How to hit a fairway bunker shot: 5 keys for long shots from the sand

Bunkers are a treacherous hazard for amateur golfers. They require a different technique than hitting from the fairway, and because bunkers are difficult to maintain, your average driving range won’t have practice facilities to allow you to experiment with what works and what doesn’t. Luckily, we’re here to help.

In this episode of How to Hit Every Shot, instructor Erika Larkin explains all you need to know about catching it clean out of the bunker when your drive goes wayward. Check out the video above or read below for more.

Here are five tips for hitting the perfect fairway bunker shot.

1. Club selection

Bunkers in the fairway will vary in their depth, and this will affect your club selection. If the bunker is shallow and without a lip, you can hit almost any club you want from the hazard, even a hybrid. But if the bunker is deeper, stick to something higher lofted that you know will clear the lip and get you out of trouble.

A good way to check if you club will clear the lip is to take your club just outside the bunker and step on it with the face up. The shaft will stick out at the angle of the clubface and will give you an idea of how high the ball will come out when it’s hit. If the shaft is pointing above the lip, you should be ok. If it looks like it might catch the lip, consider taking a higher-lofted club.

2. Clean contact

Because the sand is so fine, you really need to focus on ball-first contact. You must make sure you hit the ball first, and then take a little bit of sand, in order to keep from catching the shot too heavy and leaving it in the bunker.

3. Center ball position

Ball position for a fairway bunker shot should be in the center of your stance. This position will allow you to make a solid swing that bottoms out at the proper place and allows you to make ball-first contact.

4. Starter swing

When making your swing, don’t change too much from what you would do for your starter swing, which we talked about in a previous video. If anything, you want to catch the ball a little thin as opposed to a little fat.

5. Balanced finish

Like any swing, balance will be key if you want to succeed. Get a stable base, make a smooth swing, and focus on ball-first contact. If you can do this, your fairway bunker shots will soar out of the sand with ease.

Golf.com Editor

Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for GOLF.com where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining the team at GOLF.com, he attended the University of Texas followed by stops with Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all things instruction and is the staff’s self-appointed development tour “expert.”