You have just executed what seemed like a beautiful drive, and it winds up in a fairway bunker. Hitting a solid fairway bunker shot is difficult and can be very intimidating for a lot of players. It is important to remember that the priority of all sand shots is to get the ball safely back into play and therefore one has to assess the situation.
The first thing to do is check out the lie you have in the sand and whether you have a realistic chance of clearing the lip of the bunker. If you have a good lie in the bunker, your main concern is to make sure the club you are using has sufficient loft to get the ball over the front of the lip of the bunker. You do not want to strike the ball perfectly only to see it smash into the face of the bunker and dribble back to your feet. If your ball is buried then you may need to be realistic, play it like a greenside bunker out to the fairway and then approach the green from there.
The most important key in hitting out of the fairway bunker is that we want to hit the ball first. This is the opposite of the green side bunker where we want to hit sand first. A lot of amateurs will try to hit up on the ball and pick it clean out of the bunker, causing a scoop and hitting behind the ball. Don’t worry about hitting up on it, just hit the ball first and let the loft of the club get it up for you.
Dig your feet into the sand about an inch or so, until you have a solid base to swing from. Move your hands down on the grip, about the same amount as you have nestled your feet into the sand, this will help to prevent you from striking the sand first.
Don’t try and hit the shot 100 percent. Take more club and hit the shot 60 or 70 percent of full. This will make it easier to keep your lower body more stable during the swing and hit the ball more solidly. Keep your sternum/the buttons on your golf shirt at the same height during the swing. Up and down movement reduces your ability to rotate and which will decrease your chance of striking the ball first.
One of the real problems with the fairway bunker shot is that few practice facilities give us a chance to practice these shots and we encounter very few of them on the golf course. Next time you are out late afternoon playing a few practice holes, drop a few in the fairway bunker and try and get more comfortable and confident in playing this shot.