Travelers Championship

TPC River Highlands

Short Game

Control Is Key To Success In Fairway Sand

July 17, 2017

Photo by Walter Iooss Jr.

Fairway bunkers don’t have to be intimidating. To recover from here, all you need to do is adjust your setup, make a balanced-and-smooth swing, and hit the ball before your club makes contact with the sand. Let me walk you through the process:

First, select a club one longer than you’d normally use from this distance, but make sure it can get the ball over the lip. Next, open the clubface to add loft to the shot and to help you avoid digging into the sand. Tension is a killer, too, so grip it lightly to free up your swing.

The ball should be centered in your stance and your hands and clubshaft in line with it. Oh, and don’t ground your club. It’s against the rules.

As you make a backswing, avoid moving laterally away from the target. Make a full shoulder turn, but minimize lower-body activity. You want to stay centered over the ball.

The through-swing should feel unhurried. Coupled with the other adjustments, you’ll pick the ball clean and get it to your target. —With Keely Levins

Mike Sweeney teaches at The Bridge in Bridgehampton, N.Y.


I see a lot of students sway going back, and their upper body compensates by moving forward. On the downswing, the hips sway forward and the upper body reacts again, shifting back. This moves the low point of the swing behind the ball, causing them to catch way too much sand. To get the feel of a centered turn with no sway that will let you hit the ball solid, stand with your left temple against the inside of a door frame and mimic swings while maintaining contact with the frame.
– Bill Schmedes III, Fiddler’s Elbow C.C., Bedminster, N.J.

Quieting the lower body in the backswing can feel awkward if you’re not used to it. A good swing thought is to keep your knees the same distance apart that they were at address. This also will shorten your backswing for more control.
– Mario Guerra, Quaker Ridge G.C., Scarsdale, N.Y.

Don’t make a swing that’s too steep, and don’t try to lift the ball out. Instead, sweep the ball out, brushing the sand just after impact. Here’s a drill to groove this swing: Tee a ball a quarter-inch high in a fairway bunker. Swing with the goal of picking the ball off the tee and making a small divot mark after the strike.
– Brandon Stooksbury, Idle Hour G & C.C., Macon, Ga.