For some, this is the scariest place on the golf course. Between the term "trap," and what can actually happen to your ball there, it can be a little frightening. Sand traps have the ability to intimidate even the most skilled players every now and then.
They vary in size, depth, sand consistency, and difficulty. Typically found near greens to gobble up errant approach shots, they're sometimes found lining, or in the fairways where a perfect drive would land. Playing confident shots from the sand will take time and practice.
Beat the sand, man
Here are some keys to playing shots from the sand trap:
1. Follow through on all sand shots! Our tendency here is to stab at the ball. If there is no follow through, the club can stop very abruptly, especially if the sand is wet. No follow through will improve your chances of staying in the trap by about 90%.
2. Take a wide stance and open the clubface. Angling the club open is done by rotating the clubhead a little to increase the loft. This will help the club slide beneath the ball and sand, as well as loft the ball up and land it softly.
3. The thing that occurs most often is taking too little or too much sand. Translated, it means hitting it heavy or thin. Hitting it heavy means you have taken too much sand and probably only advanced the ball a few inches. Hitting it thin means you've hit the ball first, and the sand shortly afterwards. Thin shots usually end up on the other side of the green, or worse, OB.
4. Ideally, a player wants to hit the sand first directly behind the ball, and allow the club and sand to carry the ball out of the trap. You don't actually contact the ball on most shots from the greenside bunkers. A good method is to practice hitting about 1-2 inches behind the ball with a full swing and a good follow through.
There are many ways to describe a sand trap and what happens to your golf ball when it lands there. Here are some you'll hear from time to time. The beach, the bunker, the trap, jail, buried, fried egg, and my personal favorite... plugged. Each describes a nasty condition that makes escape a little difficult. But with practice, patience and a good follow through, it should help.