Some Course Management Keys

Believe it or not, the physical side of fairway bunkers shots is only one half of the equation. In addition to make stable swings in fairway bunkers, you also have to make great decisions. This section of our article is going to be all about those decisions. Only when you combine good decisions with solid swing techniques will you be able to successfully deal with fairway bunkers more times than not.

Let’s look at a few important course management points to think about before hitting a fairway bunker shot.

  • You don’t have to reach the green. Many golfers get into trouble on these shots because they stubbornly try to reach the green even when that is not a realistic goal. It is perfectly acceptable to layup from a fairway bunker, and often, that is going to be the right choice. In order to reach the green, you may have to take on too much risk in terms of playing the ball close to the lip on the way out, or trying to carry another hazard. Remember, these are tough shots even for skilled players, so don’t expect perfection. If there is anything about the shot that gives you cause for concern, simply lay it up and avoid making a big mistake.
  • Short is far more likely than long. For this point, let’s imagine a fairway bunker shot which is being played from 150-yards away from the middle of the green. You have a good lie, and you think you can get out of the bunker cleanly while using enough club to reach the putting surface. As you evaluate your path to the green, remember that it is far more likely that you’ll come up short rather than long on this kind of shot. That means you should be more concerned about trouble short of the green than you are trouble behind the target. Sure, it’s always possible to hit your shot too far, but that is not going to be the normal outcome. As long as you pick the right club, a solid shot should come down somewhere near the right distance, and a miss-hit will come up short. The story is somewhat the same from the fairway, but the effect is magnified when playing from the sand. If you hit a sand shot even just a little heavy, the ball will usually land way short of the intended target. Be sure to respect hazards and other obstacles short of the green, and only go for it when you are confident in your ability to get over.
  • Stay out of the sand! While it is a good idea to practice your fairway bunker technique, simply avoiding this situation in the first place is the best option. Of course, you can’t hit every tee shot exactly where you are aiming, which is why you need to use thoughtful strategy on the tee. If there is a fairway bunker at the landing distance for your driver, consider using a three wood to play short of that hazard. Or, play to the opposite side of the fairway to give yourself maximum margin for error. Think careful on the tee about your strategy and you should be able to reduce the number of fairway traps you find.

When you do have to play from a fairway bunker, the key word is stable. Keep yourself as stable as possible while you swing, especially in the lower body. By using the basic adjustments we outlined in this article, you should be able to pick the ball cleanly off the top of the sand more times than not. This is a shot that will always be a challenge, but we hope our tips help you handle it better than ever before. Good luck!