Golf is not all about hitting a ball to push it around until it falls in a hole. It has a lot of elements that make it more challenging and exciting. Bunker shots are undoubtedly one of them because such shots have put some of the best golf players in tricky spots.
Every golf course has a sand bunker as a hazard. It is quite challenging to get your ball out of the sand. Even if you manage to get it out, you might end up making the game more complicated by landing the ball somewhere unfavorable.
Hence, this guide will tell you how exactly to do that with in-depth details and help you overcome the fear of facing this challenge. Once you get yourself acquainted with the tips and tricks in maneuvering a sand wedge, you can make a sand shot and more with much ease.
What is a Sand Wedge?
A Sand Wedge is a golf club made of iron that is specifically prepared to help you to get out of sand bunkers. It is identified by the fact that it has an open face and a very wide sole. In fact, out of all the golf clubs that you may have to use for the game, sand wedges probably have soles with the highest width.
This wideness is exactly what helps the club to enable the ball to bounce off the sand instead of getting stuck in it like the ball itself. Its characteristics make it useful not just in the sand, but also in other lies that are soft such as muddy ground, grass, uneven lies, etc.
There is more than one kind of sand wedge. Each wedge can differ based on the features they have. For example, you can increase the amount of bounce it creates by tweaking its structure and giving it a higher loft. In this way, sand wedges can be designed for different kinds of shots or situations according to your requirement.
The most apparent characteristic of a sand wedge is its weight. Amongst all the clubs you own or that you can find in your golf bag, a sand wedge will be the heaviest. They can weight about 1.1 kilograms or 40 ounces and sometimes more.
This is because of all the materials incorporated into it for its functions. However, it helps in executing the swing.
Another essential feature of sand wedges is its loft angle. The loftdetermines what kind of height and distance the ball will reach with any shot. Since bounce is significant for bunker shots, sand wedges usually have a very high loft.
The ideal loft is usually between 54 to 56 degrees, but some of them come with lofts as much as 60 degrees.
A sand wedge also has a very short shaft. Most of them come with shafts that are as long as 33 inches (or 84 centimeters) or up to 36 inches (or 90 centimeters). Some of them can be longer and comparable to pitching wedges.
The most important feature of sand wedges is the bounce angle. This is what distinguishes it from other irons. Most golf clubs have its sole directly perpendicular to the shaft to make it easy for the leading wedge.
That is to impact the ball since the sole is more or less parallel to the ground, but in the case of sand wedges, it is not the same.
Firstly, the sole of a sand wedge is much wider than regular wedges. In addition, the surface is not parallel to the ground or vertical to the shaft. The leading edge in this wedge is a bit lifted off the ground. This is done for three reasons:
- To make the surface of the bottom wider and the edge higher. A lot more material is required to be added to the club, especially in the club head. This is exactly what gives sand wedges its weight in helping to launch balls higher.
- Since the sole is angled instead of being flat or blunt, it does not dig into the ground or lie very easily. Therefore, you’re safe to play in sandy surface or on mud and grass. This is useful for many cases where you need to be more flexible with your stance.
You can address the ball by keeping it in the center of your stance and do a normal swing so that it glides over whatever hazard you’re on. You can also keep the ball a bit on the right of your stance to help it reach more distance.
If you did not have the element of bounce in the club, you would not be able to execute such shots accurately because there would be a high possibility of your wedge to get stuck in the ground before ever hitting the ball.
- There will be situations where your ball might be stuck deep inside the sand. To get this ball out, you have to be able to reach underneath it. Otherwise, it will be rolling around the sand bunker.
This is why the leading edge of sand wedges is about an inch or two to help it contact the ball from under it. Hence, the bounce angle helps to get up close to the surface to take the ball out from it.
Golf players, especially professionals, understand that such features are very important in executing the kind of shot they want to make. In that regard, they often customize the settings for the bounce angle or the loft angle according to their needs.
Beginners do not usually bother going this far to up their game. However, it is all up to you and whether you care about making a difference in your game, especially during crucial points where you want a lower score.
To be able to change the configurations of your sand wedge, make sure you buy a wedge that has settings to allow making such customizations.
Steps to Use Sand Wedge
There are a few steps to follow to execute a correct shot with a sand wedge.
Step 1: The Right Wedge
Even though the ideal measurements or settings for a sand wedge are set and fixed, different situations might call for different types of sand wedges. For example, if you find yourself quite far away from any green, the best option is to use a wedge with loft as high as 60 degrees.
In this way, your ball will reach higher altitudes and land softly without rolling. Again, if you are closer to greens, choose a wedge with about 52 to 56-degree loft to cover a longer distance and lesser height.
Step 2: Stance And Set Up
For any well-executed shot, the stance is very important. For sand shots, it is even more so, because any minor inconsistency can cause you to end up trying shots after shots inside the sand bunker.
The first thing you have to do is check how deep the sand is where your ball fell. You can dig into the soil with your feet to do that. Once you figure out how deep you have to get the club, you have to fix your body posture for the shot.
