Toughest Golf Shots: fairway bunker top five tips

You hit a nice drive but the ball has trickled into the fairway bunker? Check out our top tips for hitting thia tricky shot crisply

Ed Greenland's picture
Fri, 14 Jun 2013

The fairway bunker shot is our first bunker play article in the Golf's Toughest Bunker Shots series.

When you walk up to your ball in a fairway bunker it doesn't usually look like the hardest shot but if you don't stick to a few simple principles it can go horribly wrong.

Most amateur golfers make the mistake of playing the shot with exactly the same club and stance as they would if they were on the fairway. There are certainly alterations that need to be made.

We've researched the top golf books and manuals to provide the best five tips you need to hit the ball crisply and accurately from the fairway trap.

There's also a bunker play video tutorial by Phil Mickleson, telling us how he plays the shot...

1. Select the right club

The fairway bunker shot is one of the most deceptive in terms of distance control. You assume that a nice strike will give you a similar yardage to stroking it off the fairway.

But taking a normal club using the standard stance will mean connecting with the sand first, and approximately take 15 to 20 yards off the shot. 

So don't be shy of using two clubs more than usual, opening the face slightly and aiming a hint left (if right-handed) to allow for a gentle fade. Also, using any club longer than a 6-iron is risky.

2. Lean slightly back and keep your body still

Leaning back in your stance will increase the loft of the club, cutting through the sand, giving you a better chance of ball control.

Put a little more pressure on the inside of your back foot and press your back knee towards the target, keeping your body still and not lowering it during your swing.

Sandy Lyle said: "With your body leaning away from the target, it is necessary to keep the lower body very still and swing mostly with your arms."

3. Ball positioned back in stance

The biggest problem with fairway bunkers is hitting the sand before the ball, an inch of sand could mean ten yards less even if your swing is perfect.

So put the ball slightly back in your stance to increase the chance of hitting it without sand being trapped in between the clubface and the ball.

Sandy Lyle said: "You move the ball back in the stance a bit to make sure you hit it before you hit the sand."

4. Grip down the shaft and dig feet in solidly

Having a stable base is vital in the sand because the loose grains could mean sliding on your downswing and not connecting with the ball correctly.

Gripping down on the shaft will shorten the club, meaning there's little chance of grabbing a lot of sand at impact. 

Sandy Lyle said: "Dig feet in solidly, and grip down a bit to shorten up the club to make sure you don't catch the sand before the ball."

5. Firm up wrists and swing shallow

Firming up your wrists will give you strength at impact but also create a shallower swing so you're not digging down and grabbing lots of sand.

If you don't feel comfortable hitting it straight away using this technique take a few practice swings outside the bunker to get used to the motion.

Phil Mickleson said: "We have to come into the ball shallower. We don't want to come in steep. If we come in steep, the balls not on a firm enough surface to take off in the air, it will actually sink as the club enters into the ball." 

Want anymore tips? Check out our Golf's Toughest Bunker Shots index or the overall Golf's Toughest Shots index.



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