When To Use A Golf Hybrid Club From A Fairway Bunker

Hybrid clubs are useful weapons from lots of different lies and this includes fairway bunkers.

The question is when is it safe to use them? Hybrid clubs are designed with a deep club head (cavity) and perimeter weighting which increases forgiveness and moves the centre of gravity deeper and lower into the club head. This design allows the golfer to lift the ball up quickly from most lies.

However, in bunkers the wide smooth sole of the hybrid is best used to skid across the surface and not dig into the sand. This skimming will allow the hybrid to sweep the ball away cleanly but should only be attempted when conditions are favourable. Using a hybrid club from a poor lie in the bunker with mounds of sand behind the ball may not produce the best results.

Golfers interested in hitting hybrid clubs from bunkers can follow this technique.

1. First the golfer needs to assess the distance to the target, the lie of the ball and the height of the bunker's lip. The distance is self-explanatory but the lie must be very good, not sat down and the bunker lip must be low to allow the hybrid's loft to impart enough lift on to the ball.

2. At set up, it's important the player adopts a position which will allow a sweeping action through impact. This sweeping action will allow the ball to be nipped cleanly off the surface.

3. The ball should be positioned just forward of centre in the stance with the feet shuffled into the sand for stability. Because the feet will dig down into the sand by a few inches, the golfer should grip down the handle by the same amount.

4. Weight should be divided equally between the feet, 50/50 on each foot.

5. When taking the club away, golfers should try and remain balanced and not let too much weight drift over on the back foot.

6. When bringing the club through, players need a 'sweeping' action, nipping the ball cleanly off the surface. It's important the golfer strikes the ball first and not the sand as any sand caught between the ball and club will reduce the shot's overall distance.

7. Sweeping up through the ball, golfers should look to finish up on their back toe facing the target.

Deciding when to use a hybrid club from the bunker is not always easy, especially if the golfer has not practiced the required technique. However, harnessing this ability will enable players to attack greens not usually reachable from long fairway bunkers, and therefore lower scores.

When and How to Use a Golf Hybrid Club from a Fairway Bunker

When and How to Use a Golf Hybrid Club from a Fairway Bunker

Fairway bunkers are possibly the most-overlooked hazards on a golf course. No golfer worries nearly as much about a fairway bunker as they do a water hazard, for example, but these two obstacles can actually have a similar impact on your score. From a course management perspective, one of the best things you can do is start to give fairway bunkers the respect they deserve. Instead of ignoring them as you plan your tee shot, think carefully about how you can keep your ball out of the sand which guards one side of the fairway of the other. After all, the best way to handle a fairway bunker shot is to avoid having to hit one in the first place.

Of course, even with great strategy, you are still going to find a fairway bunker on occasion. When that happens, you need to understand your best options for getting your ball out and up near the target. What club should you use? What kind of swing should you make? We are going to deal with those questions and more in this article. Specifically, we are going to discuss whether or not it is a good idea to play a hybrid club from a fairway bunker. You may have not previously tried this kind of shot in your own game, but as you will see in the content below, it is an idea which is at least worth your consideration.

Before we get too far into the idea of using a hybrid club from the sand, one thing needs to be made clear right away – the main goal on any fairway bunker shot is to simply get out of the sand and back onto the grass. Even if you aren't able to hit the ball all the way to the green, getting out of the hazard should be your main objective. So, for example, if you have a bad lie or you are behind a steep bunker face, consider using a lofted club to just get out and move on. Trying to take on an impossible shot as a result of stubborn thinking is only going to lead to more problems. Patience is a valuable trait in a golfer, and nowhere will your patience be tested more significantly than in the sand.

You obviously can't use a hybrid club in a fairway bunker if you aren't carrying hybrid clubs in your bag in the first place. If you are one of the few golfers who has not yet added at least one hybrid to your set, now is the time to consider doing so. Hybrids are great for handling a variety of shots around the course, and they are easier to use than long irons. Try one out as soon as you get the chance and you will likely be sold after just a few swings.

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.

How to Pick a Club in a Fairway Bunker

How to Pick a Club in a Fairway Bunker

Picking the right club for the right situation is an important skill in golf. Many players base their club selection choices on nothing more than the yardage they have remaining to the hole, but that can lead to trouble. Yes, the yardage is certainly important, but you need to take a number of other factors into account as well. Things like wind conditions, elevation changes, hazards, trees, and more can all be factored into the picture. As you gain experience in this game, you will get better and better at figuring out exactly what needs to be included in your club selection process.

When you step down into a fairway bunker, there are a number of things to think about before settling on a club and making a swing. To give yourself a good chance to make the right decision more times than not, follow the step-by-step directions below.

