No Wonder Amateurs Stink From Fairway Bunkers

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Posted by Dexter Francois | Posted in , , , | Posted on Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Last night Michael Breed of The Golf Fix demonstrated how to play from various different lies and situations. He talked about the fairway bunker shot, the dreaded bunker shot from 40-80 yards out, and finally various greenside bunker shots.

During the segment on fairway bunkers, Breed confirmed something I had been thinking about. He said that most amateurs struggle from fairway bunkers because we don't get a chance to practice this shot.

When the average golfer arrives at the golf course for a round, they get a bucket of balls and head to the range and start banging away. Some courses don't even have a place to hit out of a bunker, and if there is a bunker facility, in my experience, very few take the time to get in there and practice. Maybe it's because it's not really fun to practice from the bunker. Maybe it's because they don't want to get dirty before a round. The other reason is that some golfers show up 15 minutes before their round and there simply isn't enough time.

Getting back to fairway bunkers, when have you ever seen a fairway bunker in the practice area? I would venture to say never. It's no wonder we stink. We never get a chance to hone our skills in this area of our game.

So how do we get better from the fairway bunker? You could get into the bunker that is meant for greenside practice. This might prompt a visit from the starter asking you to leave the course. That's not good. The alternative is to watch videos on the subject. Don't just watch though. Pay attention to what the instructor is saying and mimic their actions as best as possible. It's not an impossible shot, we just need to use the proper technique.

Normally I would post a video, but I am still posting from my iPhone. So get on YouTube and browse around. BTW...My online swing coach, Mike Southern, who publishes Ruthless Golf, just wrote an article entitled "Digging A Buried Ball Out Of The Sand". It is one more bunker shot that Breed didn't cover during the show. You can find his blog to the right under Golf Fanatics.

Good luck with this shot if you find yourself in a fairway bunker during your next round. Of course the best defense is not to hit in there in the first place so that it doesn't even become an issue. Keep it in the fairways. Have a great round and always hit your target.

Photo found here.


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Comments (14)

  1. August 23, 2011 at 12:33 PM

    A problem with "amateur" bunkers is that they are not the same. On the videos you see the perfect bunkers that they have for pro players, and the instructor spends 5 minutes describing how to get out of a perfect bunker.
    I don't play courses with perfect bunkers. I play courses where the sand may be thin to non-existent. On the same course the sand in one bunker may be a different texture and thickness from the sand on a bunker.
    I'm sure that the video instructor means well, but I do not see enough perfect bunkers to do what he or she states is the way to get out of them.
    Yes, my bunker play is hit or miss. Yes, practice would be nice, but what should I practice and where? At this point, I'll work on staying out of the bunkers.

  2. August 23, 2011 at 1:32 PM

    Excellent point Lefty! Even though many of the courses here in Arizona are well maintained, the bunkers seem to be neglected. That, coupled with the fact that a lot of golfers do a poor job of raking the bunkers once they get out. And that's if they even bother to do so.

    Like you said, the key is to stay out of there in the first place. I often hear announcers say that the pros would rather be in the bunker on their approach shots in some situations. I don't think that would be the case with the bunkers we face.

  3. August 23, 2011 at 1:55 PM

    It's difficult to rake concrete.
    In Texas, with the drought, the bunkers are as hard as the fairways. We may see courses closing because they can find water.
    I'll rake if I actually leave a footprint, but I admit I don't rake to the level of a caddy. I usually have another group behind me, standing in the 100+ degree sun, waiting for our group to putt out. It doesn't seem friendly to spend five minutes raking every step.
    Yes, I've learned a lot about course management from my determination to avoid bunkers.

  4. August 23, 2011 at 1:57 PM

    Sorry, courses can't find water.

    I'm waiting on the DVD - Playing from bunkers on a municipal course...

  5. August 23, 2011 at 2:40 PM

    I hear you Lefty. Similar conditions here. Some of the sand in the bunkers are like clumps of clay. Raked or not, it probably wouldn't make much of a difference.

