sand save golf

NCG’s Golf Glossary: What Is A Sand Save?

Don’t know your dormies from your doglegs? NCG’s Golf Glossary is here to help…


At NCG (National Club Golfer), we recognize that golf isn’t just a game of clubs and balls, but also one of terminology and tradition. In this piece, we explain what a sand save is!

For those new to the sport, or even seasoned players who haven’t delved too deeply into its intricacies, the jargon can sometimes seem as challenging as a treacherous par-5. As the preferred publication for the everyday golfer, it’s our mission to bridge that gap, ensuring that every golfer, regardless of their experience, feels at home on the course and in conversation.

With that in mind, we’re excited to introduce our golf glossary series, where we unpack the stories, origins, and nuances behind some of the most common – and occasionally obscure – golfing terms. We believe that sometimes, the most straightforward terms have the richest histories and the most intriguing anecdotes.

Today’s term, the ‘sand save,’ might sound simple, but it carries with it tales of miraculous recoveries, moments of genius, and the strategic nuances of the game.

So, whether you’re trying to impress your golf buddies with some newfound knowledge, seeking clarity on that term you overheard at the 19th hole, or just here for the sheer love of the sport and its traditions, you’ve come to the right place.

Dive in as we bunker down (pun intended) and explore the fascinating world of golfing language. Who knows? By the end of this piece, you might just have a new conversation starter for your next round!

What Is A Sand Save In Golf?

A common sight on the green, yet often misunderstood by those newer to golf, is the concept of the ‘sand save’. Despite what its name might hint at, you won’t find David Hasselhoff rushing to rescue a ball from the sand. Instead, it’s a term of admiration, signifying a player’s adeptness in one of the trickier parts of the game.

In simple terms, a sand save in golf is when a golfer successfully scores par after having been in a bunker, particularly those located close to the green, known as greenside traps.

Rory McIlroy

This act of recovery often involves two key shots: the initial shot that extracts the ball from the bunker, and the subsequent putt that sends the ball into the hole, earning the player a commendable ‘sandy par’. It’s a move that showcases both technique and strategy, as bunkers are designed as hazards and can be challenging to navigate.

But wait, there’s an even more dazzling feat! Occasionally, a golfer might demonstrate their exceptional skill by holing their bunker shot in one go. This means they send the ball straight from the bunker into the hole, skipping the need for a follow-up putt.

Not only does this achieve the objective of a sand save, but it does so in a spectacular manner, drawing admiration from both fellow golfers and spectators alike. It also has a special name – a ‘Golden Ferret’.

Understanding and appreciating these nuances can enhance the spectating experience and provides players with a deeper sense of accomplishment. After all, golf isn’t just about the long drives, but also the finesse and strategy in these critical recovery plays.

How would you use it in a sentence?

“That was a lovely sand save there on the fifth.”

What are its origins?

Peeling back the layers of time and golf’s history, the origins of many terms in the sport are often steeped in mystery, and the term ‘sand save’ is no exception. However, let’s try to shed some light on it.

Our journey takes us back to the days of Old Tom Morris, one of the forefathers of modern golf. While it would be enticing to tie the term directly to him or the golfers of his era, the reality is less clear-cut. Like many age-old phrases, the exact genesis of ‘sand save’ has been lost to time, blending seamlessly into the game’s rich tapestry.

But here’s a little linguistic detour: the word ‘sand’ itself traces its roots back to the Dutch word ‘sant’. Contrary to the sun-soaked, beachy image the word evokes today, it didn’t always conjure visions of golden grains or picturesque dunes.

The term initially denoted unstable ground located near riverbeds. If the annals of the internet are to be believed, ‘sant’ described the treacherous, shifting terrain often found in such locations. Over time, as languages evolved and cultures merged, the term adapted to its current meaning, representing the granular substance we’re all familiar with today.

So while we might not be able to pinpoint the exact moment or individual who coined the phrase ‘sand save’, its linguistic roots and the broader history of golf provide us with an enriching backdrop against which we can appreciate this golfing term in all its gritty glory.

