Hitting over water can be nerve-racking and intimidating… Just watch Jordan Spieth’s infamous Masters meltdown
It can happen to anyone at all skill levels! The reason why hitting over the water causes so much anxiety is that your brain knows that you have to make good contact with your shot or else you are not going to get over. This added stress can cause overthinking, poor judgment and a loss of confidence out on the course.
TAKE A DEEP BREATH AND RELAX! Follow my tips below and you’ll be hitting shots over the water with ease and avoiding the splash!
The power of visualization is widely known and can be extremely effective before undergoing pressure.
Anytime you visualize your golf shot, your brain prepares itself for the upcoming shot which leads to more focus and a higher percentage of getting good contact. (check out my article on how to master the mental game here) Simply imagine your golf ball flying over the water and landing safely on the other side either on the fairway or green. This visualization process will allow your brain to tell your muscles what needs to be done in order to get your shot over the water.
Club Up and Swing Softer
Many times when your body is feeling nervous about hitting over water, it tightens up and you will unintentionally swing harder than normal trying to “help” the ball up in the air. This motion can cause both thin and chunk shots that will send your shot right into the hazard ????
To avoid this fault, we need to club up! (ex. 7iron to 6 iron)This change will cause your body to slow down during the swing and create better contact on the clubface. You will feel more confident with this change knowing that you will definitely have enough club to get over the water and you won’t have to force your shot!
Similar to visualizing, having a pre-shot routine where you practice your shot before striking, will allow your brain to process the desired movement that is needed to clear the water. You can read my full article here about the importance of the practice swing and how implementing it will lower your golf score.
Keep Your Weight on Your Front Side
It is imperative that you ROTATE your lower body and avoid SLIDING behind the golf ball. The lateral slide is one of the main reason why golfers “chunk” or hit behind the golf ball. And if we hit behind the golfball when trying to hit over water…… splash.
To get my students to feel the proper hip rotation:
- Feel like the backswing is controlled by the movement of pushing your back hip inward
- On the downswing, feel like the swing is controlled by the front hip moving inward (or out of the way)
- The arms are just along for the ride
- You should feel like you are over the golfball the whole swing and not sliding back behind
Note: On shots where good contact is essential, loading more weight on your front side will help you stay over the golf ball.
Keep Your Front Arm Straight
Breaking the leading arm during your swing can cause you to have a hard time finding consistent contact with the golf ball. If this arm bends, the tendency is going to be to use the wrists to catch up to the ball. Using the wrists to try and time your golf shot leads to inconsistencies with the timing of your swing.
- Simply place a club head cover underneath the armpit of your leading arm
- Practice swinging while trying not to let the head cover fall out
This drill teaches the body to stay connected during the swing and does not allow your leading arm not to break. Remember: Rotate your hips to generate clubhead speed, not your wrists or arms!
Focus on a Dimple
This is of my favorite strategies to build confidence hitting the golf ball. Focusing on a golf ball dimple located on the bottom of the ball throughout your hole swing will help train your hand-eye coordination. When you are focusing on a dimple, your brain stops thinking of other limiting factors that may cause you to hit a poor shot. This focus allows your body to zone in on a specific target and increases your chances for good ball contact.
Hold Your Breath
Have you ever been to a gun range before? One of the things they tell you is to hold your breath when taking a long shot to slow the heart rate down and steady the body. This same technique can be used out on the golf course! After you complete your practice swings and are ready to hit, hold your breath until the moment you make contact with the ball. This simple change helps calm down your nerves and improves your chances of clearing the water hazard
3 Second Rule
Sometimes, you do everything right with your swing
- You’re visualizing
- You feel prepared
- You took practice swings
- You’re focusing on a dimple
Only to lift your head up too early and the ball goes right into the water. KEEP YOUR HEAD DOWN. This may be the oldest golf advise out there, but it still is a very common fault that many of us still commit. The excitement of seeing where our ball is going sometimes gets the best of us.
3 Second Rule
After making contact with the golf ball, count to three in your mind “before” you look up! If you have ever watched a tour player’s swing in slow motion before, they keep their head down long after they make contact with the ball. So now you will do the same and you will start to see immediate improvements!
Use Your Favorite Club
Now I know I said earlier that you should club up and swing softer so that you know you will have enough distance to clear the water. And you should! However, if the distance to clear the water happens to be the distance you hit your favorite club…HIT YOUR FAVORITE CLUB
Everyone has some golf club that, for some reason, they hit better than others. For me, it is my 7 iron. I can’t tell you why but I always feel overly confident whenever it is required on the course. Hitting your favorite club over the water will help quiet those nerves and improve your confidence!
I hope you are feeling a little bit better about hitting over the water now looking over these tips and drills. I know that it can be intimidating and cause much-unneeded stress out on the course. The main thing you have to remember is that golf is a mental game and that you have to feel comfortable BEFORE you take your shot. Some of the advice I give here is about improving how you approach the situation, not on your golf swing.
A strong mental game will give you a better edge on the course and you will start improving your skills much more rapidly. So the next time your face water between you and the hole, know that YOU WILL, clear it and that water is no longer a fear of yours out on the course!
(For rules on how to play golf around hazards, check out my article here)