How Not To Hit Your Golf Ball Out Of A Sand Bunker

…Choosing between a smart shot and a really stupid one. (If you want to see a video that shows you what I should have done click here.) Keep reading if you want to find out what happened to me.

It all happened on the par 3, 17th hole at my local club. The pin was at the back right corner of the green, directly behind a couple of deep protective bunkers. The smart shot was to aim a bit left, land on the green and then take two putts if necessary, to make par. Easy peazy, right? Well three of the four of us playing together that day, did just that. Me? I decided I to just “go for it” and aim right at the pin. Take the risk and land my ball just by the pin and one putt for a birdie. I could see the shot in my mind.

I don’t know about your game, but whenever I start to get too arrogant, the golf gods knock me down and bring me back to reality. So what happened next did not come as too much of a surprise. Of course I aimed for the pin and landed my golf ball, “plunk!” right into the deepest part of the front sand bunker.

“#@$%!” was my first reaction. Then I realized, I’ve got out of this bunker before. Couldn’t be too bad. I was sure I could get out again. That was my thinking until I finally reached the bunker and saw where my ball was buried. I knew I was in trouble. A large grass covered lip ran along the top of the trap and my ball was buried in the sand, just at the bottom. I would have to make a perfect sand shot to get the ball up and out. The smart thing to do was to not even try. The smart choice: Come out of the bunker sideways and then pitch on to the green.

That would have been the smart shot. But I was already in a “dumb shot” frame of mind. I was going straight up and out. I ground my shoes into the sand to get a good purchase, tried to soften my hands and focused on a spot just an inch or two behind the ball. I opened the club face, opened my stance, put most of my weight on my left side and reminded myself to be sure and follow through with my swing.

Swing, hit, splat, —the ball hit the lip and rolled back into the trap. Ok. Regroup and try again.

Swing, hit, splat, —the ball almost got out, then rolled back into the trap. By this time my three golf companions were pacing on the green. “You can always come out sideways,” one remarked. I just grimaced.

One more time! Swing, hit, and this time the ball came up out of the sand and— got caught in the grass just on the lip of the trap. It was just hanging there by a thread of weeds, barely supported. I was now lying four on a par three. Time to give up? Not me.

This is when the fun began. I raked the trap, then mounted the edge of the bunker and moved carefully along the lip towards my ball. Could I really hit this thing? The angle was absurd. If I wasn’t careful to hit the ball just right, it could easily fall back into the trap and that would be the end of it.

It was at this point that the earth moved. I mean, it really moved. I didn’t realize it, but I was standing on the lip of the trap with no real ground beneath me. Just as I lifted the club to swing I shifted my weight to my right and the entire top edge of the sand trap collapsed beneath my feet, sending me headfirst into the pit below.

Don’t worry. It was a soft landing. The only thing that was damaged was my pride. Needless to say, the ball followed me into the pit and I was out of the hole. My companions were most solicitous of my plight and would have rushed to help me but I was up and dusting the sand from my slacks before they had a chance to do so. After all the excitement, I was impressed that they each parred the hole.

So what’s with this stubborn pride that caused me to go for the stupid shot when a smart one would have been the better choice? What’s with me, and with some of you, that just forces us to let go of reason and just play stupid golf?

Last night I watched that great golf movie, “Tin Cup” with Kevin Costner who plays a washed up golf pro named Roy McAvoy. I marveled at this character’s stubborn “go for broke” attitude. In one of the last scenes of the movie, Roy is on the eighteenth fairway with a chance to win the U.S. Open. He’s 240 yards from the green with a large pond that he has to get over. The smart shot is to lay up in front of the pond, pitch onto the green and sink a short putt to tie for first place and force a playoff. But no, this guy is determined. In the three previous rounds he has tried for the green from the fairway and each time his ball has gone “swimming.”

Now, in the final round and with everything on the line, he defies all good advice and pulls out his 3 wood to just “go for it.” Three times he swings for the green and each time the ball hits, rolls off and into the water. The crowd moans. He’s only got one ball left in his bag. If he misses this time, he’s disqualified. Of course, in Hollywood, it’s always a fairytale ending. McAvoy hits a perfect shot onto the green and it rolls into the hole. The crowd goes wild, and though his final score on the hole is a 12, it’s the most memorable moment of the Open.

Now my falling into a bunker on my fourth attempt to get my ball out of a sand trap does not really compare. But it was memorable! and it has caused me to pause and wonder what stupid thinking was going through my head? I need to spend more time on this.

What do you think? Have you ever played stupid golf?

  11 comments for “How Not To Hit Your Golf Ball Out Of A Sand Bunker

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