Does water on the golf course scare you? It’s okay – you can admit it. You certainly wouldn’t be alone in that camp, as water hazards have a way of intimidating even accomplished golfers.
There is something about having to look out over a long stretch of water on your way to the target that can make you think twice about your swing. Shots that would be easy otherwise can suddenly become quite difficult simply due to the presence of a small pond to the side of the green.
To play well on a golf course with a lot of water, you have to find a good balance between fear and respect. It’s necessary to respect the water hazards in terms of game planning around them, but you don’t want to be playing in fear, either.
As long as you pick smart shots that minimize your chances of knocking the ball into the water, you can swing with confidence and be free to play your best.
Scoring well on golf courses with a lot of water really all boils down to picking a smart strategy and having a strong mindset. That said, below are three strategies for playing well on courses that are filled with water hazards. Using a combination of these three strategies should lead you to success.
#1 – Pick Smart Clubs
The best way to stay out of the water is to use clubs that simply can’t hit the ball in the water that you are facing. For instance, if you know that the water off the tee is 240 yards away, you can elect to hit your tee shot with a club that won’t send the ball that far down the fairway. Using this strategy is sure to keep you out of the water, although it will leave you with longer approach shots into the greens.
Believe it or not, this is a strategy that is employed by a large number of pros. Professional golfers are confident in their ability to hit long approach shots, and they know that taking penalty strokes is no way to win tournaments. By using clubs that take the water hazards out of range, you can make free swings without any fear at all of losing your ball into the drink. This strategy isn’t going to be practical in all situations – such as on a hole that is lined with water from tee to green – but it can help you avoid needlessly putting your shots in danger.
#2 – Pick Smart Targets
In many cases, there is just no need to challenge the water hazards that are placed around the course. They are often used by course designers to challenge your decision making – in a way, they are trying to ‘bait’ you into making a poor choice, or a poor swing, or both.
For instance, picture a hole with a water hazard guarding the right side of the green. If the hole is located on the right half of the putting surface, you might decide to take dead aim in the hopes of setting up a birdie. Most likely, that is a mistake.
Instead of firing at the target, take the smart route and aim out to the wide (left) side for safety. As long as you make a decent swing, you should be able to put the ball on the green and give yourself a good chance to two putt for par. Sure, this strategy isn’t going to net you many birdies, but it will keep you away from the bogeys and doubles.
In general, picking smart targets is a great way to play for the majority of your time on the course. Especially early in a round, play it safe and aim away from the water. Late in the day, however, if you know that you need a birdie to win your match or tournament—and you’re feeling confident in your swing that day—it might be worth the risk to take a shot directly at the flag—even if that means taking on the water.
Good decision making in golf (in all sports, actually) comes down to score and situation. You should be constantly evaluating your standing within the round so you can make the best choice based on the circumstances at hand. Sometimes that choice will mean going for the target despite the water, but usually, it will mean taking the safe route.
#3 – Know the Difference Between Red and Yellow
There is a huge difference between water that is marked with red stakes and lines, and water that is market with yellow stakes and lines. Yellow hazards are considered ‘water hazards,’ while red stakes designate ‘lateral hazards.’
So, what is the difference?
When you hit your ball into a yellow hazard, you have to drop behind the hazard, on a line with the hole. Often, that means you are dropping well away from the target. Conversely, you can drop within two club lengths of the point of entry into a red hazard, which is typically a less severe penalty since you are penalized less distance.
When trying to decide whether or not to take on a water hazard with an aggressive shot, you need to take the color of the hazard into account. Yellow hazards are frequently quite punishing, while red stakes aren’t always that big of a deal. For example, imagine you are playing a reachable par five with water near the green, and you are trying to decide whether or not to go for the green in two. If the hazard is red, you could hit the ball in the water and still have a good chance to get up and down for par after your drop. On the other hand, a yellow hazard would likely lead to a much longer shot after your drop, and you would most likely be looking at a bogey.
By thinking about the hazard markings in advance, you can make better decisions and save yourself strokes in the long run.
A golf course that is protected by plenty of water doesn’t have to automatically equate to a high score. With good decisions and the patience to lay up when needed, you should be able to navigate this kind of course while still posting a good score.
Keep your nerve, think clearly, and hit great shots!
Cover Photo via Flickr