It’s one of the best moments in golf—hitting a green after winding up in a fairway bunker. If you want to do it more often, you’ve got to make some adjustments. The first is a reality check. There are times when it’s just not going to happen. A ball close to the lip or in a slightly plugged lie probably should be wedged back into the fairway. But there are many times when a lie in the sand is good, and the lip can be easily cleared. That’s when you should go for the green. My father and swing coach, Jeff Hatton, taught me how to hit it flush from fairway sand years ago. Here’s what he told me.
First, select a club one or two longer than you would use from the same yardage in the fairway. You need more firepower, because you’re not going to be able to swing aggressively from this lie. More on that in a moment.
Next, grip down on the club an inch or so, and take your stance so that your feet are dug into the sand. The whole key to hitting it solid from here is to remain as stable as possible when you swing, and you can help that cause by getting your feet submerged in the sand. And gripping down helps counter the effect of digging in. If you don’t, you’ll probably hit behind the ball. That’s the most common miss. (Remember, thin is always better than fat if you’re trying to hit the green.)
Back to club selection: Taking a longer club is important because when you swing, you won’t be able to use your lower body like you normally would. It should remain fairly inactive as you swing back and down. This helps make sure you hit the ball solidly. Taking a longer club also reduces the urge to swing harder, which might throw you off-balance.
So take more club, grip down, dig in, swing within yourself and trust that the ball will get there. I can hear my father saying that in my head.