May 2011

MAY 2011: Golf Tips from a Pro: Sand - Not as Difficult as You Might Think

Author: Pete Popovich | Photographer: Photography by Anne

The mere thought of hitting a ball into the sand evokes fear in most golfers. As with most other shots, full swing, chip/pitch, or putt, you may have heard of a multitude of ways to get out of the sand, most likely without much success (or you wouldn’t be reading this article). Upon completion of reading this, you will have a good understanding of why certain things need to happen when hitting a sand shot in order to get the desired result.


Begin with a stance that is approximately shoulder width apart and slightly open in relationship to your target line—approximately 15-20 degrees (target line is the intended line the ball will travel). At the same time, keep the leading edge of the club head perpendicular to the target line. Even though your stance is open to the target line, your clubface is square to the target line. It is hard enough to hit a ball straight with a square clubface much less a clubface that is aimed at something other than the intended target, i.e. the hole.

Dig your feet into the sand until you feel they have reached a point that the bottoms of your shoes are lower than the bottom of the golf ball. Grip down on the club approximately two inches for more control, just as you would a chip shot. This also ensures you will not hit too far behind the ball as a result of the club now being too long.

We have all heard the advice to make sure you hit one to two inches behind the ball when in the sand. However, if you have the ball placed in the wrong position, i.e. middle of your stance, back of your stance, etc., it makes hitting one to two inches behind the ball and getting the ball to fly high and soft nearly impossible. The ball should be placed one to two inches forward of your left heel or in line with your left instep. Contrary to chipping, the ball is well forward in the stance. (Remember, in chipping, you are attempting to hit a low shot, whereas in the sand, you want to hit high soft shots.) Because our stance is shoulder width apart (vs. six inches apart in chipping) and open in relationship to the target line, the point at which the club will bottom out moves well forward of center. If we place the ball one to two inches forward of this bottom out point, the club will enter the sand prior to the ball and move the sand up and onto the green. The ball, in turn, flies on this sand like a magic carpet up in the air. As the sand falls away, the ball lands softly onto the green.

VERY IMPORTANT: When hitting out of greenside sand, you are not contacting the ball. You are moving sand out of the bunker, and the ball is along for the ride. Because you are moving approximately one pound of sand out of the bunker with the ball on top, you need to accelerate to a full finish. If you stop your club in the sand without finishing your swing, your chances for success are greatly limited.

TIPS: For a higher shot, open your stance more while keeping the face square to the intended target line. For a lower shot, bring your stance and the clubface closer to square.


Bounce is a design component on the sole of the club that helps keep the club from digging into the ground. The trailing edge of the sole sits lower than the leading edge, which allows the trailing edge to deflect or bounce away from the ground, especially on sand shots.

Bounce is most apparent in wedges, where the angled sole is very good at keeping the club head moving along the surface during sand shots. The larger the angle of bounce, the greater the deflection when the club contacts the ground. A good point to remember is that clubs with large bounce angles are better suited for soft sand and/or thick rough and do not perform well out of firm sand and/or tight lies. With this in mind, it is a good idea to have an assortment of wedges for different courses.

If you would like to know more about getting out of the sand consistently, contact the Golf Performance Academy-Hilton Head at (843) 338.6737, visit online at, or follow us on Facebook at Golf Performance Academy-Hilton Head. To see the video version of this article, go

SEPCIAL NOTE: E-mail us questions about your golf game. Each month we will answer five of the submitted questions on video which can be viewed on CH magazine’s website. If your question is not chosen, we will still send you an answer via e-mail. I look forward to your questions and helping you with your game.

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