  • Find the yardage. Of course, this is the first place to start. Before you even walk down into the sand, stand next to the bunker and use your preferred method of determining an accurate yardage. You could use a laser rangefinder or GPS unit, or you could do it the old-fashioned way by walking off the distance to a market in the fairway. Whatever the case, make sure you arrive at a number which is as accurate as possible to the center of the green (or to the flagstick itself).
  • Step into the sand. Now that you have a specific number in mind, walk down into the bunker and take a look at what you will be facing. There are two keys here – the lie of the ball, and the lip of the bunker that you will need to clear. Do you have a good lie? Is the ball going to have to get up into the air quickly to get out of the sand? It is tempting to see only what you want to see when evaluating your lie, but you need to be honest with yourself here. If anything you find gives you cause for concern, you will want to plan a conservative shot.
  • Make the decision. No, not the decision about which club you are going to use. Rather, the decision you are making at this point is whether or not you are going to go for the green. Do you think you can get the ball out of the trap and still reach the target? That is going to depend on the combination of the yardage, the lie of the ball, and the lip of the bunker. Remember, if there is any doubt in your mind about pulling off this shot, laying up is the way to go. It is risky to go for the green from any kind of significant distance when in a fairway bunker. That doesn't mean you can't try it, but you should only give it a go when you feel confident in the shot at hand.
  • Make the other decision. Now is the time to select the club you are going to use for the shot. Obviously, a lay-up shot may be played with something like a pitching wedge or sand wedge, while a shot that is going for the green will use whatever is necessary to cover the distance – perhaps a hybrid. You should always have as much confidence as possible in your club selection before you pull the trigger on the swing.

We will be honest – you probably aren't going to find a lot of opportunities to use your hybrid clubs from fairway bunkers. If you are far enough away from the green to use a hybrid, the lip of the bunker will probably not provide you with the space you need to get the ball up in the air. Only when you find the perfect combination of a long fairway bunker shot with a low lip – or no lip at all – will you be able to give it a go. However, with that said, it is still worth your time and effort to learn how to hit this shot. When the circumstance does arise, you could save a stroke or even two by being able to hit a quality hybrid shot from the sand.

Making the Right Swing

Making the Right Swing

When the situation does present itself to hit a hybrid shot out of a fairway bunker, you will need to know how to adjust your technique appropriately. You can't just use the same hybrid swing you use from the grass. Sure, much of the technique will be the same, but there are going to be a few key changes as well. Practice the changes listed below on the driving range so you can apply them successfully on the course. Believe it or not, you can even practice these changes on the grass portion of the range, despite the fact that they will be used out of the sand eventually.

  • Choke down on the grip of the club. When swinging a hybrid club in the fairway bunker, you absolutely cannot afford to hit the ball fat. If you catch even a small amount of sand before you make contact with the ball, the shot is barely going to cover any distance at all – and it probably won't get out of the trap. By choking down an inch or two from the top of the grip, you will be taking out some insurance against a fat shot. This is going to effectively shorten the length of the shaft, making it less likely that you will catch too much sand. Not only is this a good tip when hitting a hybrid from the bunker, but it is useful when hitting any kind of long club out of a sand trap.
  • Keep your head perfectly still. This is another tip which is focused on helping you to make solid contact. By keeping your head still, you will prevent the center of gravity of your swing from moving too much from side to side. You want to stay nicely centered when at all possible in the golf swing – especially while playing from the sand. Many players allow their head to move because they are forcing a long turn. Don't make that mistake. Keep your turn tight and controlled while making sure your head remains in place.
  • Limit the movement in your lower body. Normally, when hitting a hybrid club from the grass, it is a good idea to rotate your lower body aggressively through the downswing. This type of action allows you to create impressive power as the club whips down through the hitting area. Unfortunately, this type of move can cause problems in the bunker. For one thing, you might slip as you swing. Your footing usually isn't great in the sand, so using your legs aggressively could cause your feet to slide out from under you during the transition. Another problem is the possibility of creating a steep downswing. If your lower body leads the way and you get onto your left foot, you will wind up hitting down on the ball. That is okay most of the time, but it is a problem in the sand. Do your best to keep your legs quiet during this kind of swing while using your shoulders to drive the action. There won't be quite as much speed generated, but that's okay. The key here is to make solid contact without losing your footing, and a passive lower body is the best way to make that happen.
  • Stand slightly farther from the ball. Our last adjustment is to have you stand slightly farther away from the ball at address. This is going to serve to flatten out the plane of your swing, which will be another safeguard against a fat shot. With a flat swing plane, the downswing is going to come into the ball on a shallower angle of attack. That means you should take less sand at the bottom, and you should find it easier to catch the ball cleanly.

