4 things you can learn from Ian Poulter’s fairway-bunker disaster

Ian Poulter found himself in an unenviable predicament at the Scottish Open.

I’ve played a lot of golf with a lot of different people at a lot of different skill levels, and I’ve never heard anybody, at any point, say there were pleased to have hit their ball into a fairway bunker.

Fairway bunkers present some of the hardest shots in golf, as we were reminded during the European Tour’s Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open over the weekend when, on the first hole of his final round, Ian Poulter hit a wayward drive and then, from a fairway bunker, drilled his next shot deep into the lip of the same bunker.

It was one of few blemishes in a mostly excellent tournament for Poulter, who said that one bad drive left him “gutted” despite his T-6 finish.

But rather than dwell on Poulter’s shot here, let’s use it as a teaching moment and learn-up on what you need to do the next time you’re in a fairway bunker. As GOLF Top 100 Teacher Joe Plecker explains, there are 4 things you should do when trying to escape a fairway bunker.

1. Choke Down

The first thing you need to do is also the simplest, Plecker says: Simply grip down on the club, so your hands are near the bottom of the grip. Choking up will help you catch the ball first, which we’ll talk more about later.

2. Stable Stance

The thing that makes golfers most uncomfortable in fairway bunkers is the instability of the sand. It’s easy to feel as though you’re going to slip-and-slide around, which is why you need to create a wider, stable stance with limited lower body movement. You needn’t worry about changing your alignment, but creating a stable base is key.

3. Ball First, Sand Second

Remember how we told you to choke down earlier? That’s because choking down on the club helps you hit the ball first, before the sand. That’s hugely important — in fact, Plecker says, it’s the most important part of hitting a fairway bunker shot — so make sure it’s your one and only swing thought before you make your swing: Ball first, sand second.

4. Loft Up

Finally, remember to always take a higher-lofted club from a fairway bunker if you’re ever in doubt. It’s tempting to try to get greedy, but ultimately that’s what cost Poulter here. Goal No. 1 when you find a fairway bunker: make sure you get your ball out of the fairway bunker on your next shot. To effectively do that, you need to get your ball over the bunker’s lip, so when it doubt, take a higher-lofted club.

Watch the full video from GOLF Top 100 Teacher Joe Plecker below:


Luke Kerr-Dineen

Golf.com Contributor

Luke Kerr-Dineen is the Game Improvement Editor at GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com. In his role he oversees the brand’s game improvement content spanning instruction, equipment, health and fitness, across all of GOLF’s multimedia platforms.

An alumni of the International Junior Golf Academy and the University of South Carolina–Beaufort golf team, where he helped them to No. 1 in the national NAIA rankings, Luke moved to New York in 2012 to pursue his Masters degree in Journalism from Columbia University. His work has also appeared in USA Today, Golf Digest, Newsweek and The Daily Beast.