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Fairway Bunker Shot Explained

By: Bob Burns

Golf Professional

One of the most troublesome sand shots for the average player is from the fairway bunker. The golfer is usually indecisive as to how to execute the shot and whether to use a wood or an iron. When faced with a shot from a fairway bunker, the golfer should play the shot almost exactly as it would be played from the grass. The ball must be struck first—the divot taken afterward.

In teaching this shot to my students, I attempt to show them that it is better to hit a little thin than to catch sand before contacting the ball. The ball must be struck first, to be assured of any distance. 

Now for the specifics of successful bunker shots:

The address position—the stance is very important, since the golfer is dealing with loose material, he must dig in solidly to avoid body sway and slippage. Rotating the feet once their placement has been satisfactorily determined can do this. The ball should be played forward, inside the left foot. The result then will be high with a shallow cut of sand. The hands should be forward of the club head. 

The takeaway—the back swing should be in the conventional plane. Excessive weight transfer to the right side should be avoided. The club should be extended fully on the way back and the turn should be primarily with the hips. On the top, the club is in the proper horizontal position. To ensure that I have completed the back swing, and to prevent rushing the shots, I feel my hands fully cock at the top of the swing. 

The downswing—the move back to the ball is the same pulling action that is employed for all shots, with the hands remaining cocked and the club head lagging behind. There has been a definite move to the left side, developed by pushing the right knee significantly toward the left. The ball gets struck first and then the sand is taken. The head must stay fixed over the spot where the ball had rested. If the left foot stays firm, there will be no body sway. Because the ball has been played from a conventional position in relation to the feet, the club is easily able to move through to the target. The head will come up to follow the flight of the ball only after the follow through is nearly completed. 

An exceptional club to use out of the fairway bunker is a seven wood, due to the extra loft and shorter length. The average distance of this club is between a 3 and 4 iron. 

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