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.

Can I Use A Golf  Fairway Wood From A Fairway Bunker

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.

Club Options and Why from Fairway Bunkers

Club Options and Why from Fairway Bunkers

If there is one type of hazard which is overlooked more than the rest in the game of golf, it is the fairway binker. Most golfers don't think twice about fairway bunkers when standing on the tee, as they just don't look that intimidating (in most cases). You will take note of water hazards or out of bounds stakes, because those come with penalties, but you probably won't think twice when your drive needs to land in close proximity to a fairway binker.

Of course, your opinion of these hazards will quickly change once you find your ball in the bottom of one. Playing out a fairway binker is quite the serious challenge, especially if you have to hit a long shot into the green. Most fairway bunkers have some amount of 'lip' which will be between you and the hole, meaning you have to get the ball up into the air quickly to escape the sand. Also, you might not have a great lie in the bottom of the bunker, depending on the condition of the sand and the maintenance practices at the course. In the end, you will regret not paying more attention to these hazards while on the tee, as they can easily add a stroke or more to your score.

In this article, we are going to discuss a variety of points which relate to playing out of fairway bunkers. Club selection is a big point of confusion in this part of the game, so we are going to specifically take a look at how to pick the right club at the right time. Also, we will cover some basic technique points for playing these shots, as well as talking about some strategies for avoiding them altogether. By the end of the article, you should have a good understanding of fairway bunkers overall, and how you can prevent them from doing significant damage to your round.

Even if you usually play a course which does not feature a lot of fairway bunkers, it is still a good idea to brush up on this topic. All golfers should be prepared for as many different circumstances and situations as possible, as you never know what you will face when you head off to play another course. It is easy to fall into the trap of becoming a one-dimensional player by intentionally matching up your home course with the skills you possess as a golfer. Keep the big picture in mind and keep working to expand your game as fully as possible in the months and years to come.

All of the content below is based on a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.

Fairway Bunker Technique

Fairway Bunker Technique

No matter which club you decide to put in your hands, you will want to use the same basic technique for all of your fairway binker shots. When executed correctly, this technique will allow you to make solid contact, get the ball up in the air quickly, and carry a respectable distance toward the target. You probably aren't ever going to hit shots from the fairway binker which will quite match up with what you can accomplish from the fairway, but that makes sense. These are supposed to be hazards, after all, so you shouldn't plan on playing perfect shots from this kind of spot. As long as you learn the basic technique in order to hit reasonably solid shots, you should be satisfied with your effort.

It is not necessary to dramatically change your swing technique when you step down into a fairway binker. It is important, however, to follow a few basic rules, such as those listed below.

  • Use a wide stance. The most important part of a swing in a fairway bunker is the base. If you can remain solid in your lower body, you will have a great chance to strike the ball cleanly and get out of the trap in a single stroke. Set your feet just an inch or two wider than you would when taking a normal stance on the grass. Also, make sure to use enough knee flex to where you feel like you are strongly anchored in the bunker before the club goes in motion. Remember, you probably won't have as much grip here as you would when playing off of the grass, so a wide base with extra knee flex will help to prevent your feet from slipping out from under you.
  • Don't dig in too far. On greenside bunker shots, you probably know that it is a good idea to wiggle your feet deep down into the sand in order to secure your position. That is not such a good idea when playing from a fairway bunker. There are a couple of problems with this plan. First, it will make it hard to perform a full swing back and through, as your feet will feel like they are locked into place with sand all around them. Second, digging in will lower your body as a whole in comparison to the ball. That means you will effectively be playing with the ball above your feet, and you will be more likely to hit the shot fat. It is fine to dig in just slightly in order to get good footing, but be sure not to wiggle down too far. You want to keep this kind of shot as 'normal' as possible, and that means standing mostly on top of the sand.
  • Turn down your effort. You should not be swinging at maximum effort when playing from a fairway bunker. Making a full-speed swing in this situation is only going to set you up for failure. Yes, you want to hit the ball a good distance, but you need to make sure that you make solid contact first and foremost. By swinging at something like 80% instead of 100%, you will make it more likely that the sweet spot is going to find the back of the ball at impact. And, you might be surprised to find that your shots will still travel nearly their full distance, even if you make a softer swing. This is a lesson you can take with you out of the bunker and apply it to the rest of your game.
  • Choke down on the club slightly. Above, we pointed out that you shouldn't dig in too far because you don't want to create a situation where the ball is effectively above your feet. However, you are going to have to dig in at least a bit to get comfortable, so choke down on the club slightly to counteract that stance. By choking down, you will have less club to work with, and you will not be as likely to hit the shot fat. Catching the ball heavy is one of the leading mistakes in fairway bunkers, so be sure not to overlook this important adjustment.