    As far as the DVD is concerned, I would pick it up in a heartbeat. However, I doubt many courses would want to expose themselves like that. It's highly unlikely to hear a teaching pros say, "I'm here at the lovely so and so course and I'm going to show you how to get out of our unraked, clumpy bunkers." Wouldn't be good for business. Maybe some course will do it anonymously.

  6. August 23, 2011 at 3:14 PM

    Yes. "You know some instructors say that you should take about a dollar bill of sand in the bunker and not hit the ball.
    Here at Goat Track, we guarantee you'll hit the ball because you won't be bothered with any of that soft, white sand. Your ball will rest on a hard, clay-like substance, unknown to professional golfers and some chemists.
    You'll almost always hit a thin shot that screams across the green because, well, we decided to keep the four-foot lip.
    You can play it any way you like, it's still not ending up on that green.
    Goat Track, we ignore our bunkers and are proud of it.
    In this DVD, we have:
    Leave the sand wedge at home
    How to use your 8 iron.
    How to take 5 strokes in a bunker because you can't get under the ball (unless you are Conan the Barbarian)
    How to pretend you actually wanted to hit the ball across the green.
    What to say to your playing partner when they hit into the bunker.
    What sound you should make when you hit it just over the lip and you are still in the rough.

  7. August 23, 2011 at 4:19 PM

    HaHa!!! Hilarious! That's a DVD I would definitely purchase. What do you say when your buddy leaves it in the bunker or even worse, sends it 40 yards over the green? How should one react when one finds him/herself in a bunker nestled between rocks and hard clay? These are the real questions that need to be answered. I love it! Seems a bit more realistic to me:-D

    BTW...Why is the course you play called "Goat Track"?

  8. August 23, 2011 at 4:50 PM

    "Goat track" is a golf slang term that, like its synonym dog track, is a derogatory term. It refers to a golf course that is in poor condition.

    about.com\golfterms

  9. August 23, 2011 at 5:15 PM

    By the way, I'm following the same process that you followed with the one-piece takeaway.
    I had a videotape of my swing and I used my hands and pulled the club inside. Following Mike's advice, I am keeping the club more in front of me and my scores have dropped 10 strokes already, although the old move does show up from time to time.

  10. August 23, 2011 at 6:34 PM

    Thanks for the lesson. My swing still gets a little "loopy" as I like to call it. The good thing is that I can recognize when it starts to happen and can sometimes stop myself mid-swing.

    What I like about what Mike has taught me is that when I hit a bad shot, I know why. I am able to make adjustments during my round instead of making the same mistake over and over again which is so frustrating.

    Glad to hear your scores are improving as well. I can tell you from my standpoint that it makes the game so much more enjoyable to play. Plus it gives me the confidence to know that I will keep improving. That's what keeps me going back to the course.

  11. August 23, 2011 at 7:49 PM

    I actually added a loop (backswing a little high and then dropped the hands on the downswing) on the practice range, just to see if it added anything. I could hit the ball more solid and a little longer, but it made the swing more a matter of timing.
    I work on simplifying.
    I also wasn't comfortable with all of the movement when I am standing on my back leg. Too easy to reverse pivot, or spin the hips trying to catch up.
    On the range, it's easier because I swing at a more relaxed pace.
    Playing, there's a little more urgency.
    I videotaped myself a few months ago and I noticed that I actually stop my rotation to hit the ball with my hands.
    That had to go.

  12. August 23, 2011 at 8:47 PM

    Isn't it amazing to see your swing on camera. I thought I was doing alright until I saw myself. A complete eye opener. But it was needed so that I could make the necessary changes. My swing has completely changed...for the better of course:-D

    I think what you did is what Hank Haney had Ray Romano do to improve his swing on the Haney Project. Ray had a flat takeaway like I did which caused an over the top move. He had Ray exaggerate his back swing so that it was upright.

    I tried this but it didn't click for me. The one-piece takeaway made more sense to me. Everyone learns differently and there are many ways to find the solution. I guess we have to go with what clicks with us individually.

  13. August 26, 2011 at 7:06 PM

    I'm just glad to know you guys are getting better as a result of my blog. Hopefully it's helping other players too.

    I'm with you, Lefty. Simplifying is the best way to go.

  14. August 27, 2011 at 12:02 AM

    @Mike-We are very thankful.