What to Do When You’re in a Fairway Bunker

Reading Time: 3 minutes


This week the PGA Tour is stopping at Glen Abbey Golf Club for the RBC Canadian Open. When I begin to look back at past winners of this tournament, one player and one shot come to mind. Tiger Woods had 218 yards (complete carry over a pond) from a fairway bunker to the pin. He smoked a 6-iron to 18 feet, made the putt, and ultimately won the tournament. This shot is regarded as one of the most spectacular golf shots in PGA Tour history.

Playing from a fairway bunker can be very difficult and intimidating. If you can master this shot, you can play fearless golf and it will lead to lower scores. So, in order to be successful from playing out of a fairway bunker you’ll need to employ a few swing techniques that I’ve outlined below.

Create a Solid Base

You’ll need to dig your feet in the sand more than usual to achieve a solid base.

Club & Ball Position

To build upon a stable base, it’s a good idea to think about selecting the proper golf club. You’ll want to choose one more golf club and choke down on it. Choking down and moving the ball position back in your stance will ensure you contact the golf ball first, since you’re feet are below the golf ball due to digging in and creating a solid base.

Swing Thought

You’ll want to concentrate on keeping more still than usual and swinging more around your body. A good thought is keeping your head still throughout the swing, especially up and down. Or, have the feeling you’re swinging the golf club more around your body as opposed to more upright in a normal swing. These thoughts will again encourage hitting the golf ball first and not the sand.

Bonus Tip & Drill

You’ll need to hit a few shots and take note how far each club flies with the adjustments you’ll be making. For example, you may currently hit your 7-iron 165 yards from the fairway, but it will only fly 150 yards from a fairway bunker when making these adjustments. So, you’d want to play a 6-iron if facing the same shot from a fairway bunker.

A good drill to practice at the driving range is the trench drill. First make a trench in the bunker with your club by dragging it in a straight line with the leading edge of the club. Next, make practice swings in the bunker trying to take a divot in front of the trench. If you make a divot before the trench, you will most likely need to place the ball a little farther back in your stance to ensure proper contact.

Quick Recap

1. Create a Solid Base – Dig your feet in.

2. Club & Ball Position – Take one more club, choke down, and move the ball back.

3. Quite Lower Body – Ensure you’ll contact the ball first.


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Emmett Brantly, PGA

Emmett Brantly has been a Class “A” member of the PGA of America since 2003. He graduated from Campbell University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Professional Golf Management. He has worked in Public, Semi-Private, Private, and Resort golf facilities in Raleigh and Pinehurst North Carolina. He has also worked in various retail settings, as well as holding positions of PGA Teaching Professional at various academies including the Pinehurst Golf Academy. Emmett has a strong passion for growing the game of golf by displaying his extensive knowledge in club-fitting, teaching, fitness, and product knowledge.

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