Course architects and average golfers are fed up with these 7800 yard monstrosities that are needed just to compete with the advances in club and ball design. On tour, the players agree – few courses have stood the test of time. But of those few, they all have one thing in common. They are placement courses, that force you to place your shots well, and they penalize you severely if you do not. Fairway bunkers are one way of creating a risk reward situation off the tee. For most players, hitting their tee-shot into a fairway bunker tends to be a death sentence – with some practice though, this doesn’t have to be the case.
First things first, a bunker shot cannot be played the same way as a fairway shot. From the fairway, you should be trapping the ball against the turf as your swing arc bottoms out slightly after the ball. If you try this in a bunker, you’ll chunk it… badly. You cannot “trap” a ball in the sand, as doing this will just force the ball and your club deeper into the sand, slowing your swing dramatically, and stealing all your power. With that said, you have to literally “pick the ball off the sand”. Here's how…
Setup & Address
When faced with a fairway bunker shots, it’s always best to take an extra club or two, and then choke down slightly for additional control. To help encourage “picking” the ball off the sand, I prefer to have the ball slightly ahead of center in my stance – this helps ensure you hit the ball on the up-swing. Set your stance slightly narrower than normal, I’ll explain why shortly. Be sure to take notice of the lip of the bunker as well – take enough club to ensure you clear it.
In fairway bunkers, a strong lower body move is not your friend. In fact, the ideal bunker swing has little to no lower body movement at all. The reasoning behind this is simple, on an unstable surface like sand, a full swing coupled with extra lower body movement could easily destabilize your swing and stance and reduce you chance of picking the ball off cleanly.
Like all bunker shots, you’ll need to dig your feet into the sand to try and maintain some solidity and balance. During your swing, focus on keeping your lower body stable – imagine it being incased in ice if it helps (as illustrated). This is secret to solid fairway bunker shots.
As stated earlier, I prefer to have a slightly narrower than shoulder width stance on these shots. This helps to encourage more rotation of the upper body – allowing you to create a similar amount of power to a normal fairway shot.
To properly pick the ball off the sand your swing arc needs to match the slope of the bunker you’re hitting from. The simplest way of doing this is to match your shoulders to slope at address.
As with all bunker shots, acceleration is very important. Complete your swing, just like any other full-swing shot. If you decelerate into impact, you’re contact, power and distance will suffer.
I hope that helps! Give it a try!