To bounce or not to bounce? That’s the question in the sand

Depending on the type of sand, amount of sand and the weather conditions, the way you play your bunker shots should vary considerably.

Gene Sarazan modernized bunker play when he put a sand wedge in the bag to win the Open Championship in 1932. He got the idea of the wide sole and large flange from flying with Howard Hughes. He knew if a plane could land gracefully, so could a golf club entering the sand. So he designed a wedge with a wide sole and a lot of “bounce.”

So what is bounce and why do we need it?

Bounce is the angle between the leading and trailing edge of a club. The more the leading edge is above the trailing edge, the higher the bounce and the less the club will be able to dig. The opposite is also true. Therefore, when in bunkers with varying amounts of sand as well as consistency, you must also vary the amount of bounce to allow for proper contact.

Bunkers come in many different shapes, sizes and types, and the sand in them varies, too. But for the sake of this article, let’s simplify bunker conditions into two types:

  • Type A: Deep, soft, dry sand
  • Type B: Shallow, firm, wet sand

With Type A sand, it is very easy to take too much sand and leave the ball in the bunker. Bounce is your best friend here. You need to be able to make a relatively large swing without the fear of digging deep into the sand.

Here are a few tips to maximize the amount of effective bounce at impact.

  • Ball forward in stance
  • Face open to body
  • Hands even or slightly behind the ball at address
  • Follow through with the club pointing at the sky and the club face to the right of the shaft

With Type B sand, the opposite is true. Firm sand or shallow sand does not allow for the club to dig very much. Thus, it is very easy for the club to bounce right off the sand at impact and hit the middle of the ball, sending it to unknown territory.

Here’s how we minimize these disastrous shots.

  • Ball middle of stance
  • Face square
  • Hands even or slightly forward of ball
  • Short, low follow through

Being able to identify the type of sand you are playing in and then matching the amount of bounce you expose to this sand is the secret to a great bunker game on any golf course.

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