Golf Tips: Make the best of dreaded bunker shots

By: Shawn Kelly
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The fairway bunker shot can be a challenge to hit successfully. Even with the best of lies, it can be tough to pick the ball off the sand and catch it solidly. 
My best advice is to try to avoid these shots as much as possible by aiming away from the bunkers and treating them like any other hazard that would make it difficult to make par. 
However if you do happen to find the beach off the tee, here’s are a few thoughts to help you execute this shot.
The first decision to make is which club you’ll need to get out successfully. Check the distance to your target, the height of the lip of the bunker you have to go over and what kind of a lie you have in the sand because these variables need to be identified before choosing your weapon. In some cases, such as a buried or poor lie or a very high lip to clear, you may have to opt to just get the ball out with a wedge and back in play safely rather than risk the crowd pleasing, heroic effort. Once you have selected the appropriate club with which to extricate your ball from the sand you must get set up correctly in order to execute this shot. 
The four keys to getting set properly are: 
• Dig your feet into the sand because you’ll need a stable base from which to swing the club. This is primarily an “arm swing,” so stabilizing your lower body is key. 
• Find the bottom of the arc of the swing. A few waggles or practice swings over the ball will show you where the impact should be. Typically it is in line with the sternum or middle of body. Don’t touch the sand though; the rules of golf will add one stroke to your score on that hole.
• Keep your grip pressure light at the start of your swing due to the natural tendency to grip the club too tightly because it is an “arm swing.” 
• Maintain the position of your sternum relative to ground through the stroke. Don’t let your swing center move up or down, the sternum must stay level thru the swing.
• It will be imperative to strike the ball solidly so resist the urge to over-swing and try to feel that you are swinging at about three-quarter speed. Do not try to overpower it.
These can be very vexing golf shots to play so I do all I can to avoid them in the first place. 
However, when faced with these testers keep your head up and stay confident because these fairway bunker fundamentals will help you get the ball back in the fairway and keep you from having to put a big number on that scorecard.