As you can see from the list above, there isn't anything dramatic which needs to happen with your golf swing when you step off of the grass and into a fairway bunker. These changes are mostly minor in nature, but they are important nonetheless. If you are willing to spend a little bit of time working on these simple points during an upcoming practice session, you can expect improved performance the next time your ball strays into this unfortunate situation.

How to Pick a Club

How to Pick a Club

If your ball is sitting in the fairway, the club selection process is usually pretty simple. You determine the distance you have remaining to the hole, you factor in any variables like wind and elevation change, and you decide on the appropriate club. Unless there are a lot of variables involved in a given shot, it usually only takes a few moments to pull the right stick out of the bag.

Unfortunately, things are a bit more complicated when talking about fairway bunkers. There are plenty of variables to weigh in this situation, and you will also be dealing with the frustration of having put yourself in this spot in the first place. To help you make smart club selection choices when hitting out of a fairway binker, we have listed the variables that you will need to assess below.

  • The lie of the ball. This should always be where you start. The lie of the ball dictates everything in golf, and that is more true than ever when talking about a fairway binker shot. If you have a bad lie – such as the ball sitting down in a depression in the sand – you won't have many options at all. Your only real choice from a bad lie is to take a sand wedge and blast the ball back out somewhere onto the grass. That will cost you a stroke, but it is better than trying to pull off a shot which has no hope of success. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is just take your medicine and move on. However, if you do have a good lie where the ball is sitting cleanly on the top of the grass, you can move on to thinking about other factors.
  • The lip between your ball and the hole. Once the lie has been examined, your attention should then turn to the depth of the bunker and the lip you need to clear. Can you get out with a mid-iron, or do you need to hit a wedge? What about hitting a long club if you have a significant distance to the green? It is important to be realistic when making this decision, and always err on the side of caution. If you are too aggressive and you hit the ball into the lip in front of you, the hole can get out of hand in a hurry. Not only will your ball still be in the sand, but you will probably be in a worse spot than when you started. Be smart in this spot, think about the big picture, and only go for the green when you are sure that the lip is not going to be a problem.
  • The distance of the shot. Obviously, the overall distance of the shot is going to have to be factored into this equation. If you only have 100-yards or so to the green, you should be able to make it near the hole with relative ease. However, if you are looking at a shot which is closer to 200-yards, hitting the putting surface might be a pipe dream. Again, it is important to be realistic and practical. Honestly evaluate your chances of hitting the green and then settle on a club which makes the most sense.

It is okay to lay up out of a fairway binker, even on a par four. There are a lot of ways to make a par, or even a bogey, which will be smarter than trying to pull off some crazy shot from a fairway trap. Use the short list of tips above to work on picking the club that is going to get you through the rest of the hole is as few strokes as possible. Sometimes that will mean going for the green with the bunker shot, which other times it will mean laying up to a smart distance for a comfortable wedge. Whatever the case, always think through your options before grabbing a club and making a swing.

Common Problems

Common Problems

Let's face it – amateur golfers don't tend to be very good at this shot. It is common for the amateur player to not get the ball out of the bunker at all, and even if they do get it out, the shot usually isn't much to write home about. To do better, you need to know what to watch out for as you make your swing. The list below includes some of the common problems, along with potential solutions, that you can encounter on a fairway binker shot.

