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Circle in the Sand
Mark Carey

Perhaps the biggest single hurdle to overcome in teaching basic sand play is the correct set-up position.

Most golfers understand the need to open the clubface, but then make the mistake of manipulating the hands and laying the face open independently of the other details that have to be taken into account.

Furthermore, when they open up their stance, most amateurs play the ball way too far back.

The exercise you see here can change all that.

By drawing a circle in the sand, and then simply adjusting your position around it, you not only experience the sensation of practising from a correctly open stance, but will find that it is easy to play the ball in the correct position - i.e. slightly forward of centre.

The result is greater control of the clubhead as you skim it through the sand - and thus improved trajectory and spin.

This is what to do:

Find a flat area in the sand, and draw a circle (use your club as a compass) with about a 2 foot diameter. If I were to take a regular set-up position with a sand iron - as if to play a pitch from the fairway -I would position the ball in the middle of my stance, the leading edge of the clubface aimed dead on the target.

To create an open stance and clubface, simply move around the circle until the ball is opposite the inside of your left heel . As you do so, shuffle the club through your fingers so that you keep the leading edge of the club 'looking' at your target (i.e. the flag) while maintaining a neutral grip as you settle into the shot.

Rules of Engagement

  • Choose a sand iron that suits the type of sand you playing most regularly. Hard compact sand demands a club with less 'bounce'; soft and powdery sand requires a greater degree of bounce
  • The lie always dictates the shot: i.e. good lie = normal swing, poor lie = V-shaped swing
  • Wiggle your feet to test the sand and establish a good foundation
  • Open the clubface before you make your grip; choking down a little compensates for your part-buried feet
  • Aim your body 30 degrees left of target - practise using the circle
  • Swing the club as normal - hands and arms following the line of your body in the sand technique
  • Aim to strike 2-3 inches behind the ball for a normal greenside splash shot - that's your point
  • For a smooth acceleration, use the length of follow through to control the distance the ball flies

Feel the clubface with the right hand

At first glance this may look very difficult. But practising with your right hand only is a terrific exercise on these shots, as doing so eliminates any tendency you might have to want to over-control the clubface as you splash it through the sand. [It's always a good idea to grip an inch or so down the shaft for an enhanced sense of control and feel for the clubhead.]

To enjoy the line of least resistance through the sand, you have to learn to deliver the club along a shallow arc with the face open - the secret to playing these shots well. With just your right hand on the club you will find that the right wrist is encouraged to hinge correctly in the course of the backswing, whereupon you are then able to work on 'holding off' the open clubface (i.e. not allowing the toe to pass the heel in the release) as you skim through the sand.

This technique allows you to perform an aggressive action with great control. When you have become more confident, try hitting balls out of the bunker with one hand. Then, after a few minutes, revert to a regular grip and go after the same sensations as you repeat that shallow swing that cuts easily through the sand.

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