If you’re like most everyday golfers, you struggle from fairway bunkers. Hey, it can be difficult to intentionally hit the ball thinner than you would from a greenside trap. After all, you’re used to hitting sand first, ball second, and old habits die hard.
The fix? The fairway-bunker punch shot. It’s essentially the same as a knockdown from a normal lie, with one adjustment: You’re in a bunker. This specialty shot is your ticket out of the fairway bunker and onto the green.
This is a shot that should only be tried if you’re a short-iron distance from the hole, the lip of the bunker is fairly low and there’s a clear path to the green. Choose your 6-, 7- or 8-iron—depending on the distance to the hole—but keep in mind that the longer the club is, the more roll you’re going to get. For example: With a 6-iron, you can expect to carry the ball about 100 yards with your punch technique and roll it another 50.
At impact (below), pinch your knees together and return the shaft to the ball on the same angle it was on at address.
Set up as you would for a normal punch shot, with the ball back of center in your stance, shaft leaning forward, weight favoring your left foot and chest in front of the ball. These adjustments steepen your angle of attack and encourage ball-first contact.
To start your backswing, hinge your wrists quickly so that your thumbs point toward the sky and stop your swing when your hands reach hip height. From there, pinch your knees together and try to return the shaft to the ball on the same angle on which it sat at address. If you keep your wrists firm and concentrate on ball-first contact, the ball should come out low and hot and run onto the green.
At address, get your weight forward and your chest ahead of the ball. This helps you achieve ball-first contact.