Contact the ball, not the sand from fairway bunkers

by Donald Crawley
Contributing Golf Writer and Director of Instruction for The Boulders Club

Donald Crawley Boulders, AZ (Sports Network) -- So, how do you get out of those bunkers, particularly the ones on the fairway requiring a bit more distance than just a loft up on to the green? It is not going to be done by carrying a pail, shovel and/or any other device that guarantees an ability to do this without any problems whatsoever or your money, and sand, back.

You start by learning how to focus on the front of the ball to improve your fairway bunker play. That is your line of vision target. Yes, the green, or the fairway on a long par five, looks like you are about to make a long distance call or have to figure out a way to increase your frequent flyer mileage records but the objective is to get out of there and onto or close to the target green or down the fairway as far as possible in the direction of said green and flagstick. Simple.

When hitting from a fairway bunker, the primary object is to contact the ball before the sand. For all intents and purposes, the sand?as when you see a water hazard looming in front of you or to either side?does not exist. It just happens to be the area where the ball landed. Catch even a little bit of sand first and you?ll likely play the next shot from the very same bunker. Not fun nor the best thing to keep the blood pressure down. Sand starts with the same letter as stress. Remember that. But so does success.

Addressing the ball as you do on a greenside bunker shot ? head behind the ball and ball forward in the stance- will lead to intentional fat contact. That, the greenside bunker, is when you want to hit the sand first and slide the bounce edge under the ball. But it is just the opposite in a fairway bunker.

To avoid hitting fat, you must first change how you look at the ball. Instead of focusing on the back of the ball or an inch behind it ? as you do greenside ? look at its front half. This adjustment moves your center of gravity, your sternum, ahead of the ball at address, while making it easier to set your weight forward and your hands ahead of the ball. Move the ball one inch back in your stance and focus on the front of the ball. No, do not bend down and pick it up.

Keep your lower body stable, try to swing the club back in a straighter line and more with an upright arm swing in the backswing. Your weight will shift onto the front foot during the downswing, moving the bottom of the arc forward and assuring ball-first contact. Really? Yes, really.

Be careful in the club selection. Choose enough loft to clear the lip ahead. In the teaching ranks we sometimes say ?wood in bunker ? wood in head.' However, these new hybrid long irons/fairway metals are designed to kick the ball up in the air, so they would be worth trying in a fairway bunker if the sand is not too soft.

For your ?pony? the key points to remember are:

  • select enough loft
  • ball back
  • sternum ahead of ball
  • focus on front of ball
  • clip the ball clean, then hit the sand

    Piece of cake!

    Donald Crawley
    Donald Crawley

    Donald Crawley, Director of Instruction at the Boulders Golf Academy at the Boulders Resort & Golden Door? Spa in Carefree, Ariz. Crawley, a veteran of 29 years of teaching experience, is the newest contributor to The Sports Network with regular features that range from tips on improving your game to etiquette at the course. He has established 40 golf school sites in the United States since 1980,previously as vice president and director of instruction at John Jacobs? Golf Schools, consultant to the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia, and presently at the Boulders Golf Resort in Arizona.

    Crawley is recognized among the "Top 100 Teachers in America" by Golf Magazine and one of the "Best Teachers in Arizona" by Golf Digest. As both a Class A U.S. PGA member and a British PGA member, Crawley has been recognized for his outstanding teaching abilities. In 2002, he won the Southwest Section PGA?s Teacher of the Year Award. He also received the Horton Smith Award for education in 2000. In addition to teaching over 60,000 students, Crawley has co-authored video instruction tapes with John Jacobs and BBC/ABC golf telecaster Peter Alliss.

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