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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Playing a Ball That's Under Water

After all the rain that's been dumped on us by hurricanes lately, you may have thought to yourself, "Hey, I wonder if I could play golf underwater?"

Ok, you probably haven't... but it's a good lead-in to this tip on playing a ball from a water hazard.

Normally the best course of action after dunking your ball is simply to take your penalty and get a decent lie. But sometimes there's no decent lie available, or maybe you really need to get a score on this hole. Under certain circumstances you just might be able to play from that hazard. The trick is knowing what kind of shots are playable.

Perhaps the most famous instance of this was Henrik Stenson's "underwear" shot during the 2009 WGC-CA Championship. I include this for two reasons:
  • Henrik explains the type of situation where playing this kind of shot might be a good gamble, and
  • I have numerous female readers who will certainly enjoy seeing this again. ;-)

This video by teaching pro John Hanrahan of the Fort Collins Country Club in Colorado covers the basics of the shot... and takes a dig at Stenson for good measure:

The real key here is the depth of the shot. If the top of the ball breaks the surface of the water, you have a decent chance of pulling this off. Hanrahan is playing out of a deeper lie. Note that he is in ankle-deep water; this is the outside limit for this kind of shot.

Why? Because when the ball is completely under water, its image is refracted by the water. That simply means that the ball isn't exactly where it appears to be. If you don't allow for that, you'll just drive it down into the mud. And, just as in a sand trap, you aren't allowed to touch the surface of the hazard with your club. You play it just like a sand shot.

Make sure you practice this shot before you attempt it during a round. It's not a high-percentage shot, and it's no fun getting messy if you leave it in the hazard.

Of course, if you're playing with the ladies, you have the right kind of body, and you don't have a rainsuit, they might not care. I'm not going there, though. ;-)

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