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New Strategy for Sand Traps

Greenside-bunker play can be notoriously demanding on the great parkland courses that typically host U.S. Opens. I was always conscious of having to lay the clubface wide open and needing to generate extra speed through the ball to get the necessary elevation. Here are some thoughts on what to do if your course has big, deep greenside bunkers and very fast greens.

Practice thumping the sand with your wedge, holding the club with your right hand only. First, stand in some medium rough, open the clubface and whip it one-handed along the top of the grass. Do this several times to get the feel of raw speed through impact. Then do the same thing in a practice bunker, thumping the sand with the bounce angle of the wedge. Don’t swing at golf balls—just thump the sand. You may want to hold the clubhead right in front of your eyes in a laid-open pose and study the V of the sole. It will help you with the feel and visualization of the shot.

Pick out a target on the green, take a wide stance with lots of knee flex, and hold your right hand out at thigh level with your palm facing that target. Lay the wedge wide open first, then grip the club, keeping your right palm aimed at the target. Even though both hands are on your club, think of the left hand as being fairly passive—the speed and power of the swing comes from your right hand. In fact, your left will act as a bit of a brake.

Hit some practice shots from that wide, deep stance, feeling lots of speed generated by your right hand and wrist. Break the wrists early on the takeaway and think about getting them fully cocked going back and fully recocked at your finish. With your hands low, the clubface wide open and the club pounding through at high speed, you’ll be able to pop the ball sharply upward and control its roll after it lands.

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