Sand Shot Rules
Q & A

Question: Sand Shot Rules

I would like to know if your ball is in a footprint in a sand trap can you lift, rake and place or do you play it "as is"?

B.C. - USA


Thank you for such a great question about bunker play. How many times has that happened? You have made a bad swing or got a bad bounce and your ball is in a bunker…then you walk up to your ball and find it sitting in a footprint. Brutal!

Unfortunately you must play it as it lies. You are not allowed to pick up, rake and then replace the ball.

The unwritten sand shot rules of etiquette are very important and must be followed so that everyone has the best opportunity to play their best. You will find at most golf courses that a few etiquette reminders are placed on a sign at the first tee or on the scorecards. “Please rake the sand traps.” is almost always a part of the list. This is because it has the biggest impact on other players games.

So now that you have found yourself in this situation…how do you get yourself out without breaking the sand shot rules? Golf is such a great game for learning to deal with the situation at hand. Playing with the cards you have been dealt…so to speak.

The first thing to do is accept the situation. There are many times when players are still dwelling on their bad luck and not concentrating on the next shot. The bad bounce/shot has already happened…nothing you can do about that. It is out of your control. The only thing you can control is how you will prepare for the next shot. Will you go through your proper routine and focus on execution or will you be stuck in the past?

Now, to play the shot. It all depends on the lie. If your ball fell into the heel print and there is a wall of sand behind your ball then take your most lofted club (lob wedge, sand wedge, pitching wedge) and set up like I describe in the basic sand lesson technique. Please click here Basic Sand Shot Setup.

Now the secret to the heel print shot is to toe the club in. This means that instead of opening the clubface you actually setup with a closed clubface. I know this sounds counter productive but it actually works. As your club enters the sand at impact the wall of sand will open the face and help get the ball out. The toed in clubface will also dig through the sand. You need the digging action in order get through the wall of sand behind the ball.

When you hit the shot the ball will come out with almost no spin. In fact it will look a little like a knuckle ball. You need to be aware of this because this shot will definitely roll out once it hits the green. Your objective should simply be to get on the green. Facing this shot you should always aim for the biggest part of the green to give you the best chance to keep the ball on the green. This will put you putter in your hand for your next shot and help avoid putting a big number on your scorecard.

If your ball is in the toes of the footprint then simply use the basic sand technique found in this lesson Basic Sand Shot Swing or the advanced sand shot technique Advanced Sand Shot Swing. The only difference is to dig your feet a little deeper into the sand. Since the ball is in a footprint it is a little lower than sitting on top of the sand. If you can get your body lower then it will help you dig the sand under the ball and that sand will lift your ball onto the green.

Thank you for your great question regarding sand shot rules. I hope you found this answer helpful. If you have anymore questions please send them in by clicking below.

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Kris at

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