Fresh Thinking Golf Part 3

Sand Play

If the tips and swing thoughts that you rely on have past their sell-by date, then perhaps it’s time to try something new? Over the following pages, let me share with you some of the ideas that I have found successful among my students – in several cases simply a change of emphasis on a certain element of technique that helps you to marry mind and body and play a more intuitive game of golf. Any questions, fire them over. You can post them to me at my academy website

Part 1 – Long Game
Part 2 – Pitching
Part 3 – Sand Play
Part 4 – Putting

Splashing about in the sand:

Get the bounce on your side, and play these shots from a relatively neutral set up

Ask any club golfer how to go about playing a sand shot and you’ll hear all about the need to open up the clubface along with opening the stance – both valid to a certain extent. The problem many golfers run in to is that of exaggeration, particularly when it comes to the open stance. They lay the clubface open and compensate with a stance that could be as much as 45 degrees open to the target line. All of which leads to a situation in which the set-up and the clubface are at odds, and the swing is destined to be wildly across the target line from out-to-in.

This is over complicating the issue.

With a good sand iron in your hands, all you need to worry about is activating the ‘bounce’ on the sole of the club, and you can do that very easily by opening the clubface a few degrees at set up (the extent to which you open the face reflecting the height and distance you are hoping to achieve). But don’t be fooled into thinking that the alignment of the leading edge reflects the alignment of the sweetspot on your sand iron – there’s an optical illusion here and while the leading edge may be pointing well to the right of your target, the centre of the clubface (and the direction in which the sand and the ball will be started) is likely to be much nearer to your target.

(Left) No need to exaggerate the open stance – just 10-15 degrees left of target is good. Clubface a little open, aiming just a little behind the line

(Centre) Utilising the ‘bounce’ the clubhead surfs through the sand, removing a shallow divot – one that is appropriate to how far you wish to fly the ball

(Right) Right-foot-back technique equally effective here for those of you who tend to get too steep on the shot

What does this mean? Well, once you understand where your ‘strike point’ is, you don’t need to make quite so drastic adjustments in the alignment of your feet and body position. Opening the clubface will give you more loft to play with, but does not significantly alter the aim point of the sweetspot (as long as you keep the shaft vertical), and that’s the key.

So the thrust of this lesson is that I want you to reduce the amount you open your stance, and focus on replacing a steep, awkward technique with a shallow swing that gives you control over the depth of sand you take. As you settle into the sand, check that the shaft is more or less vertical (not leaning too far back or forward), which gets the bounce of the club working for you. Then make a neutral swing along the line of your feet and trust in the club.

A good drill for general awareness in the sand is to create a line and test your ability to remove a consistent divot, aiming at a spot just slightly behind that line and listening to the distinct sound you make through impact (no ball required). Learn from the sound and the feel of the club striking the sand and think about where the ball might have finished. You’ll be surprised at how quickly the improvement in your awareness translates to increased confidence and better shot making from it – and this will open up a whole new world for you.

Here’s looking at you, skid: great bunker players have a wonderful awareness and control of the clubface, and this is something you have to go out and practice to achieve.
The key to utilising the ‘bounce’ that characterises the sole of the sand iron is to maintain that open face through impact – no digging! Get a feel for this with the right hand only, make a few rehearsal swings and experience the way in which the open face cuts easily through the sand.
Into the throughswing, the face is almost looking back at you!

Understand the reality of alignment…

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BMW International Open R2

By GT Editor

A lot of golfers make the mistake of severely opening their stance because they think this is necessary to compensate for the wide open clubface. But in reality, the true alignment of the clubface is not what it may appear. Here, at the set up, I have placed a magnetic marker on the face of my sand iron – and while the leading edge is aiming in the region of 30 degrees right of target, the marker (representing the sweetspot on the clubface) points at the flag. Being aware of this relationship gives me the confidence to set up with my feet just slightly open to the target line – there is no need to create an exaggerated position – and I can make a simple swing that creates a consistent and appropriate contact with the sand.

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