Seve Shares His Secrets From The Sand

Seve Ballesteros is unequivocally one of the greatest short game magicians the game of golf has ever seen.

Seve’s soft hands were the things of legend as were the stories of how he grew up to be so adept out of the sand, using a long iron on the beaches of Spain. 

SwingU instructor Aaron Ungvarsky reveals the key components to Seve’s bunker game that made him so good.

The Setup

  • Seve perfected the setup to best contact the sand and get a predictable shot, both in flight and release, from a very unpredictable lie in the bunker.
  • The first thing is take a wider than normal stance and dig our feet into the sand. This lowers the bottom of the swing arc, ensuring we hit down and under the ball. Open the clubface of the sand wedge so the bottom or bounce will be the first part to contact sand. We take a normal grip once the club is open.
  • The open club position allows us to release and swing through without digging.
  • Next, add knee flex and feel yourself “sit” into the shot. As we do this,the hands hang under the shoulders and lower than normal. 
  • Finally, lean left and center your body weight ahead of the ball, giving both stability for the swing and also setting a low point ahead of the ball.

The Shot

  • The body motion has very little arm action and instead, feel the elbows bend upwards as the body turn back. This creates a path that is more narrow or vertical. With this path, we can hit down and close to the ball.
  • The tempo of the bunker shot Seve hit is key – it is very even. Many amateurs over-swing and try and help the ball out of the bunker. That is a score-killer! Swinging with even tempo and releasing to a full finish it key for a perfect execution of the standard bunker shot. 
  • Seve had a setup and swing the delivered the club close to the back of the ball. Many amateurs are taught to hit too far behind the ball, and the result is a shot that can not be controlled in terms of spin and release. Hitting close to back of the ball gives the grooves maximum impact given the sand will still be caught between the ball and the club.
  • The feel or image Seve referenced in many of his bunker tips was all about impact. He wanted the shaft to be totally neutral or pointing back at his belt buckle at impact. This meant he was releasing the club through the sand and not holding onto the handle and dragging it through impact. Folks that hold and drag will struggle to hit the sand consistently with enough energy to move the ball.
  • Lastly, note his finish. He did not stay frozen in place. Instead he allowed his body to move with the shot and finished tall, another indicator he has released and rotated through the shot.

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