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How to stop it cold from the sand

June 10, 2024

J.D. Cuban

To hit a high, spinny greenside bunker shot, you need a fair amount of clubhead speed. However, the way you generate that speed is critical to being able to stop the ball close to the hole.

Many golfers, based on past experiences with taking too much sand, use their bodies to try to create more speed. They either pull the club down hard with their shoulders or over-rotate their body through the shot. This makes it really hard to control the low point of the swing and achieve a consistent entry point in the sand—hugely important to success from the bunker.

It’s the hands and arms that you want accelerating and providing the speed, not the body. Turn the page to learn how to get your sequencing correct and add speed where you want it most, under the ball.



J.D. Cuban

There are very few shots in golf where you want the clubhead coming through impact before the handle, but this is one of them. The feeling you want is that you’re unhinging your wrists and throwing the clubhead underneath the ball. That is what provides the added zip and spin to these shots. The height comes from opening the clubface at address and maintaining the loft on the face as it glides under the ball, with the wrists eventually rehinging the head upward.

To pre-set the clubface, be sure to open it skyward before you take your grip. Also, widen your stance and address the ball just forward of center. Now, this is very important: Set the shaft straight up and down, with your hands even or slightly behind the ball (above, left). This creates a cup in the back of the lead wrist. This might feel a little awkward, but it establishes the exact same underhanded-throwing position you want at impact with the clubhead ahead of the handle.

Going back, make a big turn with your chest behind the ball on the backswing (above, center), then allow your body to unwind naturally as your wrists release and throw the clubhead into the sand (above, right). There’s no need to create more power with your body—the unhinging and rehinging of the wrists will create all the speed you need to blast the ball out with spin.


J.D. Cuban

A good way to practice these high, spinny shots is to draw a half-circle in the sand, with the ball at the apex of the arc. Start with some half-swings and have the clubhead trace the path of the arc in the sand. Feel as if the clubhead is accelerating underneath the ball and around to the left of your body so that your hands finish near your hip pocket (above). Gradually increase the length and speed of your swing, feeling like your club is moving fastest through the sand.

LINDY LABAUVE is director of instruction at the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa in Scottsdale.