The fairway bunker shot can be a quick dose of anxiety for many golfers. I know it can be embarrassing not being able to get out, but more importantly can cause a bad number on the scorecard if you let it. A lack of confidence just comes from not being exposed, (lack of practice) either you are new to hitting bunker shots or don’t know the proper technique. Your job is to determine what you think is causing your problem.
Lack of practice is easily understandable. Rarely do I see a driving range that offers golfer’s the chance to practice hitting fairway bunker shots. Since most golf courses have built bunkers along the fairways its a good idea to get comfortable in them.
Hitting a solid fairway bunker shot requires an extremely precise point of impact and a pretty shallow attack angle. The most obvious problem is taking too much sand behind the ball, killing any chance of solid contact and most likely leaving you an even harder bunker shot. Another possibility is not taking enough loft and hitting the lip. Its paramount to distinguish the technique in a fairway bunker from a greenside bunker.
Your goal in a fairway bunker should be to advance the ball as far as you possibly can. This means if you have 175 yards to the green but your not 100% sure your 6 iron will clear the lip, you cannot go for the green. Now you are forced to take an 8 iron, clear the lip and save par with your wedge game. Anytime you find yourself in a hazard or off track, just tell yourself to get back into position.
So what are some of the keys to hitting great fairway bunker shots?
First, make sure you build an extremely stable base. It’s very easy for your shoes to slip if you don’t dig yourself in. Poor bunker play usually comes from moving your lower body too much. (especially away from the target in the backswing) A good drill to feel is putting a golf ball under and towards the outside of your right shoe. Also, slightly setting your right knee in towards the target will help from swaying off the ball.
Make sure to slightly grip down the club to compensate for the amount you dug into the ground. Gripping down will also cause you to miss on the thin side rather than hitting the shot fat. I like to position the ball just a hair farther back than usual, but this always depends on the trajectory you want to hit. (experiment)
Lastly, try to feel you are swinging with mostly your upper body. Its important to incorporate weight shift in the legs, just make sure there isn’t a lot of movement to them.
I don’t know any better way to end this tip by saying, make sure you get to your finish. You could do everything right but lose all your speed at the ball. The more speed you have through the ball the easier the ball will get into the air.