When Your Sand Wedge Isn't Your Sand Wedge
I was outside for a playing lesson with a student this morning when, on the third hole (at River Bend), his approach shot landed in the greenside bunker. The pin was left middle and his ball was in the front-right bunker just short of the green. He proceeded to make a good setup and swing and the ball came out of the bunker beautifully. The only issue, however, is that he was still 30 feet from the pin. When I asked him what he could've changed to ensure his bunker shot was closer to the pin, his response was a common one: "I should've swung harder and hit closer to the ball."
In situations like these, better players tend to take a different approach. If a typical swing out of a bunker with their sand wedge yields a carry distance of 10 paces (fairly typical) and they'd like to carry the ball 15 paces, they'll simply make the same swing with their gap wedge. A 20 yard carry would use a pitching wedge and so-on. This takes the onus off changing variables that are difficult to control, like speed and entry-point and shifts it to a variable that's much easier to control – what club you decide to pull.
This takes the onus off changing variables that are difficult to control, like speed and entry-point and shifts it to a variable that's much easier to control – what club you decide to pull.
Give it a shot next time you're practicing your bunker play or you end up in that awkward position of being 30-40 yards short of the green in a bunker on your approach shot. Take a longer club, open the face slightly, swing normally and let the club be the variable.