  • Hitting the ball fat. This is the big one. If you struggle with fairway bunker shots currently, it is likely because you hit the ball fat more often than not. It is easy to catch just a bit too much sand on the way into the ball, which will cause your club head to lose a lot of speed, and the shot will struggle to get out of the trap. You can get away with such a mistake on the fairway, but you will be punished for it in the sand. To avoid this mistake, you can play a little mind trick on yourself. Before you start the swing, focus your eyes on a point which is about one inch to the left of the golf ball (from your perspective at address). Watch that point throughout the swing, instead of watching the ball. You will naturally bottom out your swing a bit farther left as a result of this adjustment, and you will be far less likely to hit the shot fat.
  • Hitting the ball thin. On the other side of the ledger, you may wind up hitting a fairway bunker shot thin from time to time. This is a problem because a thin shot has almost no chance of getting high enough to escape the sand. Most of the time, your thin shots are going to be caused by premature head movement. If you look up to see where the ball is going, you may catch the ball thin and shoot it directly into the lip of the bunker. Maintain your discipline throughout the downswing and watch the ball until it has been contacted by the club. It won't be easy to keep your head down this long, but doing so is critical if you want to find the sweet spot.
  • Coming up way short of the target. When you do catch a fairway binker shot solidly, you might watch it fly with pride – until you see it fall out of the sky way short of your target. What happened? Most likely, you simply didn't adjust to the situation at hand. You shouldn't be expecting full distance from a bunker, so be sure to take extra club even if you have a good lie. Also, you might launch the ball a bit higher in this situation to avoid the lip, which will again cost you distance. Take more club to give yourself a better chance to reach the target, or pick a closer target as a more realistic goal for the shot.

The number one goal you have in mind when you walk into a fairway binker to play a shot is simple – just get out of the sand. Even if you don't hit a great shot all the way to the green, just getting out of the trap and back onto the grass is a step in the right direction. You have already made a mistake by hitting the ball into the trap in the first place. You don't want to compound that mistake by failing to get out and walking away with a big number on your scorecard.

Staying Out of Fairway Bunkers

Staying Out of Fairway Bunkers

Without a doubt, the best way to play a fairway binker shot is to never put your ball in a fairway binker to begin with. That might sound obvious, but not enough players give these hazards the respect they deserve. Start game planning around stay away from fairway traps and your game will be instantly more consistent.

How do you avoid fairway bunkers? The following list is a great place to start.

  • Take them out of play with club selection. By picking the right club, you might be able to take some fairway bunkers completely out of play. For example, imagine you are playing a par four which only has one fairway binker – but it is a particularly nasty one. That trap is located 240-yards from the tee. If you hit your driver, you know that you will have enough distance to reach the sand. However, by going down to your three-wood – which you only hit 230 – you can take the bunker out of play altogether. Knowing you don't have enough club in your hands to reach the trap, you will be free to make a quality swing. Sure, this plan leaves you a slightly longer approach shot, but you should be willing to make that trade if it means you can avoid the bunker.
  • Consider the rough on the other side. Most average golf courses keep their rough cut pretty short. This is a practice which is based mostly on keeping the pace of play up – amateur golfers could struggle through five-hour rounds when dealing with long rough. From a strategy stand point, you can use this practice to your advantage. If a fairway is guarded on one side by sand, consider playing intentionally into the rough on the other side. If the rough is short, you should still have a pretty easy approach into the green, and you will have effectively taken the bunker out of the picture.
  • Go over them. Okay – so this might seem like an obvious point, but one of the best ways to steer clear of fairway bunkers is to blast the ball right over the top. If you have enough distance with your driver, the hole might play wider farther down the fairway. Instead of trying to 'thread the needle' with a short club, let it rip and take the bunkers out of play as you fly past.

Fairway bunkers are never a fun place to be. Adding them to a course usually makes the design more interesting, but it certainly makes the course more difficult as well. With the advice provided in this article, you should now have a clear understanding of how to deal with fairway bunkers when your ball does drop into one from time to time. Good luck out there, and keep it in the short grass!