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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Tom Watson on Playing Greenside Bunkers (Video)

In this short Callaway Golf video, Tom Watson shows you how to hit out of a greenside bunker. I want to focus on one thing he says, because I don't think most people understand what it means.

Around the 1:20 mark Tom says that the BACK EDGE of the sand wedge's bounce is what contacts the sand and makes it slide through the sand. There's some logic here that affects your address position, and that's what I want to focus on.

In order for the back edge to hit the sand first, you need to open the face of the wedge. In fact, this is the reason you open the face. Since you hit the sand behind the ball and moving the sand is what throws the ball out, you won't get a big slice.

But simply opening the face isn't enough, and that's where most players make their mistake.

I know that you are told over and over that, for most shots, you want to lean the shaft forward at impact. The key words here are FOR MOST SHOTS. That simply doesn't work for a sand shot! If you lean the shaft forward, the front edge of the wedge will hit the sand first even if you open the face. You absolutely do NOT want to lean the shaft forward.

That requires an adjustment to your address setup.

To get the shaft vertical or even leaning backward a bit at address, you want the butt end of the shaft to point at your belly button at address. And if you set up with the shaft vertical and pointing at your belly button -- without the ball, just take the position -- you'll quickly realize that the ball has to be moved FORWARD in your stance. In fact, since you want to hit the sand behind the ball and not the ball itself, you need to set up so the ball is maybe two to four inches ahead of the clubface.

Yes, I know that sounds like a sure recipe for a thin skulled shot, but it isn't. Remember, you're hitting the sand first and letting the clubhead slide underneath the sand. It's the sand being moved by the clubhead that throws the ball out of the bunker.

There's one other thing you need to do. Most players set up with their stance a bit open, and that's so they don't hit the ball with the hosel of the club. Remember, you've opened the clubface so the available area of the face is narrower than when the face is square. From an open setup, you can set up to hit the ball in the center of the clubface like a normal shot.

But you can also hit the ball from a square setup. To do that, you need to stand a bit farther from the ball, so the ball is closer to the toe than to the middle of the clubface. Again, remember that you only have to hit the sand behind the ball, not the ball itself. You'll move plenty of sand to get the ball up in the air cleanly.

So remember, to get the ball out of the sand:
  • Open the clubface so the back of the sole hits the sand first.
  • Set up with the shaft vertical, aimed at your belly button, so the shaft isn't leaning forward at address.
  • Position yourself so the ball is two to four inches ahead of the clubface, to make sure you don't lean the shaft forward at impact.
  • And stand a bit farther from the ball so it's a little nearer to the toe of the club, so you won't hit the ball with the hosel.
It's going to look a bit weird at first, but you'll be surprised at how quickly you can get used to it once that ball starts popping out of the sand and onto the green.

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