Masterclass: No.12 Splash the sand, not the ball

In the latest of his popular coaching series, John Cook takes the fear out of bunker shots with his simple tips.

Ed Greenland's picture
Golfmagic Staff
Wed, 15 May 2013

Masterclass: No.12 Splash the sand, not the ball

1. Draw a circle in the sand

Playing from sand can strike terror in golfers. It induces negative attitudes of spending the next ten minutes in the bunker, digging themselves deeper and deeper.

Images of losing patience and finally throwing the ball out, as in the famous Castella cigar TV advertisement, flash through their mind.

My advice is: Don’t be afraid of the ball.

Because we have to accelerate the clubhead much harder through the shot, when playing out of sand, than we would from grass, we are afraid of making contact with the ball first. The result in our mind’s eye will be sending the ball much further than we intend or straight into the bank in front of us.

2. Addressing the circled ball

We, therefore, ‘quit’ on the shot, stabbing the club into the sand with no follow through or take too much sand at impact and the ball stays in the bunker.

Sound familiar?

The secret - and my tip this week - is to ignore the ball and concentrate on splashing out the small saucer-like circle of sand on which it sits.

It might look odd to the onlooker, but practice your bunker shots by drawing that small circle of sand – the diameter of a saucer – around an imaginary ball and splash that circle of sand out of the practice bunker.

I guarantee that you will be soon become expert at this because the ball is not there.

3. Splash the sand under the ball

Next practise by drawing a similar circle around the ball, and continue to splash out the circle of sand without making contact with the ball.

Instantly, the ball will ride out on a cushion sand – untouched by clubface.

From then on it’s only a matter of opening or squaring the clubface to judge the distance you want the ball to travel. The squarer the face, the further it will fly.

Originally published Jan 2005, updated May 2013.

Want more bunker tips?

Click here for our guide on: How to hit a downhill bunker shot and playing the 50-yard bunker shot

Or check out the rest of the masterclass series