How to Play Fairway Bunker Shots Properly

To be proficient with fairway bunker shots you have to consider your club selection carefully, and fully commit to where you want to strike the ball on the clubface. Here is some information sure to help you hit better fairway bunker shots.

Club Selection for Fairway Bunker Shots

The biggest factor in club selection is how high you have to hit the ball to get it over grass mounds or lips that surround the bunker. Getting too greedy can easily lead to undesirable outcomes. The question you want to ask yourself is, “What is the least lofted club I know I can hit high enough to get over these obstacles?” If there’s any hesitation in your answer to that question, you haven’t chosen enough loft.

Make sure that beyond a shadow of a doubt, if you make decent contact with the ball, it’s soaring out of the bunker and back into a good position to minimize damage to your score.


It may be hard to believe, but I assure you fairway bunker shots can become easy with a little practice and appropriate in-swing intentions. There’s nothing fancy about the technique of the fairway bunker swing. It’s a full swing. Don’t let it be anything more complicated than that.

Most average golfers struggle with balance in their swing, especially when faced with shots that make them uncomfortable. I recommend digging in with your feet while getting set in your address position to avoid the sand breaking free beneath your feet during your swing.

The key to the fairway bunker shot swing is your in-swing intention, also referred to as your swing thought. Your in-swing intention should be to hit the ball without touching one single grain of sand. If you chose the correct club, catching it a little thin will still yield a very nice result. Being this precise with your contact takes a bit of practice, so keep reading so you know how to develop this valuable skill.


How in the world am I supposed to practice fairway bunker shots? Driving ranges don’t have fairway bunkers!

Well they don’t need to. All you need is a grass range and some sand or divot filler. Ask the proshop if you can borrow a bottle of their divot fill, and if they don’t have any, buy a cup of coffee, dispose of coffee as you see fit, and go to the nearest bunker and fill the coffee cup full of sand. Now head to the range and warm up.

Find the biggest divot near you after your warm up and fill it full of sand. Gently place a ball in the sand-filled divot and swing with the intention of striking the ball thin. As you hit balls with different clubs out of your homemade mini fairway bunker, experiment with choking down on the grip and see if it helps you achieve that thin strike. When you start feeling successful graduate to trying to pick it clean without touching the sand. When executed correctly the ball should fly a little higher.

On Course Expectations

I’ve found that when I strike an iron solid from a fairway bunker it goes the same distance as when I strike it off the fairway. The biggest difference is the way it feels and sounds. You don’t get that same lovely sound from a fairway bunker as you do from the fairway, so don’t expect it. As long as you can get the club on the ball and get the ball to clear any obstacles, you should be well on your way to fairway bunker proficiency and you’ll be the envy of the other members of your foursome.

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