10 ways to confidently carry the water every time
No matter how skilled of a player you are, or how long you’ve been playing the game, hitting over water on the golf course is always intimidating.
While every player should love a good challenge, carrying the water isn’t something easily practiced — which is why you must know the fundamentals and have a game plan to hit this difficult shot.
To help you gain confidence, I provide 10 tips to follow to avoid putting your ball in the drink; and to start seeing it soar over the water safely.
Confidently clear the water by following these tips
Just gripping with more pressure and swinging harder isn’t necessarily going to lead to success — since there are lots of other factors to understand in order to clear the water in front of you.
You must know how the club hits the ground in order to get ball height, as well as which club will help you get close to your target. The below tips will help you game plan.
1. Look at the target rather than the water
Staring at a big body of water can freak out a golfer, so when I was younger and had to deal with a stream that ran through the course I often played at, I found something that really helped me clear the water more often.
Instead of looking at the hazard, I started looking past it — focusing on where I wanted to land the ball, rather than where I didn’t want it to go.
Simply being more focused on your target can help you do what you want to do; and can help give you positive reinforcement, too.
2. Know both the carry and the total distance
Most golfers lock in on the yardage from their shot to the pin, but I’d also suggest knowing how far it is to carry the hazard. This will help you choose your target and the right club.
Make sure you’re choosing a club that will still clear the water even if you don’t hit it perfectly. This takes some pressure off of you to hit a hero shot.
3. Know the carry distance of the club you’re using
Surprisingly, most amateurs don’t know the carry distance with each of their clubs. If this sounds like you, I suggest making an appointment with a teacher who can help you dial them in.
With the help of a professional, you can use a launch monitor (like the Foresight Sports GCQuad) to figure out the exact distances with every club in your bag.
4. Know which clubs have the best launch and carry
Other than your driver, the clubs in the middle of your bag often carry the longest.
For example, a lofted hybrid or lofted fairway wood (like a 7-wood) may be the club with the most carry.
Lesser lofted clubs may travel farther in total distance due to roll, but these types of clubs often produce more height rather than carry distance — so you may very well come up short of your target if choosing one to try and carry water.
5. Your practice swing should hit the ground
The bottom of your club needs to hit the ground so that the ball can make contact with the sweet spot of your club. This ensures maximizing launch.
That’s why it’s so important to mimic this feeling in your practice swing.
If your practice swing doesn’t hit the ground, you’re more likely to top the ball — and we know that doesn’t end well when there’s water in front of you.
6. Understand how a golf ball gets into the air
Watch how good players allow the bottom of their club to collide with the turf to make a divot. This is necessary to get the ball to launch and carry. If you think you need to lift or scoop the ball, this can lead to an incorrect motion.
There are two key fundamentals that can directly help the club get down to the ground.
First is good posture, where you’re bent forward from the hips so that your hands hang directly below your shoulders. The second is allowing your arms to straighten and extend down toward the ground on the downswing. This helps the club hit the ground in order to make a divot.
7. Play to either the widest target or the shortest carry
As you learn how to clear the water more frequently, try to choose a good landing spot for your next shot.
I always suggest finding the shortest carry or the widest target — even if it means aiming a little bit away from the pin.
You can take more risks as you see more success, but only do so once you feel confident in your ability to clear the water first.
8. Make the smartest decision for your skill level
If you’re struggling to make solid contact, it might not be the best idea to just be aggressive and try to clear the water. In some cases, laying up is the best decision.
On the contrary, if you’re having a fantastic round, why risk losing a ball in the water and pick up an unnecessary penalty stroke? This is where having good course management and understanding the carry distance for each club is so important.
To help me make better decisions, I often use the Golflogix GPS app, which provides all sorts of valuable info during a round. From distances to the pin, to yardages to hazards — and lots in-between — you’ll be able to evaluate risk versus reward prior to committing to your shot.
9. Finish in balance
Finishing in balance reinforces that you’ve made a proper swing and have finished with your weight on your forward foot. This is a great checkpoint to make sure that you’ve avoided trying to scoop the ball by falling back in your swing.
10. Aim wisely
Your only goal for this shot is to clear the water; so remember that.
Too often, amateurs try to hit the hero shot by “going for it” and doing more damage to their scorecard. Sure, you can work your way up to that, but many players don’t have that type of ability.
This is where aim comes into play.
Instead of staring down the green, find the best spot for you to reasonably clear the water. Using alignment sticks (available here) in practice are a great way to help improve your aim and alignment, and can make a big difference when you use those same visual cues during a round.
For more golf tips, head over to my Instagram account.
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