Befuddled in the Bunker

Hey 2M,

I’ve got a question for you regarding bunker play from soft sand. My home track just went through major renovations from bent to bermuda greens and new traps/drainage. I watched them change over the bunkers from a nice tight clayish sand to a very soft/powdery sand. The sand in general isn’t that deep and lies on top of very large foam pieces…

Anyway, my bunker game is usually spot-on and can control my distances, contact point, back edge, depth etc. For many years my sand divot has been about 6 inches in length with about 2 to 3 inches behind the ball and 3 to 4 inches ahead of where the ball was before the shot. My approach has always been lots of clubhead speed with a nice shallow attack.

Now all of the above doesn’t work. I’ve gone to 14 degree bounce wedges and have to nearly take a full all-out ABS type swing to move it about 5-8 yards. With 2 or more inches of contact with the sand behind the ball, the ball flys about 6 feet tops. I can fly the ball about 30 feet if I swing my butt off and take only an inch of sand. I’m swinging so hard that the sand divot is about 8 inches long with 7 of it in front of the ball…The depth of the sand shots looks about right.

Have you ever come across this type of trap with very soft sand that the ball just goes no where? It doesn’t matter if I try the Utley/Seve method, Hinge & Hold, or just the old standard of open everything and swing left, I get the same results…

Thanks for your help


sounds like you did the right thing by opting for more bounce for the softer lies…
without actually seeing you swing I will take a stab and say this may be the cause

Harder sand/turf gives us some allowance to be a little steeper into the ball because we can DIG at the turf and clip/pinch the ball

I am suggesting that you may still be swinging the same way in the soft bunker --steep like a ‘V’ swing - too vertical up and down and in the entry out past the ball
This causes too much plop and not enough oooommmpphh which sounds like the description you give of the shots you are getting

When the sand gets softer I try to swing more in a “U” shape swing…wider/shallower back and down and thru
This still splashes sand but it throws it more towards the target…in a way like when we skim water with our hand the water flies lower and forward (‘U’ swing)
as opposed to chopping the water and causing water to splash upwards and drop down in a similar position (‘V’ swing)…the water thought is just for a visual

Taking a stab here obviously but from my experience and thoughts I think that may be the issue


Thank you for your thoughtful response and you’re right that it might be hard to solve this one without seeing it.

I’m pretty sure I’m nice and shallow. I usually use lots of wrist action like skipping stones on a lake…In fact it is fairly easy for me to just use my trail hand only to flick the ball out of a normal medium firm bunker…My arms don’t normally have much up & down movement at all…Just around…

The only way I can get the ball to launch forward is to have a feeling of leaving the head in the sand and then Mod 3 it out of there with lots of body pivot & thrust…Almost like a buried lie when the clubhead is slow to leave the sand. But my gut tells me that this approach isn’t the right one.

I’ve got a quick story and an update on the very soft sand befuddlement.

A few weeks ago I played with a father & son who don’t play a lot together and the son is about 13 years old. He is of slight build with fairly good hand/eye coordination but is new to golf. He swung up on the ball with a strong grip all-day hitting a wimpy slice when the ball was teed up or with a good lie. For a downhill lie he was toast. He was good enough to pick most of his iron shots clean and just after low point.

His Dad was schooling him every few minutes on exactly how to play each shot. I’ll admit most of the advice was pretty solid but the son just wasn’t soaking up much new info from him. Then the son entered a soft greenside bunker on the 3rd hole. The Dad gave him the usual bunker extricating advice and voila the ball flies 20 ft much to my surprise. Later on at the eight hole, the son had a 40 yard bunker shot and managed to fly it about 25 yards! So that got me thinking about why he seems to have little difficulty with distance out of these soft conditions…

After mulling his success over, I came to the conclusion that he probably hit the bunker shots just like he does with the rest of his game meaning that his low point was probably pretty close to where he enters the sand. This kid has probably never compressed nor leaned on the shaft with force in his life @ impact. I’ve always played my bunker shots with the lowest point right under the ball. So the other day I got in the practice bunker and basically tried to hit the sand in the usual location but then feel like I’m swinging up on the ball like a modern driver swing. Sure enough, that was it! The sand looks like a shallow divot and the ball launches forward nicely out of the bunker. I tried another 20 shots and was convinced this was the magic ticket. I took it to the course the next day and was very pleased to have my above average bunker game back. Phew! it only took me 2 years to figure it out…

I always find it interesting how teachers appear when you least expect them.