by Jess Buskirk
Nothing induces panic on the golf course quite like watching your golf ball sail into a sand trap. It's hard to know how large of an obstacle you're dealing with until you actually step foot onto the sand to rescue your golf ball. Whether the sand trap is deep or shallow, dry or damp, it exists solely to wreak havoc on your score. Fortunately, conquering the sand trap is just a matter of technique, so spend some time practicing this golf shot to complete your game.
Think ahead to your next shot. It can be tempting to get your golf ball out of the bunker by any means possible, but ideally, you can place the ball to your advantage rather than just trying to hit any spot on the green. This may mean you chip the ball backward and add one stroke rather than adding several strokes by hitting over the green into another sand trap.
Relax. Golfers have a tendency to tense up the second the ball hits the sand, but a tense stance is only going to hinder your swing. Make a conscious effort to relax your muscles before you take your stance, which should be wide.
Rotate the club face so it is facing up. Remember, hitting out of a sand trap is essentially a chip shot, and you must get your club under the golf ball in order to loft the ball up and out of the sand.
Bend your elbows and keep your hands near your body on the backswing. This will create a shorter backswing, giving you more loft. If the sand is wet or shallow, compensate with an even shorter backswing. The entire swing should be short and compact, not a drive.
Swing through the shot while keeping the club face open. When you're striking with an open club face, the club will be rotated out so the toe of the club will slightly follow the heel. Connect with the sand as close to the ball as possible. Follow all the way through with the swing so your club carries both your ball and the sand. It's important to make contact with the sand first, or your ball will likely end up on the far side of the green or out of bounds. Conversely, making contact with the sand too early will greatly diminish the power of your swing, causing the ball to roll forward only a few inches.