Make sure the ball is a bit on the left of your center if you are a right-handed golfer. This is important to make sure the ball does not roll or reach a lower trajectory in its flight.
It is crucial for the shot to have backspin. To make that happen, you must put your weight on the left or front foot. Make sure both your stance and the club face are open. This will help to provide a better angle in digging the club under the ball.
Remember to eliminate as much leg action as possible because that is usually what causes errors in sand shots. Thus, you should keep the muscles on your shoulder and arms relaxed while flexing your knees. The turn of your shoulder and arm is what will make the shot happen.
Step 3: Executing the Swing
Once you have your stance set, it is time to start the swing. Make sure your hands and arms remain in control while the rest of the body is firm. Then, initiate the swing by first taking a backswing halfway.
You will need to use a bit of a wrist hinge when you’re at the top. Likewise, you can practice the swing by moving the club a few times back and forth like a pendulum. Once your arms get the hang of it, you can take the opportunity to let your wrist hinge during the end of your downswing. Make sure your arm does not waver.
Step 4: Finish
How big the swing needs depends on the distance you want the ball to go. This kind of swing essentially sends the ball high while making sure it lands softly. With more practice, you will be able to figure out how far you exactly want to take the backswing for specific distances or heights.
For standard practice, it is better to have a full finish where the club swings over your left shoulder to end the swing.
Accordingly, it is imperative to maintain the acceleration you created in the swing. If at any point, you happen to slow down or stop, the ball may not end up where you wanted it to end. If you’re nervous, don’t hesitate to take a longer swing. It will only send the ball further.
The finish is probably the most critical part of a sand shot. This position determines 80 percent of how the shot will end up. Therefore, just relax your body and trust where the wedge takes you with the loft.
When to Use Sand Wedge
Even though the name of a sand wedge suggests that it should only be used for sand shots or when you are stuck in a sand bunker, the truth is, there are more situations where a sand wedge can come in handy.
In that sense, learning how to use this wedge in other situations where it might make the game easy for you is also essential. Here are some situations where you can use a sand wedge when the ball is on the sand or sand bunker:
Your ball might end up on muddy ground or thicker grass. In this case, you do not want to dig your club into the ground. What you should do is use your sand wedge to utilize the bounce it provides.
To make a shot from such lies, it is important to make a full swing and let it accelerate so that it doesn’t get caught up in the ground or the grass. If you do not rotate the swing fully, the club might stop halfway.
When the ball is on firm lies like tightly packed grass, you need a shot that goes high and lands softly. The problem is, since the leading edge on sand wedges is higher, the sole of the wedge touches the ground first.
This means that the leading edge might not even touch the ball, which poses the possibility of missing the ball when trying to hit it.
The only way to counteract this problem is by forming your stance in such away that the ball is towards the back and your hands are more forward. This reduces the loft of the club and makes sure that the leading edge is closer to the ball. Hence, you will not have to worry about topping the ball.
Once this set up is formed, you can just use any normal swing while maintaining the acceleration to make the shot.
A Plugged ball also known as a “fried egg,” is a situation where the ball is trapped inside a surface. This is quite a common occurrence for golf player who likes to create a height with their shots since the impact of the speed can submerge the ball into the ground.
If you are in a situation like this, you can use your sand wedge to get the ball out. Make sure to make a huge swing while keeping the face of the club closed. It is important to dig the leading edge deep into the sand so that you can launch the ball from underneath.
This can require you to use a little more force than usual. If you happen to have a plugged ball at the lip of a bunker, the case is different. For this, the club needs to go deeper into the ground. Keep the club face open and take a huge swing with a lot of sand.
This is one of the most challenging shots to execute. Try to avoid blading and make sure it lands at an appropriate spot where it can roll after the strong shot.
This is a difficult lie to work with, and the sand wedge is often the golf club of choice for golf players to help with that. For this, use a wedge with a high loft and place your weight on the front. Keep the ball towards the back of your stance and then make a normal swing. This should do the job.
When Not to Use
Because of its distinct characteristics, the sand wedge cannot be used in all kinds of situations. For example, on hard or bare ground the sand wedge cannot work. This is because the structure of a sand wedge is designed to work in softer lies.
If you try using it for such firm lies, there is a high chance you will only hit the ball in the middle of it or top it or miss it completely.
On the other hand, the high loft of this type of wedge is intimidating to many golf playersTherefore, if you find yourself feeling uncomfortable with using a sand wedge, you can go for a safer option. Confidence is necessary for conducting sand shots. So, avoid anything that can sway your shot.
Sand bunkers are a common aspect of golf games. Almost every golf course has at least one. The shots you have to make to get your ball over these hazards or out of it can be very difficult. Likewise, it is important to understand how exactly you should do that.
This guide should help you to figure out what kind of gear you need, what sort of sand wedge is the best for you, what kind of set up or swing you need and how you want your ball to be launched.
Hence, through consistent practice using these guidelines, you should be able to grow more confident when approaching such traps and make the best out of it.