By Paul Myers
Watching your ball drop into a greenside bunker is never a good feeling, but it isn’t nearly as bad if you are confident in your ability to get up and down the majority of the time. Getting the ball up and in from a bunker combines the skill to hit a good bunker shot, and the nerve to hole out the putt successfully. Tracking sand save percentage is a good way to find out if this is an area of your game that is a strength, or if you need to put in more practice time in the bunker.
One Step at a Time
Instead of setting an arbitrary goal for yourself on this stat –like 50% – try first measuring your current bunker game and then try to improve it by 5% at a time. If you are able to just make small, incremental improvements as you go, you can soon turn your bunker game into a strength. However, if you are able to reach the 50% mark in terms of getting up and down from the sand, you will be doing quite nicely for yourself.
If you would like to look to the PGA Tour for inspiration, you can see that many of the Tour players are fare exceeding the 50% mark. In fact, the current leader for the 2015 season is Brendan Todd, who has gotten up and down from the bunker 27 times in 35 tries. That is good for a 77.14%. That means that Todd is not only hitting quality bunker shots regularly, but he is also sinking clutch putts time and again.
All About the Spin
The key to getting up and down from the bunker is being able to control the amount of spin you put on the ball from the sand. If you hit closer to the ball when playing from the bunker, you should hit a shot that has more spin and stops faster. If you hit farther behind the ball and take more sand, the shot will have very little spin and should roll out on the green. Being able to vary the amount of spin in order to control how far the ball travels in total is a valuable talent to develop. Of course, making your putts helps as well to conquer the sand.
To raise your up and down percentage from the sand, find a practice bunker at a course near you and spend some quality time mastering your technique. Practice is important all over the golf course, but it is especially important from the bunker. It takes time and experience to master the feel for greenside bunker shots, and to be able to execute them when you are feeling the pressure. Put in your time in the practice bunker, and suddenly the bunkers on the course won’t look nearly as intimidating.