Top five fairway bunker shot tips

The fairway bunker shot may seem intimidating to most golfers, but it really doesn't have to be. One of the most common problems that recreational golfers have when hitting a fairway bunker shot is to treat it the same way as a greenside bunker shot. While they are both bunker shots, they require two different kinds of shots and setups.

Here are five tips to improve your fairway bunker play today:

Choose the right club

Generally speaking, it is always best to use more club than usual for a fairway bunker shot. For instance, if the hole is 150 yards away and you normally hit a 9 iron, go with an 8 or 7 iron instead. You ideally want to hit a nice and easy shot that goes either on the green or near it. Experiment using different clubs for fairway bunker shots; you may find that using a choked down fairway wood is the most comfortable club to hit.

Greenside vs. fairway divot

Many recreational golfers seem to think that a fairway bunker shot requires the same divot as a greenside bunker shot, and, in reality, that is not the case. Do not hit one to two inches behind the ball on a fairway bunker shot, but rather try to pick the golf ball cleanly and leave a divot after contacting the ball. A good way to practice this is to look six inches in front of the ball and then swing. You may top the golf ball the first few times, but it will get easier over time.

Know when to lay-up

You do not have to go for the green every single time out of a fairway bunker. There are many times during a golf round when it is better to just lay the golf ball up 30 or so yards from the green and try to get up-and-down. Sure, it can be frustrating intentionally not going for the green, but it is important to keep in mind the strokes saved by doing it. They will add up over the course of a golf round and you will be glad you did it.

Keep the lower body quiet

Along with not taking a divot behind the golf ball on a fairway bunker shot, it is also important to nor bury your feet into the sand too deep. It is good to get a stable foundation but do not dig down further than that. For greenside bunker shots, it is better to dig your feet in deep in order to get the clubface into the sand, but you are trying to avoid doing that for a fairway bunker shot. Once the solid foundation is reached try to keep the lower body as quiet as possible throughout the swing. This will help to hit the ball cleanly and get a nice trajectory.

Where to play the ball

Lastly, there is the question of where the golf ball should be in the stance. Should the ball be played forward in the stance, in the center, or in the back? I generally play the ball in the back of the stance in order to make sure that I hit the ball before the sand, but it varies from player to player. Do not assume that one position is best but rather experiment on the golf course to see which one suits your swing most comfortably.

Ryan Kekoufksi is a three handicap golfer who has both played and watched the sport for over a decade. He covers sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network, and currently resides in Virginia.

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