PGA Championship Tip-Escaping Fairway Bunkers

There is no shot in golf that completely confounds the amateur golfer without trifling a pro one bit like hitting from a fairway bunker.

Penfield Head Professional Mike D'Agostino explains why. "When people get into the bunker, they're scared."

The mechanics of getting out are fairly simple. D'Agostino says to dig the feet into the bunker about a half inch and then grip down on the club a similar distance to compensate. The swing plane is most important. D'Agostino instructs his students to make a much shallower swing. "What this helps promote is me catching the golf ball first and not the sand," D'Agostino says.

It's vital for the lower body to stay quiet on this shot. Digging the feet into the sand will help anchor them and provide a base to swing around.

Another mistake often made by amateurs is not taking the correct club. On most fairway bunker shots, players should hit one club longer than the yardage remaining prescribes. For example, if you hit a 9-iron from 130 yards, then you should hit an 8-iron from 130 yards in the sand.

D'Agostino emphasizes that the fairway bunker shot is much easier than many players make it out to be. In fact, if there's one swing thought players should have before pulling the trigger, D'Agostino says, "Nice and slow. Nice and slow on the backswing and the through swing and the ball will come out."

Sometimes he thinks the anxiety of what is not allowed by rules in the bunker overwhelms an average player. "You get so used to grounding the club with a regular golf shot (on grass)," D'Agostino says. "We get in the sand and we're hovering that club over the ball thinking 'Uh-oh, what might come out of this'. Or what might not come out of this."

In the end, like most golf shots, perfecting the fairway bunker shot takes practice. And more practice. Getting past the mental hurdle will make the physical ones much less daunting.

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