Tom’s Tip of the week: The Rake Drill

by Dan M | Posted on Saturday, March 10th, 2018

Untitled-1_edited-3TOM WARD

If you are known as “Lawrence of Arabia” on the golf course we we need to talk. I’ve got a foolproof plan to help excavate your way out of the bunker and will dazzle your friends.
Next time you are at the driving range practicing bunker shots grab the sand trap rake and place it in front of you as seen in the accompanying photos. Stand the rake up by itself and measure by extending your left arm (for right handed golfers) outward, whereby it would barely touch the rake when making the follow-through. Think in terms of a clock face when setting up to the ball with the rake in front as seen in the top left photo.
The rake in front of the golfer would be similar to a 12 0’clock position.. taking the backswing to hip level high would represent 6 o’ clock. The idea is to make the swing on the correct path relative to your own body posture. Many golfers will take the club too abruptly outside of the intended target line and then cut across the ball from an outside-in angle on the downswing. Don’t get me wrong, this move can get out of the trap in most cases, but you really can’t control the distance and the amount of roll once the ball has left the clubface. That type of action requires a lot of practice and timing to pull off which is something the average golfer doesn’t have.
My game plan for you is to simplify and maximize practice time wisely and efficiently. Great bunker play isn’t about hitting an occasional good shot, but replicating the swing for consistently in getting up and down to save par.
Make the backswing on its natural path without trying to place or manipulate the club head. Many golfers play the ball too far forward, so when in doubt play it more towards the middle.
For this article I’m addressing fairway bunkers instead of bunkers around the green. A major difference on shorter bunker shots around the green is opening up the clubface and a wider stance for added loft compared to that of a fairway bunker shot. I’ll have an upcoming article on greenside bunker shots in greater detail soon.
Notice the golfer in the sequence demonstrating the drill has a standard stance and squarer clubface position because he’s trying to advance the ball a lot further down the fairway.
For long fairway bunker shots don’t try to pick the ball clean. With good technique  the golf ball will be easily extracted without anything extra.
When setting up over the ball, as shown in the top left photo, you’ll be conscious of the rake which is only natural. This may play minds games initially, but after awhile that anxiety will dissipate. In the long run the benefits will far outweigh any temporary psychological discomfort.
In the beginning you may hit the rake a few times on the downswing which is to be expected as the old swing has become ingrained. You will be surprised how quickly the rake will blend into the background. Getting too steep on the downswing and using the upper body (shoulders) too much will result in a collision course with the rake. The reason is the clubhead is traveling to a 11 o’ clock position instead of the aforementioned 12 o’ clock position which would easily miss the rake. The rake is a wakeup call if you are swinging poorly.
Remember the rake is a useful practice tool, it is not there to humiliate you.
As you can see in the top right photo the golfer is at the critical moment of impact and his hands are almost in the same position as they were during set up. His legs are flexed and shoulders are square…notice the line drawn highlighting how well he has returned the club head back into the ball.
The big payoff is the bottom photo. The golfer’s right shoulder is working down and under (which I’ve drawn an arrow) instead of around and across. The right shoulder working under is similar to a boxer making an uppercut punch. The terrific motion triggers the legs to stay more flexed at impact and helps the player to stay down and through the shot well after impact to about hip level high. The move brings the club head back into the ball lying in sand at a shallower angle of attack and from the position you can really let go and fire through the shot instead of being tentative.
Checkout the position of the club well after impact. He has easily missed the rake, with arms fully extended which translates into releasing the club head perfectly. Notice the circle around the clubface showing the toe of the club facing upward which is the telltale sign of a well executed shot. Also, the golfers head is still down long after the ball has been launched.
The days of fear and loathing from fairway bunkers will end after spending some time with Mr. Rake. This drill will help eliminate jokes about your bunker gam…utilizing will pay off handsomely, ultimately raking in the dough from you competitors.
Tom Ward can be contacted at


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