Stickney: Sand shots |

Stickney: Sand shots

Tom Stickney
Vail CO, Colorado

Is your normal tendency in a bunker to decelerate and leave the ball in the sand, or to bounce the club off the sand and send a Mach 1 bullet over the green?

If one of these tendencies sounds like you then look to your equipment for help!! If you decelerate try a very flexible shaft coupled with a very thick flanged sand wedge- like the Alien.

The flexible shaft will “kick” more at the bottom causing your clubhead speed to be a touch faster, and the thick flange will skip through the sand easier allowing the ball to hit the green more often.

If you send bullets out of the bunker, try a thin flanged sand wedge with little bounce. This type of wedge will “dig” into the sand more and thus it will be harder to hit those rockets.

As everyone knows the sand plays havoc into the games of amateurs across the land; however if you apply several simple rules I promise you will get out of the bunker more often than not! 90% of the students that I see on a daily basis do not understand how to set up to the sand shot or what to do if they hit a poor one.

This is the reason that so many people are lost when they walk into the bunker. . .poor attitudes and poor mechanical understanding of what they are trying to do in the first place. It is here that I want to take you through these simple rules and let you understand the why’s and how’s of the sand trap. . .

1) Understand the Law of the Clubface and its “bounce.”

The sand wedge has two designs built into the face. . .if it is square to your target line it will dig very deeply, if it is open or pointing to the right it will skid through the sand. We desire a clubface that is open and skids for most bunker shots, unless you have a bad lie.

2) Understand the Law of Ball Positioning

The ball is positioned based on what your normal tendencies are in the bunker- if you tend to hit it thin then place the ball under the right side of your sternum. If you tend to hit it fat then place the ball under the left side of your sternum. These two positions will counteract these two negative shots that most people hit.

3) Understand the Law of Body Positioning

The body must be positioned to the left of your intended target line, this allows the club to cut across the ball during the swing lifting the ball out of the bunker. Your weight will be about sixty percent on your left side during the swing to allow the club to move down into the sand.

4) Understand the Law of Friction

Because the sand is very heavy and thick the club will encounter a lot of friction as it moves into the sand and through the impact area, when this happens the club will slow down. . .make sure you continue to accelerate through the shot and move into a full finish. These four laws will make you a better sand player than ever before and you will get up and down more often!

Tom F. Stickney II, G.S.E.D. and Director of Instruction at The Golf Academy at Cordillera. He can be reached at (970) 904-2485 or

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