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Fairway Bunkers
Are They Different Than Any Other Full Swing?

For some, hitting out of fairway bunkers can be a challengeMake Solid Contact from Fairway Bunkers

Good question..."Are they different?" Do I really need to be writing an article on how to hit out of a fairway bunker? Well according to the number of questions I get on the lesson tee and the number of searches that there are on-line, I'd say the answer is a resounding "Yes!"

Because the ball is lying on a different type of surface, should you change your golf swing? Well the answer is pretty simple. If you are a solid ball striker who contacts the ball first (club, ball, ground contact in that order), then you can hit off of anything from a cart path, to sand, to pine needles without batting an eye. If you are one who doesn't make solid contact however, hitting off the unsteady and uncertain grains of sand can be a big problem. Especially if your tendency is to hit behind the ball.

The only thing that can really pose a problem in a fairway bunker (other than your swing) is if you have a lip to contend with. In that case you will need to sacrifice distance to carry the lip and get the ball back in play. This is likely why sand is considered a hazard. With hazards you can get lucky and play a successful shot out, but in a lot of cases they will add an extra stroke to your score penalizing you for hitting an errant shot and landing in them, be it a water, lateral or sand hazard.

The first step to being successful is to pick the right club. Part of that is knowing your strengths and capabilities and part is making a good assessment of the situation. Your first priority is to get the ball out, even if you have to sacrifice distance. Initiate damage control and make the right decision. Once you've picked your club you need to simply make your normal swing, but catch the ball clean. Changes to the set up can enable you to pick the ball off the top of the sand.

The Situation:

Your ball has landed in a fairway bunker a good distance from the green.

The Solution:

Figure your distance and take the appropriate club. If you typically have trouble and don't hit these solid yet, take an extra club until you build confidence. If this is the case, you may also want to choke up a bit for better control. Contrary to what is commonly taught about ball position, you should not play the ball back in your stance so that you will "catch it first". All that does is enable you to catch it on the down swig or down arc and push the ball down into the sand. Play the ball forward in your stance so that you will catch it on the up swing with a more shallow angle of attack.

For higher handicappers, plant your weight at least 60% on your front foot and make sure that you keep it there. Shifting onto your back foot can cause you to get stuck back there. If you hang back or fall back during the stroke you will hit the sand way behind the ball leaving it in the bunker. Simply stay on your front foot and make a confident aggressive full swing picking the ball off the top of the sand. Do not try to take any sand unless it's after the ball. Decelerating is the kiss of death in a bunker. When you decelerate, the club head will release too early and either bury in the sand or flip past your hands causing a skull.

Maria Palozola

Maria Palozola is a member of the LPGA and has participated in multiple LPGA Tour events. She has provided instruction to thousands of students in the past 20+ years and has won multiple teaching awards from the LPGA, Golf Digest, and Golf Magazine including being ranked as one of the top 50 female instructors in the world.

Who is Maria Palozola?
- Top 50 LPGA Instructors in the World
- A Golf Digest Top 10 Teacher in Illinois
- A Golf Magazine Top Teacher in the Midwest
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