Fairway bunkers

The fairway bunker shot can be a challenging shot to pull off. Even with the best of lies, it’ll be tough to pick the ball off the sand and catch it solidly. My best advice is to try to avoid these shots as much as possible by aiming away from the bunkers and treating them like any other hazard that would make it difficult to make par. However, if you do happen to find the beach off the tee, here’s are a few thoughts to help you execute this shot.

The first decision to make is which club you’ll need to get out successfully. Check the distance to your target, the height of the lip of the bunker you must go over and what kind of a lie you have in the sand because these variables need to be identified before choosing your weapon. In some cases, such as a buried or poor lie or a very high lip to clear, you may have to opt to just get the ball out with a wedge and back in play safely rather than risk the crowd pleasing, heroic effort. Once you have selected the appropriate club with which to extricate your Titleist from the sand you must get set up correctly in order to execute this shot. 

These are the keys to getting set properly: 

  • Dig your feet into the sand because you’ll need a solid base from which to swing the club. This is primarily an “arm swing,” so stabilizing your lower body is key.
  • Find the bottom of the arc of the swing. A few waggles or practice swings over the ball will show you where the impact should be. 
  • Keep your grip pressure light at the start of your swing due to the natural tendency to grip the club too tightly because it is an “arm swing”. 
  • Maintain the position of your sternum relative to ground through the stroke. Don’t let your swing center move up or down.

It will be imperative to strike the ball solidly so resist the urge to over-swing and try to feel that you are swinging at about three-quarter speed. Do not try to overpower it.

These can be very vexing golf shots to play so I do all I can to avoid them in the first place. However, when faced with these testers keep your head up and stay confident because these fairway bunker fundamentals will help you get the ball back in the fairway and keep you from having to put a big number on the scorecard.

Shawn Kelly, PGA