand wedge, I would recommend trying quite a few different ones (this is not always easy I know) and see what effect the different lofts and bounce has when matched up with your sand shot action.

    You will be amazed at how different they are and from that you should be able to figure out which you would have confidence in for your game.



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