There are few shots more difficult to accomplish than striking a fairway wood from a bunker. Just because the fairway wood has ‘fairway’ in the title, it doesn’t mean it can’t be used from the sand. However, because of the club head design of fairway woods and how a club head interacts with the sand, it’s a difficult shot to play.
Deciding on whether to attempt the shot depends on a number of factors including technique but also course management. Fairway woods should only be hit from the sand when all the options have been weighed up.
1. Height of bunker lip - Because fairway woods have low lofts when compared to irons, the ball will leave the club face very low. If the golfer is faced with a high bunker lip it will be almost impossible to play a successful shot with the fairway wood. This could be slightly different if the golfer is using a very high loft fairway wood such as 9 wood. In general, the bunker lip should be very low or very far away from the ball.
2. Lie - a bunker shot hit with a fairway wood requires perfect contact with the ball to be successful. The club head must strike the ball first, nipping it off the sand cleanly. If any sand gets caught between the club face and ball it’s unlikely the golfer will escape the bunker let alone reach their target. Because of this, the ball must be lying perfectly on the sand, sitting up slightly where the club can make contact with the back of the ball. If there is any sand behind the ball it will be impossible to make a clean contact.
3. Risk versus reward - The first question a golfer should ask when deciding whether to hit the fairway wood from the bunker is ‘is it worth the risk?’ A purely struck shot would sail from the sand and bring looks of admiration from playing partners. However, a poorly struck ball might not even escape the bunker. Another variable to the equation is what lies between the ball and target? Striking a fairway wood shot from a bunker to a target when trouble lies between is fraught with danger. For example, if the target sits just over a water hazard, heavy rough or more bunkers, a safer option should be considered.
There is nothing stopping a player from using the fairway wood out of a bunker but there are a number of reasons why players should be cautious. However, if the risks outweigh the rewards, players can use the following technique to help ensure the shot is successful.
1. The ball should be just forward of centre in the stance.
2. The feet should be shuffled into the sand slightly for stability.
3. Hold the club a few inches down the handle.
4. Weight should be divided 50/50 on each foot.
5. Swing rhythm should be smooth and slow, it won’t help to rush.
6. Players need to ‘sweep’ through the ball action, nipping it cleanly off the surface.