For both amateur and professional golfers, the fairway bunker shot throws up a number of difficult challenges.
The golfer must decide whether to stick or twist, to take the extra risk and attack the green or hold, be safe and play out sideways. After making this decision the golfer must then decide on which club to use.
The way a player thinks through the shot will often determine how successful it’s likely to be. Follow this guide to help achieve success from the sand.
Distance to flag
The first thing a player must judge is how far they have left into the green. If the flag is too far away then golfers should be looking to judge where the best lay up spot will be. When judging the distance, it’s important to remember that balls struck cleanly from fairway bunkers tend to have more backspin. This will reduce the distance the ball will travel. Another thing to keep in mind is what lies between the pin and the bunker. If the golfer is hitting from the fairway bunker over water and on to the green, they must get the yardage spot on and weigh up if the shot is worth the risk.
The height of the fairway bunker lip will directly affect what club can be used. If a pin is 200 yards away but the bunker lip only allows a 9 iron to be hit, the golfer should resign themselves to the fact they won’t hit the green. In most cases, the golfer should be cautious. The last thing golfers want to happen is a pure strike on the ball which hits the lip and ends up back in the bunker. If unsure, the golfer should increase the amount of loft and ensure they advance the ball towards the green.
When faced with a long fairway bunker shot, golfers should be honest with themselves when assessing the lie. If the lie is poor, then the likelihood of producing a successful shot begins to diminish quickly. This is because on a fairway bunker shot the golfer needs to make a clean contact with no sand caught in between the club and ball at impact. If any sand is between the club and ball at impact, the distance of the shot will decrease dramatically. If the ball has found a poor lie, the golfer shouldn’t try to force the next shot, they should play safe and advance the ball as far as possible.
Not many golf courses or practice ranges have a fairway bunker for practice. This means many golfers haven’t had any chance to practice the technique required for a successful shot. If the golfer stands over a fairway bunker shot and is unsure what to do, it may be a safer course of action to play out sideways.
Position in game
Something not to be overlooked when deciding on what shot to play is your position in the game or match. If a golfer is one shot off the lead coming down the last hole and needs a birdie to tie the medal or the match they have more reason to take the shot on.
If, however, a golfer is five shots clear coming down the last ,they should decide if laying up or playing out sideways would be a safer option.
When deciding what club to hit from a bunker, players should weigh up each of these different options and only then should they tackle the shot.