The Golf Academy

Golf tips, instruction, and commentary for any golfer looking to improve.

Escaping Sand Traps: How To Get Out Alive

It’s inevitable. Eventually, we all end up in the sand. But how you react once you do end up in the trap can make or break your hole and, if it doesn’t go quite as planned, your round. That’s why today we’re going to talk about how to get out of the sand consistently and how you should approach escaping the sand trap mentally.

Getting the ball out of the sand is not as cut and dry as you might think. If you scour the web or different articles in golfing magazines there is a difference between the thought process that people use as well as the physical swing mechanics too. Personally, I’m very confident playing out of the sand, sometimes even more so than a chip from the same distance but that’s because I’ve found a process that works well for me. And while what I suggest does work well for me, the chance of it working perfectly for you as well really isn’t that good. None the less, the basics will still apply and so, here is how I get out of the sand.

Like all shots in golf, hitting the ball out of a bunker starts with the setup. For a standard sand escape (that’s to say the sand isn’t wet and I’m not close to the lips of the sand trap) I like to keep my stance open and place my feet about shoulder-width apart. This is actually quite similar to chipping, and the adjustments from a “square stance” are for the same reason as a chip. I want to open my stance to facilitate a higher lofted shot (to get out of the trap) and I want my feet in a sturdy position while also giving myself a chance to turn naturally.

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A great stance to escape the sand; open with feet dug in for stability.

Now that we have the right setup lets talk about the swing. While your swing plane can be either steeper or shallower depending on the goals of your shot, I like to compare it to the way I would hit a chip off of the fairway, crisp but not overly aggressive. Let me explain…

Your swing out of the sand needs to be performed in a way that minimizes the effect of the sand. If your swing isn’t crisp and is instead slow and relaxed you risk turning the club head as it slides through the sand. However, an overly aggressive swing that you might use to get out of the rough (especially a steep swing angle) is only going to dig your club into the sand and prevent you from performing a normal follow through.


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Roughly the size of a dollar bill. A good size for a divot.

Ideally, after your shot, you should be left with a hole in the sand that is similar to a dollar bill in length and a penny in depth (depth can vary depending on sand quality and all that good stuff). While this is ideal let’s be honest, more often than not weather conditions are not perfectly ideal. Thankfully there are a couple adjustments you can make to your swing plane that can help you deal with whatever Mother Nature throws at you. In wetter conditions, a more aggressive swing plane will help cut through the hard sand. Inversely, in really fine sand, taking a shallower swing can stop you from taking too much sand during your swing.

All of these adjustments are great but you really don’t have to memorize them. In reality, all you really want to do during a sand shot is slide your club under the ball and take a reasonable amount of sand during your shot. How you decide to accomplish these two things is truly up to you and the way you like to play golf personally.

I’ll be the first to admit that some of the information in this article is somewhat vague but in reality that’s the only way to properly teach playing out of the sand. You’re in the trap, and now you need to get out. There are a few things that almost every golfer will want to consider but ultimately, if you swing harder, you can take more sand and visa versa. There is no “right way” to escape the sand. The only way to really become proficient is to practice. No, it’s not exciting to hit 100 balls out of the trap (especially since you have to rake it after) but the reason most golfers struggle to get out of the sand consistently is because they never consider practicing it the way they would practice hitting a driver or making a three-foot putt.

Even if you don’t have time to spend a day practicing out of the sand, the next time you’re playing a causal round and you find yourself stuck in the sand, drop a few balls down and hit a few more shots out. You’d be amazed how quickly you can start to get a feel for how the ball is going to fly when you take more or less sand and so on. Escaping the sand certainly isn’t something easy but there are far to many strokes wasted and rounds ruined by poor sand play. So let’s all spend a little more time perfecting your sand escapes and we can all enjoy lower scores and more fun on the links. Sound good? Great, now let’s get out on the links and play nine.


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  1. Sully,

    You provide an 80% solution to getting out of the sand. I would respectfully add that your swing plane needs to steeper than normal. Basically creating a V with your swing. This steeper angle will help pop the ball out of the sand. Otherwise you are spot on.


    • Jim,
      I agree that in terms of formal instruction that’s probably more accurate but in my personal experience thinking of taking a steeper swing plane at the ball has always resulted in the club digging into the sand. Certainly something to consider but personally it’s never helped me at all. Thanks for the input though, always great to get someone else’s look at things!


      • Sully

        There is a dine line between digging and letting the bounce of the club do the work. Sand work is not an exact science for sure. Liking the conversation.


  2. Great post! Learning to overcome the sand is very easy, make sure to pack your sunscreen! By far the worst facet of my game right now. Thank you for the insight!

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