How To Hit Fairway Bunker Shots
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If you are like most people, you dread going into a fairway bunker because you usually hit a poor shot. We've got two ways for you to tackle this issue. The first is the "traditional" approach to fairway bunker shots and the second is written by our team of Web.com Tour and PGA Tour players. There are some similarities in these techniques but there are also some dramatic differences. Try both techniques to see which one best suits your game.
- Dig Your Feet Into the Sand - This will create a solid base for your swing and allow you to determine how much sand is in the bunker. The more sand there is, the more challenging the shot will be.
- Choke up - Your feet will be below the surface of the sand when you take your stance. Choke up on the club to offset the depth of your feet.
- Take One Extra Club - The ball will go shorter because you have choked up on the club. Take one more club to make up for the loss in shaft length.
- Keep Your Lower Body Quiet - Sand provides unstable footing so you can't use your legs for power without losing your footing. Take your lower body out of the equation by keeping it as quiet as you can throughout the swing.
- Swing Shallow - The goal is to sweep the ball off the sand taking a very small divot if any. Your swing should feel very wide both on the way back and on the way through.
The method described above is the one you will see described in just about every golf publication. If it works for you, fantastic. But many people struggle to find consistency in the fairway bunker with this technique. It requires a perfect lie in the bunker and perfect timing to execute properly. If it doesn't work for you, we've got another method used by many of those who play the game for a living. You won't find it written anywhere else but it is very effective.
This technique is predicated upon one thing; clean contact. Above all else, you must hit the ball before you hit the sand. This method will produce a slight draw but will ensure that you hit the ball first every time.
- Dig the Insteps of Your Feet Into The Sand
- Choke up on the club
- Strengthen Your Left Hand
- Cock your wrists on your Takeaway
- Keep Your Hands Passive through the Ball
Weight on Your Insteps - When you're digging your feet into the bunker to take your stance, it’s important to focus on digging the insteps of your feet into the sand. It should feel like your right foot has something to push off of, similar to the rubber on a pitcher's mound. This is important because you're going to use the inside of your right foot to push off of when driving down into the ball. Your weight should be on the instep of your left foot as well. When you do this, both of your knees will be angled slightly inward towards the middle of your stance. All of your weight will be on your insteps and should be equally distributed between your right and left foot. This stance will provide you the stability to swing freely in the fairway bunker without losing your footing.
Choke Up - Choking up on the club will offset the depth of your feet in the sand. If you dig your feet into the sand an inch below the surface, choke up on the club about an inch to offset it. If the bunker is extremely soft and your feet sink even further into the sand, choke up a bit more. The only reason for choking up in the bunker is to make up for your feet being below the surface of the sand.
Strengthen Your Left Hand - Rotate your left hand on top of the club so the "v" created by your thumb and index finger is pointing towards your right shoulder. This will eliminate the bounce of the club and help ensure a solid strike. You will be able to hold the clubface square through impact without have to flip your hands at it.
Cock Your Wrists - at the beginning of your backswing. This is key because you don’t want any wrist movement through the ball. Players who are very handsy usually have a hard time in the fairway bunker. Set the angle in your hands and wrists just like you would set them if you were chopping a piece of wood. Your wrists should work up and down, not side to side.
Passive Hands - The hard part is over. Now you simply need to maintain your wrist cock all the way through impact. The proper footing you've created coupled with the other keys mentioned above will allow you to drive the club down into the ball, striking it crisply.
How to Determine Distance
This technique has the added advantage of allowing you to hit the ball a bit farther from the fairway bunker than you normally do. If you have 150 yards to the pin in the middle of the fairway bunker, you will want to use your 145 yard club. This may fly in the face of everything you've ever heard about fairway bunker shots, but let’s just break it down. You are in the bunker using your 145 yard club. You choke down on it, which should make it go a little shorter. Let’s say 5 yards. So now your club goes 140 yards. You rotate your left hand to make it stronger and effectively deloft the club. Add 5 yards for this and now we are back to 145 yards. Next you are going to cock our wrist on the takeaway, delofting the club further and thus making the ball go farther. Now your 145 club goes 150 yards.
**Note - The majority of the time this technique will produce a small draw or just a slight pull. It is important to aim slightly right of the target to allow for this shot shape. The shot shape is a small price to pay for consistently clean contact. Practicing this shot using a lob wedge from 60 yards will speed up your learning process. You will learn that you really have to keep your wrists locked and drive the club into the back of the ball to create clean contact.