Any other business?

Sand saving is big business. It’s worth lots of money on the tours. For instance, in the 2022-2023 PGA Tour season, only 27 players managed to get up and down from the sand more than 60% of the time.

Max Homa was 2nd on the list behind only Sung Kang, managing just shy of 65% when it comes to sand saves.

sand save

So when you leave it in the trap, maybe don’t be quite as hard on yourself.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Sand Saves in Golf

1. What is a sand save in golf? A sand save in golf refers to the act of a golfer successfully scoring par after their ball has landed in a bunker, especially a greenside trap. This typically involves two shots: one to get the ball out of the bunker and another to putt it into the hole.

2. Does a sand save always refer to making a par? While it typically refers to making par from a bunker, the term can also be used more broadly to describe any situation where a golfer recovers from a bunker to achieve the score they were aiming for on that hole.

3. What is a “sandy par”? A “sandy par” is another term for a sand save. It’s achieving par after your ball has been in a bunker during your play on that hole.

4. How did the term “sand save” originate? While the exact origins are unclear, the term has been a part of golf’s lexicon for a long time. The word “sand” itself traces back to the Dutch word “sant,” originally describing unstable ground near riverbeds.

5. Can a sand save be achieved in one shot from the bunker? Yes, if a golfer holes their shot directly from the bunker, it’s considered a sand save in a more impressive style, as it eliminates the need for a follow-up putt. This is also known as a ‘Golden Ferret’.

6. Why are bunkers considered a challenge in golf? Bunkers, often filled with sand, present a different texture and resistance than the fairway or green. Extracting a ball from a bunker requires specialized technique and can be unpredictable, making them a challenging hazard in the game.

7. Are there specific clubs recommended for bunker shots? Yes, golfers typically use a “sand wedge” for bunker shots. Its design, with a wider sole and higher bounce, helps glide the club through the sand and lift the ball out.

8. What’s the difference between a greenside bunker and other bunkers? A greenside bunker is located close to the green, whereas other bunkers, like fairway bunkers, are situated elsewhere on the hole, typically further from the green.

9. Can professional golfers always achieve a sand save? While professional golfers have a higher rate of successful sand saves due to their skill and practice, it’s not guaranteed. Variables like the ball’s lie, bunker’s depth, and sand consistency can pose challenges even for the pros.

10. How can I improve my chances of achieving a sand save? Practicing bunker shots, understanding the sand’s texture, choosing the right club, and mastering the technique of “splashing” the sand rather than hitting the ball directly can increase your chances of a successful sand save.

How good are you from the bunker? What is your sand save percentage? Let us know with a post on X, formerly Twitter!

Matt Coles

Matt Coles

Mention a European country, and Matt will tell you which resorts make the National Club Golfer Top 100s: European Resorts list. He might even throw in who designed the golf course and how many rooms the hotel has got at each one…

Matt got into the game of golf from a young age, following his old man to the local golf club. He fell for the sport, and now can’t seem to go a day without thinking about how to improve his game (Thanks Dad!). Matt has been a member of Howley Hall GC in Leeds since 2020, and is just about managing to maintain a single-figure handicap. He likes to remind people that he once broke 75, but won’t tell people that it was on a shortened course during the winter.

He moved to Leeds after graduating from the University of Central Lancashire with a First Class Honours degree in Sports Journalism. Matt joined NCG after almost five years travelling the world with the Professional Squash Association, working on events in all four corners of the globe.

Matt currently plays a Cobra King LTDx driver and RadSpeed 3-wood. TaylorMade monopolise the rest of his bag, with a SIM UDI, M5 irons and both Milled Grind and HI-TOE wedges, along with a Monza Redline putter. He uses a Vice Pro Plus golf ball, because he’s a bit different…

Away from golf, Matt is a Manchester United fan, and a keen runner, having ran the Rob Burrow Leeds Marathon (his first and possibly last), in May 2023.

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