Making the Right Swing From a Fairway Bunker

At this point, we want to shift from the mental side of the game to talk about the physical task of hitting a full shot from a fairway bunker. When you decide that you are going to make a full swing from a trap – whether to go for the green or just to layup well down the fairway – you need to know what kind of adjustments to make to your normal technique. The swing you make in a fairway bunker is going to look mostly the same as your swing on the grass, but there will be a few changes.

As you practice your fairway bunker technique, keep the following tips in mind.

  • Stand a little farther away. This tip takes place before the club even goes in motion. As you are getting ready to hit the shot, place your feet slightly farther away from the ball than normal. This shouldn’t be a dramatic change – just an inch or two. By making this adjustment, you are going to cause your swing plane to flatten out, which is a good thing in this case. With a flatter swing, the club is less likely to dig into the sand, improving your chances of a clean hit. This is no guarantee of success, of course, but it does help you avoid one of the most common mistakes.
  • Choke down slightly. Again, this tip is all about avoiding the sand prior to making contact with the ball. You aren’t going to move your hands way down the grip, but you do want to choke down by an inch or so to shorten the effective length of the shaft. There will be less club between you and the ball this way, so you will be less likely to hit the shot fat.
  • It’s all about stability. Once the swing does begin, you should focus first and foremost on keeping things stable. You need to keep your head still, your lower body quiet, and your tempo smooth. The goal here is to strike the ball as cleanly as possible, and remaining stable during the swing will go a long way toward that end. Of course, it is hard to be stable when you are trying to swing extra hard, so avoid the temptation to give these kinds of shots your full power. Make a smooth, controlled swing, and keep your eyes focused on the ball until it is launched out of the trap and into the distance.
  • Keep the speed up. While you should not be trying to swing as hard as possible, you do need to keep the speed of your swing up through the hitting area. It is common for players to ‘guide’ this type of shot out of the sand, slowing down slightly near impact in an effort to control the club head. That isn’t going to work. You have to trust your swing here, and you have to believe that you are going to make good contact.

It is not always easy to find a place to practice your fairway bunker shots, but that is the fastest way to make progress on this part of your game. Hopefully, your local golf course has a bunker at the end of the driving range line for just this purpose. If not, look around at other practice facilities in the area to find one that does. With any luck, you’ll be able to track down a spot where you can practice this valuable skill.

To wrap up our discussion on fairway bunkers, we want to highlight a couple final points.

  • Keep the big picture in mind. In the moment, you are going to be tempted to hit an incredible shot that impresses your friends and allows you to make a par (or better) even after hitting your drive into the sand. While that is an exciting thought, it is going to go wrong more often than not. You are in trouble when you are in a fairway bunker, and the best thing you can do is get out of trouble in just a single stroke. That may mean going for the green when the opportunity is right, but it may also mean laying the ball up into a good position for your next shot. Remember, this is just one out of eighteen holes, so you don’t want to do too much damage to your scorecard by trying to be a hero. Playing conservative from the sand is almost always the right move.
  • Play smart tee shots. While knocking your ball into the occasional fairway bunker is inevitable, you can make it a point to make smart decisions on the tee in order to avoid this outcome as often as possible. For instance, if your driver is going to send the ball far enough down the fairway to reach a bunker, consider using a three wood to play short of that hazard. Or, aim down the opposite side of the fairway to stay away from a deep trap, even if that means setting up a longer approach shot. Just a little bit of smart decision-making on the tee can help tremendously in terms of avoiding bunkers.

Hitting good shots out of fairway bunkers is always going to be a challenge. Not only do you need to put the right club in your hands for the shot, but you also need to make a smart decision when picking a target, and you need to execute a solid swing. Even for the best players in the world, fairway bunker shots remain a significant challenge. We hope the information provided in this article will help you achieve better results when you knock one of your tee shots into the sand. Good luck!