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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

An Interesting Bunker Video

It may sound as if I'm throwing PGA teaching pro Greg Baresel under the bus here, but that's not my intention. However, I found his new instructional video Bunker Simplicity over at and noticed something very interesting...

I'm not questioning whether his method works or not. Clearly it does -- the ball gets up and out of the bunker, doesn't it? -- and there are other instructors who teach this method as well. But it's easy to watch this video and miss something significant.

Do you see those two lines drawn in the sand? Greg is using them to help you see his alignment -- first when he opens his stance and then when he squares up to his target. Those lines are pointing slightly to the viewer's right, which means that's where he's aimed. But when he hits the ball, it flies to the viewer's left.

That can mean only one thing: Even though he set up with the intention of squaring the clubface at impact, the clubface was actually open. I'm guessing that's because when the bounce skims through the sand, the sand grabs it and holds the club face open. (Similar to the way tall rough grabs the hosel and closes the club face.) Which also probably explains how the whole "open your stance, open the face, swing across your body" sand technique developed -- it was probably a little easier to predict where the ball was going if you did.

Does this mean you shouldn't use Greg's method? Of course not. It clearly works. But when you use it, you'll still have to set up so you're aimed along an "open" line if you want the ball to fly toward the hole. With Greg's method you're just squaring the club face down that line instead of opening it up.

Something important that Greg mentions and demonstrates -- but that may get lost in the debate over square vs. open setups -- is that "L to L" swing with the hands even with the club head at setup. These are the two primary keys to getting the bounce to work, so you want to use them no matter which technique you choose.

The "L to L" swing with hands back is demonstrated face on in slow motion at the end of the video. Make sure you take time to watch that -- again, it'll really help your sand play no matter which technique you choose!


  1. My sister had trouble getting out of the sand, I was thinking about getting her a 56 degree/16 degree bounce sand wedge and move the ball to front of her left foot, this way she bound to hit the sand first and it won't get stuck, so you think it'll work ?


  2. Peter, sometimes it's not a technique problem (like ball position), it's just equipment. But if it's a technique problem, changing equipment probably won't help. And you have to consider the type of sand she's playing out of, as well.

    Years ago I had trouble getting out of the sand. (Especially at my favorite course, where the sand was really soft.) I couldn't get out with a sand wedge no matter how I tried. Finally I heard about Seve practicing with a 3-iron. I didn't go that far, but I did try using a 9-iron. I opened the face wide open so the back was almost flat on the ground. It didn't take me much practice to get the hang of it -- my golf partner told me that if he could hit bunker shots with a 9-iron the way I did, he'd NEVER use a sand wedge again!

    As it turned out, my sand wedge simply needed more bounce -- in my case, a 54° with 16 degrees of bounce did the job. That was probably as much about soft sand as anything else.

    But here's my point... I was able to do just fine with the 9-iron. Why? Because I stopped digging into the sand. I didn't have to change the ball position; I had to learn how to USE the bounce. With the 9-iron laying that wide open, there was NO way I was going to dig the front edge of the club into the sand. But if your sister is leaning the club shaft forward when she hits the sand, getting more bounce won't help because she'll still dig in with the front edge.

    I'd have her practice with her existing wedge but trying to use the L-to-L swing from the video above. Watch her and see if her hands are ahead of the ball when she hits the sand. (That's what the L-to-L swing is supposed to stop.) She wants the shaft almost vertical when the club head hits the sand. That should fix the problem.

    If she still has trouble, then you can move the ball an inch forward in her stance and see if she does better. But she's GOT to learn how to use the bounce on the club first.

  3. Mike,

    It's always fun to see demonstrations of using a sand wedge from the soft sands of the professional tour. The bunkers in the courses that I play do not come close. Most have maybe an inch of something like sand and then hard clay, if that.
    Opening the face all the way helps sometimes but there is always the chance that I'll hit the ball with the leading edge because I can't get underneath it.
    Like you, I've tried an iron (8 iron for me) a little open and that does seem to work mostly.

  4. When you don't have much sand under the ball, less bounce is better than more. And when you have really thin sand, that's a good place for a low bounce 64° wedge.

    Patrick, one of the good things about learning to use an 8-iron out of the sand is that you've got an advantage when you need to play a long sand shot -- you already know how to use a club that goes farther!

  5. Mike, I just came across your blog and saw your post about my video. I am glad to hear you like my technique. It is very effective in the bunker. That was a great catch on your end from seeing the alignment rods and where the ball goes. Honestly the reason the went right is because the camera guy told me not to hit his camera. I lined everything up pointing to the camera as if that was the target. Thanks for sharing the video.

  6. Thanks for checking in, Greg. Don't you hate it when the cameraman wants to get a perfect shot... and then tells you to change it because he's in the way?

    Thanks for making the video!