5 Tips to Hitting Great Shots Out of Fairway Bunkers
Ask a player how well they hit shots out of a bunker, and they’ll likely refer to a greenside bunker. Fairway bunkers don’t garner as much attention, but striking clean recovery shots are equally important to your game.
A significant challenge to hitting good fairway bunker shots is that it’s a shot we can’t practice. Public and private courses often have greenside bunkers in their practice area. But fairway bunkers shots are hit for distance and relegated to the course only.
Without practice, information is critical to hitting this shot proficiently. Here are five tips that should help you to hit quality shots out of fairway bunkers.
Place the ball back in your stance — Take your stance with the ball positioned closer towards your rear foot. Moving the ball one–to–two inches back in your stance makes it easier to hit the ball cleanly (no sand).
Dig your feet in and choke down on the club — Dig your feet into the sand for stability and take your grip an inch or more down on the club. Because you’ve dug your feet into the sand, the ball is sitting higher than your feet. Choking down shortens the club to compensate for the difference and helps you avoid hitting the sand before the ball.
Take at least one extra club — Select a club that hits the ball farther than your target distance since choking down on the club sacrifices about 10 yards of distance. For example, if you’re 160 yards from the hole and typically hit a 7–iron, opt for a 6–iron. It will make up for the lost distance and keep you from over–swinging.
Shorten your backswing — Take a three–quarter backswing to increase your chances of a solid ball strike. Remember, you’re already taking at least one extra club, so don’t worry about distance. Hitting the ball cleanly is the primary goal.
Aim for the ball, not the sand — Hitting the ball first is critical to striking a quality shot. In greenside bunkers, you hit an inch or two behind the ball and let the sand carry it out. When playing from fairway bunkers, however, making square contact with the ball is essential to hitting for distance. Catch the sand first and you’ll have a short walk to your ball.
One final reminder — select a club that has enough loft to get the ball out. There are times when your ball will be sitting near the front of the bunker, just behind a big lip. Even though the distance warrants a 7–iron, you may have to hit a 9–iron to make sure the ball clears the lip. Ignore the urge to hit a miraculous shot and choose the practical club. The least desired result is a second shot out of a fairway bunker.