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Two reasons we can't get the ball out of the sand: Improper follow-through, or taking too much sand.
Two reasons we can't get the ball out of the sand: Improper follow-through, or taking too much sand. (Brandon Tucker/WorldGolf.com)

Don't dread the sand: Help for golfers stuck in the bunker

Kelly KlecknerBy Kelly Kleckner,
Class A LPGA Teaching Professional

Welcome to "the beach" is a term all golfers have come to know at some point in their golfing careers. Escaping a sand trap or bunker is often one of the most intimidating shots to execute, and can often leave a golfer discouraged.

I believe that this game is 60 percent mental and 40 percent physical; therefore what we see and believe we will do with a golf club is most of the time what does happen. Often I hear my students say how they dread the sand and can't get out.

I bet if you think back to when you had difficulties in the sand, you had made a negative comment to yourself before executing the plan. The lesson today will help you picture your ball rising out of the sand and enable you to have confidence in the execution as well. There are only two reasons why at times we can't get the ball out of the sand: Once you make contact with the sand you don't follow through, or perhaps you took too much sand that resulted from hitting too far behind the ball.

The general rule is to aim two inches behind the ball so you are in a sense "lifting" the ball with the sand. To start, make sure you take a practice swing outside the hazard area-you may not ground your club in a hazard until you are making the forward motion of your intended swing.

Next, enter the "beach" and plant your feet firmly in the sand. We want to set the clubface open so the toe is pointing slightly right of the target while your hands are square with your target.

Then, considering I am in a bunker within 30 yards of the green, I am going to make what we call a "V" swing. This swing has a direct angle to it-like you are picking your club up and then coming through to finish.

When we are close to the green we must create this angle which will get the ball out of the sand and has a higher trajectory to then sit on the green. As I take my club back, my hands hinge to make them strong and then I continue up until my hands are even with my hips. At this point, I pull the end of the club down and I aim generally two inches behind the ball accelerating through the sand and making a full finish.

Aiming two inches behind the ball can often end up to be five or more inches or no sand at all! I recommend practicing by drawing a line in the sand and practice making contact with that line over and over again. If you find you are hitting in front of the line, you are probably using too much wrist action-scooping the ball instead of letting your arms pull through the sand. On the other hand, if you are hitting the sand after the line you are pulling your shoulders over the ball instead of under it-perhaps timid of making contact with the sand.

Imagine your ball sits on a pillow. In order for you to lift the ball, you must lift the pillow-that's why we aim two inches behind the ball!

Now you can look forward to entering the sand and successfully executing your shot! Think positively and finish you swing!

Golf Tip of the Month: Uphill and Downhill Lies

Whether in a hazard or on a fairway, we've all encountered uncomfortable situations as far as where our ball lies. Here are a few helpful hints: UPHILL LIE: Slant your shoulders up the slope, and play the ball off your left foot. Make sure your weight favors your left side for balance, aim slightly right of the target, and swing arms up the slope. DOWNHILL LIE: Slant your shoulders down the slope, and play the ball off your right foot.

Your weight will favor your left side due to gravity. Aim slightly left of the target, and swing your arms down the slope. Keeping these ideas in mind will get you out of any precarious situation!

LPGA Professional Kelly Kleckner teaches at Cherokee Ridge Golf Course in Colorado Springs, Colo. She played collegiate golf for Colorado State University, and is the founder and director of the LPGA Girls Golf Club for the area. She coaches and teaches private and semi-private lessons all year. For more information call 719-576-9176.

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