The one requirement from fairway bunkers is, hit the ball first. Catching even a little sand before the ball results in a shot that goes nowhere. So let’s tweak your technique with the goal of making clean contact.
First, a few setup adjustments. Grip down an inch to promote a steeper swing into the ball, and open the face to counteract the ball being slightly above your feet, which happens when you stand in the sand. Also, angle in your back foot so your weight favours your front side.
Next, swing the club back with an early (and full) wrist set, but restrict your hip rotation. A big hip turn can cause your feet to slide out of position, and that makes it tough to get your weight forward at impact. So restrict those hips, and be patient during the backswing – nerves might make you speed up.
Finally, focus on swinging your arms through while keeping your lower body quiet. Nothing will throw off your shot quicker than an aggressive leg drive coming down. Swing your arms smoothly past your body. That’s your best chance of making ball-first contact in a fairway bunker.
You’ve heard that hybrids are great out of fairway bunkers. Don’t believe it. Here’s my take on the subject in four parts:
- The longer shafts on hybrids create a more rounded swing, but in the sand, you need a steeper swing.
- Swinging a bigger club encourages more hip turn (you want less hip turn).
- Hybrids are designed to hit the ball long distances; you just need to get back in play.
- I know some of you will hit them anyway. If you do, make sure you open the clubface, as we talked about, and aim a little left to compensate. (Now forget I told you that!)
Michael Breed is Golf Digest’s Chief Digital Instructor.