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Open the Clubface in Bunkers
Reaping the Benefits of an Open Face in the Sand

The Front Edge Digs While the Back Edge Skids
open the face to loft the ball out of bunkers, lay the face open in the bunker, open the face and use bounce to get our of sandLaying the Face Open in a Greenside Bunker

The purpose of the design of a sand wedge is obvious by it's name. It's to get the ball out of bunker with ease. What makes the design of a sand wedge unique is the bounce that's built into the clubhead. The bounce is simply the back edge of the club. Think of this as the "skidder" edge. When you turn the clubface over and and look at it upside down and from the back with the handle of the club hanging down towards the ground, you can see the back edge that I'm referring to. It sits up higher than the front edge which you should think of as the "digger" edge. The amount of bounce varies from wedge to wedge, but around 12 degrees is pretty much the standard. Other wedges in your bag can have bounce too, but usually not to the extent that your sand wedge does.

The skidder edge with its bounce is designed to skid through the sand. This prevents your clubhead from getting stuck and allows you to keep the face open and accelerate through the shot. That is why a good sand shot should feel like you are simply smacking the sand and coming right out of it. The front edge or digger edge is designed to hit down and take a divot when you are on the grass. In the sand however, the digging edge takes the clubhead down too much and forces the face shut. The result is too much sand and a low lofted running shot. This makes it hard to clear the lip of the bunker and to get the ball to spin and check up on the green.

The More You Open the Clubface, the More You Use the Bounce

To clear a high lip on a bunker and to hit a high lofted shot that is going to land steep and check up you need to learn to open the clubface quite a bit and use the bounce to your advantage. The more you open the face, the more you use the bounce. Let me guess. Your first concern is that if you open the clubface that you will hit your shot right (for right handed players). Am I correct? If there's anything that totally freaks out beginner golfers or high handicappers it's staring down at an open clubface. It's just one of those things that takes getting used to. Most people naturally assume they are going to shank it and it scares them to death. A good swing plane however will return the clubface to where it started so unless someone is lining it up at the hosel, they shouldn't contact the ball with hosel and shank. For years this misconception had instructors teaching their students to dramatically open their stance and swing on an outside/in path to off set the wide open face. This of course resulted in a variety of mishits from shanks, to pull hooks to weak cut shots and it was all so unnecessary. Off of the grass that is true. The ball will fly in the direction of the face because you are making clean contact with the ball. (Hopefully). In the sand however, you are hitting the sand first. The sand will fly in the direction of your swing and since it's the sand that pushes the ball out, the ball will fly the direction that the sand flies. So the first step is understanding this process and the second step is to trust it. Once you make that giant step to trust, sand play will be a lot easier and much more fun for you.

The Situation:

You want to hit your greenside bunker shots with more loft and spin.

The Solution:

Practice without a ball at first laying your clubface down wide open. The key here is to open the face first and then take your grip. A common mistake is to grip the club first and then twist the forearms out of position to get the face open. Be sure to keep your forearms and body alignment the same, just open the face and then grip it as usual. At first it will look funny to your eyes so make a number of practice swings without a ball and get used to hitting sand while maintaining the open face. At the end of your swing check to see that the clubface is still open enough that it is facing the sky. Once you have mastered hitting sand with the correct amount of splash start hitting balls. After just a short practice session and some trust you should be well on your way to more lofted greenside bunker shots.

Maria Palozola

Maria Palozola is a member of the LPGA and has participated in multiple LPGA Tour events. She has provided instruction to thousands of students in the past 20+ years and has won multiple teaching awards from the LPGA, Golf Digest, and Golf Magazine including being ranked as one of the top 50 female instructors in the world.

Who is Maria Palozola?
- Top 50 LPGA Instructors in the World
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