There is nothing you can do to make this an easy shot. It is hard to play from fairway bunkers with any club – it is particularly difficult to do so with a hybrid. However, when the situation presents itself and you feel like being aggressive, the adjustments above can take this shot from nearly impossible down to just difficult. It will always be a tough one to pull off, but you can do it if you stick to the advice on our list.

Understanding Sand and Sand Conditions

Understanding Sand and Sand Conditions

Just as each individual golf course has its own unique grass, each golf course also has sand conditions which are unique. Even among courses in the same geographical area, you will find an incredible variety of sand types. Knowing what the different kinds of sand mean for you and the shots you can hit is important if you hope to have success in these situations.

You can generally lump golf course sand into two categories – light and fluffy, or heavy and dense. If you are an experienced golfer, you probably know what we mean already. When you step into a bunker with light and fluffy sand, your feet will sink in easily and you won't have very good footing. If playing an explosion shot near the green, the club will slide under the ball with ease. On the other hand, heavy and firm sand is almost like walking on pavement. Your feet don't sink in at all, and your shoes are able to get a good grip on the sand. For greenside bunker shots, this is a major challenge. Without the ability to get the club under the ball for a standard blast shot, you will be left to try playing a tricky chip where you pinch the ball cleanly off the top of the sand.

When back in a fairway bunker, it is actually the light and fluffy sand which will be most challenging. The ball usually sits down in this kind of sand, meaning you won't have a great lie to use your hybrid. Also, it will be easy to slip while making your full swing, and even a small slip is going to ruin the outcome of your shot. If you find rather fluffy sand when your ball ventures into a fairway bunker, playing a safe lay-up shot is probably going to be your best bet.

On the other hand, if you find firm sand, you should feel confident that you can pull off the hybrid shot successfully. Hitting a shot like this from hard sand isn't that much different than hitting the same shot from the fairway. You will still want to use our recommended adjustments from earlier in the article, but hitting the ball far is far less of a concern in this scenario. As long as you make a controlled swing and execute your mechanics nicely, you should be in good shape.

Unfortunately, you may not be able to get an accurate judge on sand conditions until you are on the course. Most golf courses don't have a practice bunker readily available, and even if they do, there is no guarantee that those conditions are going to represent what you will find on the course. To make sure you know what you are up against when your ball does find a bunker, take a moment on the first hole to walk past a bunker – even if your ball isn't in it. You don't need to walk down into the sand or anything like that. Instead, just do a 'visual inspection' to determine what kind of sand you should expect if you happen to find a trap later in the day.

Making Decisions in Context

Making Decisions in Context

You will find that when your ball is in a fairway bunker, it can be hard to make a clear decision. For instance, you might think that you can get the ball over the lip in front of you, but you aren't exactly sure. Or, you may think you have enough club with your hybrid to reach the green on the fly, but again, you aren't positive that is the case. So what should you do? How can you make a good decision? The best thing to do is use the context of the hole and the round to help steer you in the right direction.

The list below will highlight some examples of how you can evaluate your current situation as part of the decision making process.

  • Safe with a lead. If you are competing while on the course – even just playing a friendly match against your buddy – you should play it safe when you have a lead. For example, if you are two holes ahead with only four holes to play, you don't want to do something silly and give your opponent a 'free' hole. Rather than going for the green, play out safely and keep the pressure on. Even if that means you are going to make a bogey, your bogey will force your opponent to make a par in order to win the hole. If you were to go for an ambitious shot and wind up with a triple bogey, you would be giving the hole away without any effort required by the other player.
  • Check the terrain around the green. The lay of the land around the green is another factor to keep in mind here. Is there plenty of room for an errant shot to come down safely, or would a poor shot leave you in a bad spot (or maybe in a hazard)? If you've got room to work with, feel free to be aggressive knowing that there isn't much trouble waiting even if the shot doesn't come off perfectly. On the other hand, if a perfect shot is going to be required, it is probably best that you play it safe.
  • Stick with your strategy. Are you an aggressive player by nature, or do you prefer the conservative path around the course? There is no reason to deviate from your normal style just because your ball has come to rest in a fairway bunker. Be true to yourself when playing from this spot and use the approach that is going to give you the most confidence. Some players just love to go for it when on the course, and they have a lot of success that way. Other players, not so much. Don't try to be something you're not – just trust your instincts and play the game in a manner that comes naturally to you.

The best fairway bunker shots are the ones you don't have to hit. Do your best to keep the ball out of fairway traps, but remember that your hybrid club is an option when you do knock a tee shot into the sand. Use the tips provided throughout this article to make both good decisions and good swings in fairway bunkers. Good luck!