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Sunday, October 11, 2015

Fairway Bunker VS Greenside Bunker

I guess everybody saw Phil Mickelson hole out for eagle from the fairway bunker on the 12th during Friday's fourball matches. That shot got played over and over and over, especially because it came just a few holes after the notorious "lost two holes at once" ruling.

In case you missed it, here it is again:

Golf Digest did a short write-up about the shot, including some interesting instruction from instructor Kevin Weeks about the difference between a fairway bunker shot and a greenside bunker shot.

Why do most weekend players struggle so much with fairway bunker shots, even when they've heard so much instruction? Weeks says it's because they don't realize that you have to play fairway bunkers differently than greenside bunkers.

Phil Mickelson hits from fairway bunker at Presidents Cup

From a greenside bunker, you want to hit the sand first and let it throw the ball out onto the green. This is typically the shot that most instructors are teaching, simply because that's where most weekend players need to save strokes.

From a fairway bunker you need to hit the ball first and then the sand. If you hit the sand first, as in a greenside bunker, the ball will pop out high but fly short. That's okay if you have to get over a lip and have no other choice, but that's a lay-up shot. And if you hit the ball only, chances are good you'll skull it and maybe even leave it in the bunker.

For the fairway shot, Weeks suggests moving the ball slightly back of the center of your stance. (Of course, the ball would be forward of center for a greenside bunker.) Set your weight a bit on your lead foot and make a three-quarter swing so you don't move off the shot -- if your weight moves to your trailing foot, you're more likely to hit the sand first. He suggests this practice drill as well:
"To practice it, draw a line [in the sand of a fairway bunker] perpendicular to the target and make three or four practice swings where your divot is past the line. Then put a ball on the line and replicate the same feel."
Remember: For a fairway bunker shot, ball first then sand. For a greenside bunker shot, hit sand only. Even if you don't hit it like Phil, that should improve your chances of hitting the shot you intended.

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