By Paul Myers
Finding your ball sitting down in a fairway bunker is not something most golfers looks forward to. Just getting your ball out of a fairway bunker and back onto the grass can be a challenge, let alone hitting a quality shot that ends up somewhere near the target. As your game improves and the mechanics of your swing become more consistent, you should get better at playing long shots from the sand.
Get the Right Idea
Sometimes, the thought from a fairway bunker is to just get the ball up as close to the green as possible to set up a pitch and a putt. If you actually get on the green and close to the flag, that is a bonus. One element to analyze when stepping into the bunker is the lip that you are going to have to get over. This will determine what club you can hit, and how far you can hit the shot overall. If there is a low lip in front of you, it might be possible to hit a long iron (given a good lie). However, if the bunker is deep and steep, your best option may be a wedge back onto the short grass.
There is no science to the evaluation of the height of the bunker lip – it is something that you will get better at through experience. Try to picture the trajectory of your ball as it leaves the club, and then decide which club will safely allow you to get out. It is important to remember that you always need to error on the side of caution. If you are unsure about a certain club, take one with a higher loft and play it safe. Even if you come up short of the target, you certainly don’t want to be playing your next shot from the same bunker.
In the fairway, the ideal strike with an iron is a slightly naturally descending blow down into the ball that either picks the ball from the grass (some great players don’t take much divots) or takes a divot of grass and launches the ball high into the air. That same technique can be used from the bunker. Take one more club than you would normally take…and try to ‘pick’ the ball off the top of the sand. The density of the sand can rob if you hit it just slightly fat, so you want to take the sand out of the equation as much as possible. When you practice these difficult shots, make an effort to sweep the ball cleanly off the top of the sand. This can be a challenge because it may be different than your normal swing, but it is a nice way to hit quality long shots from fairway bunkers.
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