Sand Trap Pointers: Greenside and Fairway

Sun, 01/12/2014 - 14:00 -- Don Trahan

I've been getting a lot of requests lately for help on bunker play. Because I do these daily videos from my backyard, I'm not really able to demonstrate a true sand shot, but I can provide you with the proper technique for doing so.

In all honesty, the best way to learn how to become a better player from the sand trap is to watch Short Game with Kenny Knox, PGA. If you're new to this website or have never heard of this full length video available in Surge's Shop, you're really missing out! 

Kenny was a 3-time winner on the PGA TOUR and went head to head with John Daly during Long John's famous first win at the 1991 PGA Championship. Kenny finished 4th that week and his success on the TOUR was directly related to his short game. When asked why he was such a good putter, Kenny always responds by saying his short game allowed him to be a better putter because he always knocked it close for tap in putts.

Kenny learned how to be a superior bunker player from one of the game's greatest players, Seve Ballesteros. The secrets he shares are invaluable and will give you an inside look at what it takes to be on par with the pros.

To get your own copy of Short Game with Kenny Knox, click here.

Keep it vertical!

The Surge

If you can't view the YouTube video above try CLICKING HERE. You must allow popups from this site for the link to work.


Robert Meade's picture

Submitted by Robert Meade on

Amazing how you can get your points across about sand shots from a mat but you certainly do. Of course I have both paid for short game programs referred too. Here's the 'Situational' that covers sand shots (aside from Kenny Knox's).
Both are excellent. One of the main things I picked up and then changed with good results is Not cutting across the ball like is more common in general instruction by other teachers but rather squarely on the target line as demonstrated today. I use to be terrified when my ball went in the sand but no longer. The biggest challenge I have is in our bunkers at our municipal course here that we often play. They seemingly rarely rack their bunkers and so they are often like hard pan. They often need to be played as a fairway bunker where you do hit the ball and not the sand. I liked Surges expression that we hit out of those fairway bunkers as if we don't want to mark the bottom of our club.
How about you other golfers out there? Do you all have decent sand in your bunkers?

Dave Everitt's picture

Submitted by Dave Everitt on

Your bunkers sound like a place for chipping, pitching, putting if the lips are low or normal sand shots with a square to closed clubface to eliminate bounce.

Every bunker on my municipal course plays differently. A very wide variation of sand depth from almost nothing to way too much, inconsistent maintenance, and even a few tree roots growing in some of them. I gave up a long time ago trying to finesse the ball out of these bunkers and decided to find myself an idiot proof way of getting out every time with one shot. Once I was able to figure that out, the fear factor was removed.

I've tried every method out there, over the years, but finally came up with something that worked from any kind of bunker lie a few years ago. We don't have any practice bunkers on our course. Three 3 years ago on the last day of the season, the weather was so cold that nobody showed up to play. I spent more than 4 hours hitting bunker shots with every method that I knew of playing from every tough lie I could find, It took about half that time, to decide which method was the simplest and most consistent. I don't want to bore people with details but the setup and the swing action enable me to make a very aggressive move through the ball. It's more of a " gouge " shot than a finesse shot.

I see too many people taking 3 shots to " finesse" their way out of our bunkers. Hahaha!! Our bunkers are great equalizers because they are troublesome for everyone,..even low handicap players.

wolftitan's picture

Submitted by wolftitan on

Robert, David, thanks for your posts. I totally agree that you must be aggressive with your swing in a green side bunker playing from hard-packed or wet sand. I have another solution for you to consider as I and my golf buddies have used this method for years. We use a lob or sand wedge with minimal bounce. We simple square or slightly close the club face but still align it to flag stick. Our stance is only slightly open and we make a nice aggressive controlled swing. I prefer my lob wedge which has less bounce than my sand wedge. By squaring or slightly closing the face is minimizes the chance of the club bouncing or bellying the ball off the hard lie. We play it almost like a fried egg. Remember that with this shot the ball will tend to run out a little more so be aware of that. The best solution for this is not to be in a wet-hard green side bunker, however it happens, so give this a try and hopefully it will work for you. Good Luck

Robert Meade's picture

Submitted by Robert Meade on

Good advice. Yes often I will leave my sand wedge in the bag and use an iron with less bounce. Minimal bounce, otherwise as I said it can ricochet over the green or come right back in our face! I posted some sand play by some of today's and yesterdays masters below. Entertaining and educational. Fun stuff.
Thanks for posting. I know a lot of the fellows (and gals) that often comment seem to be on hiatus but we can still talk golf even if it's 20* below zero outside:) We're blessed here in Las Vegas with temps in the mid 60's this week. If my left leg behaves we'll be out on the fairways on Tuesday.

Robert Meade's picture

Submitted by Robert Meade on

Our bunkers at muni are fairly consistently hard with a couple that occasionally play a bit more normal if they've been deep racked by the greenskeeping crew.
I have learned to play them decently. Then on another day we'll play a well manicured course that has soft sand bunkers and I'll have to remember how to splash (thump) them out as Surge described. Of course I do my best to stay out of the bunkers in the first place! It is funny though when my feet tell me I can hit it like a normal green side bunker shot with some zip and instead of sliding under the ball and taking sand the flange simply ricochets off a hard crust and sends the ball 20 yards over the green. In that case I'm better off just using my pw wedge which has very little bounce and basically chip it out as you mentioned. Got to be ready for anything depending on how high the lip is. Unfortunately most of our bunkers never allow for putting it out, but on one of the other courses I play that can be an option occasionally. It is fun to experiment.
I have noticed that many of the greatest bunker players are the players from Australia.

Gary player and Lee Trevino were the best and certainly the most intertaining to watch.

Greatest players are holders not flippers...........

Gary Player uses a lot of wrist hinge and I find Lee's easier to imitate.
Key: Accelerate!

These guys were wizards.

Dave Everitt's picture

Submitted by Dave Everitt on

Nice links. I think that I'm very close to what Lee Trevino does but my swing may have more loop in it. I actually use a very old tip from Lee Trevino about how to lock down the wrists so completely that it is impossible to be a flipper. It was a tip that was intended to take the wrists out of putting but I discovered that it was even more useful for bunker shots. After setting up with an open stance and open club face, I lock everything in, by assuming the grip and twisting the hands on the grip inwards against each other firmly towards the top of the grip, like wringing a towel. Maintain this inwards pressure throughout the swing and say goodbye to the flip.

FredM's picture

Submitted by FredM on


For a right handed golfer, please explain the right elbow positions throughout your swing. Does it ever get get quite close to the right hip and not directly in line with the left elbow on the thru swing like you see on the more rotational type swing most of the Pros use? When I use this rotational type of swing I have to really keep the right elbow in by the hip or I pull the ball. However, I get more distance with my driver when I use the rotational swing than PPGS.

Hal's picture

Submitted by Hal on

Fred M, You would get better results if you would send an e-mail to customer support rather than thru the blog.