The Palmetto Championship is being contested at Congaree Golf Club. A uniquely designed golf course with an even more important mission = statement. As we watch the PGA Tour’s professionals compete on this layout there’s a simplicity to the overall look of the golf course. It blends into the natural landscape of the South Carolina countryside. The grass, water and sandy areas don’t have sharp defined lines of differentiation. Rather the property flows from one texture to another.
Throughout the first two rounds it was easy to notice that the winning player will possess an ability to play from the sand. Not just around the green with your standard style explosion shot, but also from fairway bunkers located= much further from the hole. A fairway bunker shot doesn’t have to be a difficult shot. With a little successful planning and practice you can learn to make clean contact and advance the ball toward the hole.
When you find yourself in a fairway bunker the first step is to assess the lie in two ways. First, is the ball sitting on top of the sand or slightly submerged = and second is how high is the edge. If the ball is slightly beneath the level of the sand surface, it will significantly limit your ability to advance the ball very far. Thankfully, due to the speed that it enters these areas most balls will roll out to a fair lie on top.
If the ball is slightly submerged, you will have to treat it more like a greenside explosion shot. Take out a pitching wedge maybe a 9-iron and play a shot where you contact the sand and the ball ensuring you get the ball out of the bunker and back into the fairway. For the rest of this article, we will make the assumption the ball is sitting on top of the sand with a reasonable lie.
Does the bunker have a substantial lip or raised edge? Bunkers are generally a hole in the ground. Check the height of the edge in line with the direction you wish to go. Make sure the club you want to use has enough loft to elevate the ball over the lip. If there’s any doubt, make sure you play conservatively and select a club that will always get the ball high enough to clear the edge. It may not allow you to reach your target, but step one in any bunker situation is to get out.
Once we’ve selected our club and landing area it is time to strike the ball. There are a couple very simple setup keys you can make that will considerably help you hit solid shots from this soft surface lie. The first alteration is to grip the club about a half inch lower than usual. When playing a shot from a fairway bunker lie our goal is to hit all ball. Shortening the club helps in two ways, first it will help us just impact the ball during our swing. Second, our feet sink in the sand ever so slightly. Compensating with a lower grip brings the height of our arc above the sand surface and into the back of the ball.
Next and last modification is to move the ball position back one inch from your normal placement for that club. Successful fairway bunker shots are defined by hitting as much ball and as little sand as possible. Moving it back will help. Make those couple modifications to your pre-shot routine, and then swing away concentrating on making clean contact with the ball.
Like so many challenging situations in golf with minor changes to your setup and a solid strategy you’ll quickly find yourself hitting fairway bunker shots like the competitors at Congaree.