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Bunker strategy starts with judging sand conditions

Padraig Harrington Bunker 304
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Tour players are magicians out of greenside bunkers, as time after time we see them get the ball close to the hole from the sand around the greens.

While I would never discredit their skill levels, it is worth noting that they do get to play from good, consistent sand week in and week out.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I go out to some of my local courses to play, the sand is sometimes, let’s say, less than fluffy.

When the consistency of the sand in the greenside bunkers changes, the length of your swing will need to be adjusted.

I always remind my students to consider how much sand they will be moving. In soft sand, the club will move more sand, as the divot will be naturally deeper and longer than in firm sand.

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So to adjust from soft sand to firmer sand, understand that because you will be moving less sand you will need to make a smaller (but still aggressive) swing than you would in soft, fluffy sand.

While you can enter the sand three to five inches before the golf ball in soft sand, you will want to enter no more than three inches before the ball in firm sand. Again, the divot will be shorter, so if you enter the sand too soon you will risk exiting the sand too soon and hitting the golf ball first.

Everything else, however, can stay the same with respect to alignment, ball position, etc.

If the sand is wet, feel free to open the clubface to produce a higher shot. The one concern is that when the sand gets extremely compacted there is a risk that a sand wedge will not break the surface and actually skip into the ball.

When you open the club, you do add bounce to the bottom of the club. But this only becomes a problem when the sand is extremely hard, at which point you’ll want to utilize as little bounce as possible.

Pick the right shot for the conditions you face on greenside bunker shots and your sand play will improve dramatically.

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