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Lesson Learned: Follow Finau to Succeed in the Sand

By Keith Stewart, PGA
Published on

When it comes to playing from the bunker, we don’t get to witness it much on the PGA Tour. The players are so skilled they often don’t miss enough to scramble from the sand. This week at the Hero World Challenge, there is plenty of sand scattered amongst the landscape. Those that have worked their way toward the top of the leaderboard like Tony Finau have shown they can be successful from the dreaded beach. 
What happens when you find yourself lodged in the sand? For most golfers, the bunker presents a significant challenge. Watch this quick highlight from Finau’s first round at Albany and let’s look for a couple keys that can lead to our own success from the sand. 
Follow these fundamental keys and set up correctly. 
  • The first pre-swing key is to get a nice wide base in the sand. Tony is tall. Notice how he spreads his feet wider than a normal stance would be on the grass or turf. 
  • In conjunction with taking a wider stance than usual, see how he has dug his feet into the sand. Standing in the sand while swinging can be slippery. The sand moves when we start turning and swinging. Make sure you dig those feet in a little to secure them. 
  • Get your weight on that lead leg. Look at Tony lean left as a right-handed golfer. In doing this, he ensures the club will enter the sand using the bounce on the bottom of the clubhead. This guarantees the ball will be lifted from its lie and out of the bunker. 
  • The last setup strategy is to get low. Use that wider stance and get your center of gravity lower. That’s a fancy way of saying lower your backside. As you do this, allow your hands to get a little lower as well. This will shallow out our swing through the sand. Bunker swings are meant to lift and displace sand, not dig it. 
When you swing. 
  • Tony’s takeaway is a great example of how to elevate shots quickly. Bunkers are holes, and we need to get the ball up and out. Hinge the club on the way back. Get that shaft to vertical by the time your lead arm reaches parallel. This will help in two ways: first, it will create speed. Second, it will allow you to hit the ball high. 
  • Get aggressive when you swing in the sand. I love how Finau swings right through the sand in this shot. So many amateurs stop at the sand or decelerate as they approach it. Find that critical spot behind the ball to strike the surface and go after it. 
  • By being aggressive through the sand you set yourself up to finish with a strong follow through. A focused finished in the sand is vital. Attacking the sand behind the ball is one thing, but lifting it sends the ball up and out of the bunker. 
At first glance in reading these keys they seem like a decent sized list. Keep in mind, most of the secrets shared above happen before we even swing the club. Get to a practice bunker and work on your sand setup. Make those four elements routine. Once they become second nature, the dynamic (in-swing) part will work even better.

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