Getting Into Sand Traps

Sand trap is actually a term you will not find in the Rules of Golf. Therefore, we shall strike those words from our vocabulary – as the reason for the title was only for those who previously did not know any better.

One of the unique things about Augusta National Golf Club is that the course is forever changing. Every year we anticipate what changes will be made and this past was no different.

Sometimes it is the suggestion of its champions – as was the case when Ben Hogan protested a sand trap hidden in the fairway of the third hole. He claimed, “That is just what it is, a trap.”

The bunker was subsequently removed.

Todays post addresses the sometimes dastardly hazard – the sand bunker. First, let us get the name correct forever in our language if we are to call ourselves true golfers. At some point in history a golfer must have coined the name, “sand trap”, because it certainly can be descriptively correct.

How bunkers came into existence is really quite an interesting story. Back in the early days of golf at St. Andrews in Scotland, the land was also used for grazing sheep. To hide themselves from the blistering cold winds, the sheep would burrow in the small moguls and hillsides, creating large holes or bunkers. These were never repaired and have instead become one of today’s most popular golf course architechtural features.

Most bunkers are filled with sand and strategically placed in fairways and around greensides. A design also seen a lot today is a grass bunker.

While this type of bunker allows the player to ground their club before a stroke, those doing so in a sand bunker also earn themselves an additional two strokes according to Rule 13-4.

Such an action is deemed as “testing the hazard” which is not permitted.

Golf great Gene Sarazen is credited with inventing the first sand wedge. The story goes that he was practicing bunker shots one day and discovered if he added some weight to the bottom of the club the ball was more easily lifted from the sand by hitting down and through the shot.

Sarazen proceeded to win his next event with his new invention, meanwhile creating quite a stir among the other pros.

Methods of exiting bunkers currently range from putting, to picking, to tossing after three attempts for many golfers. Some shiver at the thought of being in one of those ancient sheep burrows. Fear of bunkers can be overcome with the proper equipment and a golf lesson in the technique required.

Only the sand wedge is equipped with a flange, which is the bottom part of the club where Sarazen added the weight. Any other club is not suitable for a properly played bunker shot, although there are circumstances where a skilled player may use another.

Normally, with a pitching wedge or 9 iron you will find the leading edge digs into the sand, with the bottom of a sand wedge bouncing off the sand.

Have a sand wedge and still can’t get out? How you stand to the ball, position of the ball in your stance and how the club moves through the shot are all unique to other shots in the game.

Taking the time to learn this technique and then practice are the keys to more success and greater confidence.

Now that you know the history of bunkers, a description of the proper equipment, who invented it, and at least, how to play by the rules, you can feel more knowledgable the next time you are in one.

You are encouraged to take a lesson from your PGA or LPGA Professional for the rest.


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