For many amateurs, escaping a bunker can be a really scary thing. But it really doesn’t have to be if you know how to approach the shot. Let’s just clear up one thing first. There is one major difference between escaping a green side bunker and a fairway bunker. In a green side bunker you hit the sand first with a lob or sand wedge to blast the ball out. In a fairway bunker, you hit the ball first (just like any normal shot) with almost any club that you’d hit off the ground. The key thing in a fairway bunker (or any bunker for that matter) is to first evaluate a couple of important factors.
How’s the lie? Is it sitting up or is it a fried egg? If it’s a really bad lie (like a fried egg) you’ll probably just have to blast it out with a sand or lob wedge by laying up and treating it like a green side bunker shot then.
Also, another key factor is how close the lip of the bunker is in front of you. If it’s pretty close, then you may just have to lay up with a more lofted club. Ultimately, the closer your ball is to the lip the more loft you must use and likewise the further you are from the lip the more free you are to hit that longer (less lofted) club.
Then, it’s to strategize with a club selection and shot type based on those factors.
And finally it’s just to execute the shot with confidence, as executing any shot with fear can oftentimes lead to bad rhythm and overall poor ball striking.
A couple of other tips to help you make that clean strike in fairway bunkers are to really plant your feet and build a stance over the ball and play the ball just a little further back in your stance than normal as well to promote that good ball first contact.