One of the toughest shots in golf is playing out of a fairway bunker. Greenside bunkers are bad enough without adding additional distance onto the shot.
When their ball enters the sand, many players will struggle to even get the ball out of it with a single shot. Often it may take multiple shots and your ball might skyrocket over the green or simply dribble out a few feet.
If you are playing on a course that has a lot of bunkers in play or you want to scratch up on your fairway bunker play, you have come to the right place. With the proper instruction and a bit of practice, you will start to relish the challenge that these types of shots present you with. Here are some tips to keep in mind the next time your ball rolls into the dreaded beach:
Don’t get too fancy with your shot
You’ve probably seen tour professionals hit woods and long irons out of bunkers with apparent ease. But unless you are in the upper echelon of the playing ranks, you should avoid this at all costs.
Having said this, if you have a decent lie and a small lip in the bunker, you don’t want to err on the side of caution either. If your ball is sitting up nicely in the sand and there is no significant lip or hazards in the line of your shot, you can afford to be aggressive.
In most other circumstances, you should be a bit more conservative, especially if the lip is high or the ball is sitting down in the sand.
What are the common mistakes?
There are three mistakes that pop up again and again when it comes to hitting shots out of a fairway bunker. Usually, it boils down to fearing the shot, being too nervous to swing correctly or having a bad setup to the ball. Often times players will try to “scoop” the ball out of a bunker. However, if you make a confident swing in a similar way to a normal iron shot, you will get out of most fairway bunkers with ease.
What can you do to become more consistent?
When playing a fairway bunker shot, you will want to have a stance that is a bit wider than normal, slightly outside of shoulder width. This will give you a bit more stability on what is often a more unstable surface than the grass. It is best to dig your leading foot (left foot for right-handers) into the sand a bit more than usual. This will act as a brace during your swing.
You should line up with the ball two inches back from the center of your stance, as this allows you to make clean contact with the ball before you hit the sand. It is usually a good idea to use a club that is longer than normal, as this allows you to grip the club halfway down the handle and get that bit of extra control over your swing.
From there, simply make a smooth and controlled swing while minimizing any leg or feet action. Trust the loft of your club to get the ball out of the bunker. You don’t want to dig down into the ball too much either, so keeping your lower body somewhat quieter than usual is the best way to avoid this.
A nice little practice drill you can do before hitting your fairway bunker shot is to stand outside of the sand trap and hover your club over the grass and take a practice swing. Make sure that you strike the grass firmly in the correct position. This is helpful because some players get thrown off by having to hover over the ball in the sand and not being able to take a proper practice swing.
— Andrew O’Malley