Golf Bunker Tip: Tame the Fairway Bunker with Seven Easy Steps

Tiger Woods Fairway Bunker Clean Contact

Symptom: Poor shots out of fairway bunkers.  You always come up way short.

Or worse yet, a morbid fear of hitting into a fairway bunker, cursing when you end up in a fairway bunker, the feeling of hopelessness as you approach your sandy ball…

Overview: The fairway bunker shot is not too difficult, if played properly.  It mostly comes down to making sure you hit the ball first.

Tiger Woods Fairway Bunker Clean Contact
Tiger Woods plays out of a fairway bunker, over water, with the tournament on the line.

Seven Steps to Fairway Bunker Bliss

  1. First and foremost, realize that you must hit the ball first (as opposed to an explosion shot, where you hit the sand first).
  2. Take one or two more clubs than usual (a seven or six iron instead of an eight iron, for example), but make sure you can get over the lip of the bunker with whatever club you choose!
  3. Work your feet into the sand for traction.
  4. Choke up on the club a bit.
  5. Put the ball an inch or so back in your stance.
  6. Make a smooth and controlled swing, a little less than a full swing.
  7. Don’t try to be a hero — the most important thing is that your next shot be from the fairway or the green.

The good news is that your ball will seldom be buried in a fairway bunker.  You will usually have a good lie in the sand.

Why it works: Out of the sand, the ball will have more spin than usual because you must hit the ball with a more descending blow than normal. And, you won’t be able to swing too hard due to your poor traction in the sand. That’s why you need to compensate by using one or two extra clubs. Watch Fred Couples demonstrate for us.  See how the ball is struck first, then the sand (0:34)?

You can visualize hitting the “sunken tee” to make sure you hit down on the ball, get out of that pesky bunker and into the short grass or on to the green, and get on with your round!

Finally, have a look at these great fairway bunker shots, they will inspire you the next time you find the beach far from the green:

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