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Playing Golf

How Good Are You In The Sand
by Ben Throckmorton

Think about it, if you could convert 5 out of 10 attempts from a normal lie in the trap, how many strokes could YOU save per round?

If you're like most people, you could save yourself at least 3-4 strokes per 18 holes.

I consider myself a decent player and having said that, I played recently at Pilot Knob Park in the foothills of the North Carolina Mountains. I found myself in green side bunkers 4 times during my round. Let's just say my iron play was a bit less than stellar. I got the ball up and in 4 times out of 4 and I'm going to explain to you right now exactly how I did it and how you can do it too.

It is my belief that every golfer, regardless of skill level, physical condition, gender, or age, is capable of playing good bunker shots and converting the up and in at least 50% of the time. The following tips will set you on a solid foundation that you can practice and achieve these results.

1. Practice your putting. I know this is a sand play article but if you practice holing putts 10 feet and shorter for 30 minutes a week, sand saves as well as all other shots become a little less daunting. If you feel good about holing a 10 footer, it takes a lot heat off the rest of your game so just humor me and work on your putting 30 minutes weekly. My saving putts at Pilot Knob Park were 3 feet to 8 feet and I made all four.

2. Use a neutral grip. You don't want to use a strong grip for bunker shots because it's absolutely essential that the club face slides under the ball and into your finish without the club face closing. A neutral grip is one that has the back of the left hand facing parallel to the target line and the right palm facing the same direction. Slap your hands together in front of you and you'll instantly see what I mean.

3. Aim the club face down the target line which should be just left of the hole. You've heard all the hype about opening the club face and such and that's fine if you hit a lot of bunker shots but most folks don't so aim the club face down the target line which should be just left of the hole. The target should be just left of the hole because the method I use will impart some left to right spin which will move the ball from left to right once it gets on the ground.

4. Aim your feet on a 20-30 degree angle to the left of the target line. The greater the angle you create between your feet and the target line, the higher and softer the ball will come out of the trap. Practice these shots a bit with varying angles and you'll see what I mean. Find the angle where you're most comfortable and which produces the best results and stick with it whatever it might be.

5. Anchor your feet in the sand to enhance your balance and stability.

6. Swing the club out to in across the target line parallel to the line that your feet are on and keep the face of the club square to the target line. The club should enter the sand 1 - 2 inches behind the golf ball and "slice under it' into a nice full finish. This will produce a shot that comes out of the bunker and lands softly on the green. Your arms and forearms should remain relaxed throughout the swing. This will produce wrist action and speed through the ball which will produce a shot that spins and stops quickly under normal circumstances.

7. PRACTICE It's very important for the average player to take as many variables out of play as possible. Thus the need for a neutral grip, and constant set up position. Practice and play with these points in mind and I guarantee you that your bunker play will improve

Enjoy Your Golf!

About the author

Ben Throckmorton is a former Class A PGA Pro and the author of "A Better Way To Play", a new interactive golf instruction program.<p>

Learn more about Ben and his new golf instruction program at:


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