How To Handle Firm, Compact Sand
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Most amateurs dread playing from hard, compact sand because they have no game plan for how to handle this type of lie—or any different sand condition, for that matter. They use the same technique for all bunker shots, regardless of the sand texture or how the ball sits. Here are a few keys to consider when playing from firm sand.
Ideally, you want the clubhead to enter the sand approximately 2 inches behind the ball and carve out a divot 2 inches deep—regardless of how firm or soft the sand is. This is the perfect amount of sand to propel the ball up and out of the bunker to land on the putting surface. In firm conditions, you'll need the help of the club's leading edge to dig the recommended 2 inches. Set the clubhead down square to your target line, which effectively lowers the club's leading edge (first photo in carousel) so it will enter the sand before the sole's trailing edge.
SET UP: Set up with the shaft neutral to slightly forward (second photo in carousel), which lowers the leading edge on your sand wedge and encourages the club to become more of a digger. Your sternum should be in line with the ball and your weight slightly favoring your front side. Since the club is likely to bottom out in the middle of your stance, you'll want to play the ball 2 inches forward of center.
MOTION: Swing the club back and up on a very steep plane—similar to a ferris wheel—so that the left arm is virtually parallel to the target line (third photo in carousel). By creating a more vertical shaft plane, the leading edge will have an easier time touching down first and carving the correct depth of divot.
IMPACT: Impact should closely resemble address with the shaft leaning slightly forward and your hands a little ahead of the clubhead (fourth photo in carousel), which lowers the leading edge. Your sternum should also be in line with the ball, not hanging back. This creates an environment in which the club can dig, which is necessary when you're playing from hard, compact sand.