Wet Sand and Other Early Season Challenges
With the season just getting underway, we typically run into challenges on the golf course that we don't find all that often other times of the year. So, I thought I would address a couple of them today, and you guys can toss in others that you’d like me to chime in on. Today’s starting point is the subject of wet, packed bunkers, and is courtesy of a question from Adam from Chicago, who wrote:
"With the season just about to get under way in the Midwest, I am not looking forward to the hard packed, wet bunkers that usually cover the course during March and April. What is the correct technique for getting out of these hazards?
Well, Adam, hard packed bunkers can present a challenge, but if you use the right technique, I believe you will find these shots to be much less daunting. The first thing to do is to gauge the firmness of the sand when you walk into the bunker and take your stance. Some wet sand is actually not all that packed and hard, while other sand can present a very firm subsurface to the shot. Accordingly you can take one of two approaches to recovery.

If the sand is wet and heavy, but not all that packed, hit the shot like any other bunker shot, but make two allowances for the conditions:
  1. Don’t open the face of the sand wedge as much, so that you reduce the amount of effective bounce, and

  2. Based on your feel of the weight of the sand, you might need to take a slightly more forceful swing than you would if the sand were dry.
The other condition is when the sand is very packed and provides a much firmer subsurface. When I’m faced with this scenario, I play the shot much like I would for any other pitch from a tight lie:
  1. Choose a wedge with less bounce, possibly your mid- or gap-wedge

  2. Play the ball a bit further back in your stance to ensure ball-first contact

  3. Focus your eyes on the forward edge of the ball to help with that crisp contact.

  4. Allow for a lower ball flight and possibly more roll. However, a correctly struck shot from a tight lie will tend to have plenty of sizzle on it when it hits the green.
Since we're on the subject, let's address another of the early season lies that I think gives golfers a real test. That is the tight lie on soft, moist soil.

The early season hasn’t yet allowed the grass to develop to its mid-season cushiony texture, so the ball is sitting down much tighter than it will be in July. But because the course superintendent is stimulating the growth, he’s probably pouring the water to it. So, you have a lie that is tight, but on softer turf that doesn’t provide the “rejecting force” to your wedge that you’d like. This shot might be the toughest in golf. It takes a good technique and . . . . lots of nerve on your part to trust it and stay with it. Here’s how I approach these:
  1. Choose a higher lofted wedge, but one with not a lot of bounce.

  2. Play the ball back in your stance a bit to ensure ball-first contact

  3. Take your practice swings with a lower backswing and follow through, so as to minimize the digging effect of the wedge after impact.

  4. "Quiet" your hands so that you have a simple "back and through", body-driven swing.

  5. G-O . . . S-L-O-W to give you the best chance of precise and crisp contact.
So, there you have a couple of techniques to deal with early season conditions. If you guys have others you’d like me to address, just click the link below and send them in. You just might win a new EIDOLON V-SOLE wedge like Adam did. He’ll find that to be a huge advantage when he’s facing either of these conditions this spring.

photo source
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[ comments ]
houtexas says:
What suggestion do you have for hard-packed wet sand when you have a sharp lip to navigate? Move it back a little and hit down steeply behind the ball? Seems like picking it clean wouldn't work too well in this scenario.
dmce says:
Great post again. I was playing at the weekend and thinking about packed wet bunker shots. I was actually playing them like normal pitch shots.

Pity I was in so many :(
DoubleDingo says:
About a month back I was faced with a wet packed bunker. The top wasn't packed, but about 1 inch below was packed. I didn't feel the packed under-layer while setting up, took a normal tactic for fluffier bunker, and my wedge bounced up and sent the ball flying about 20 yards past the green. 7 on a par 3!! Last summer I was faced with a saturated fluffy bunker, which was more muddy than anything. I swung as hard as I could and was barely able to get the ball out, but I did. Next time I won't open the club face in a saturated bunker. Thanks for the tips Terry!!!
Banker85 says:
oh i am awful at the tight lies with wet grounds. 90% i will tear up enough turf to make a rug. hopefully your tip will work. I am trying to be more of a sweeper then a digger this year. pick it clean, ya know what i mean!
birdieXris says:
Don't forget the all important and seldom used "putter out of the hard packed sand trap". if your trap is one of those short lipped, muni-style traps and it's all hard packed, don't turn your nose up at taking the putter and putting the ball out of the sand. Afterall, when it's packed that hard, it's more like dirt and you can roll the ball right up the lip and ramp it over and onto the green very well. this has served me well in quite a few tourneys where weather delays and horrible greens keepers made the bunkers like concrete. I've even holed one or two.
sepfeiff says:
Thats really interesting, i'll give it a shot. I have always heard and used the opposites method with great results. If the sand is hard swing softer, and if the sand is softer swing harder. That's as much as I can remember during a round!
larrynjr says:
I'm struggling with hitting it fat and last night at the range was sending some of my divits further than the ball! Wet conditions make for big divits.
Bryan K says:
birdieXris: One of the things I began to learn late in the year last year was how versatile my putter really is. I was always afraid to putt when I wasn't on the green because I didn' tknow how the ball would react on the uneven ground. Well, if the apron around the green is smooth enough, I take out my putter at just about any distance from the green these days. I never even thought about using it from a trap. I'll keep my eye open for such situations this season.
DougE says:
Birdie: Made two birdies last year on hole outs from bunkers with my putter. If the lip is shallow and the sand is hard enough, the putter is a great option.
legitimatebeef says:
I've putted out of a hard sand trap before. I'll do almost anything to save a stroke.
Trav says:
@birdie: likewise, the hybrid works if the trap is a long way from the pin esprcially with a slight lip on the trap. Hybrid gets enough loft to clear lips a putter can't, but you have to practice first to get your distances right because the ball is hot.
Banker85 says:
way to get off topic guys.
Agustin says:
Subtle message between the lines... Know the bounce of the wedges you carry
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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