Golf Shot Over Water

To a non-golfer, it's tough to imagine what could scare anyone about playing such a docile game.

Any actual golfer can list a bevy of terrifying scenarios, none more frightening than a long shot over water.

It's true, no bodily harm is threatened by such a shot. Unless you're a professional competing in a tournament, the only financial implications are the potential loss of a new golf ball or two. And knocking a ball into the drink is unlikely to damage your marriage or other key relationships.

So why do these situations strike such fear in the hearts of golfers? Well, there's the universal aversion to failure, for one. Number two, a shot into the water invokes a score-damaging penalty – and golfers can be serious about their scores.

The irony is, the more you fear a bad result, the more likely you are to suffer one. If nerves often get the best of you in challenging circumstances, try the process vs. outcome approach.?

  • Acknowledge the hazard in planning your shot, then put it out of your mind.
  • Focus intently on your pre-shot routine, taking care to follow each step until you draw the club back. In other words, control that which you have control over.

In any tense situation, it's good to take deep breaths and slow yourself down.

How to Play Scary Golf Shots without Tension

How to Play Scary Golf Shots without Tension

Golf, in general, is not a scary game. You don't have to run into other players like in some other sports, and you don't have to catch or hit a ball traveling at a high rate of speed. In comparison to other popular sports, golf is quite tame. With that said, you are still going to encounter scary shots from time to time. And when those shots do come up, it is important to be prepared. Often, it is your performance of the scariest shots of the day that will dictate the number you write down on your card when all is said and done.

In this article, we are going to offer advice on how you can conquer s%cary shots with impressive consistency. Also, we will talk about what kinds of shots most golfers consider to be 'scary', and how you can make them a little less intimidating simply by adjusting your outlook. With a combination of the right mindset and the right physical technique, those shots that you once thought were quite scary will suddenly seem pretty easy.

The title of this article mentions that you need to play these kinds of shots without tension, and that is certainly true. Tension is only going to cause trouble in your golf game, as it will prevent you from living up to your abilities on the course. When you are tense, it becomes difficult to release the club properly through the hitting area. Your release will be restricted, meaning you'll have trouble squaring the face at impact. Players who struggle with a poor release due to excess tension tend to miss the sweet spot on most swings, resulting in shots that come up short of the target.

There are a couple benefits to reducing or eliminating the tension in your game. For one thing, you should be able to play at a higher level, as mentioned above. Also, you should add to your enjoyment of the game, which is always a good thing. You don't want to be tense as you make your way around the course, as that isn't anyone's idea of a good time. Rather than letting the tension take away from your enjoyment of golf, learn to set it to the side and have a great time from the first hole to the last.

All of the content below is based on a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.

A List of Possibilities

A List of Possibilities

A scary golf shot is in the eye of the beholder. A shot that looks extremely intimidating to one player might not even cause another player to take a second look. There is no exact definition of a scary golf shot, since every individual golfer is going to have a different threshold for what causes a shot to feel scary. Basically, if you think a shot is scary, it is – it doesn't matter what anyone else has to say on the matter.

While there will always be an individual element to this discussion, we can offer up a list of shots which most golfers would agree are scary. As you read this list, think about how you would feel when preparing to play a shot in each of the situations. Most likely, some of these scenarios would intimidate you more than others.

  • Playing a shot over water. This is likely the first shot that comes to mind when thinking about this topic. For most golfers, even experienced players, hitting a shot over water is at least a little scary. Depending on the specifics of the shot – it's much more intimidating when it's a long shot – you may feel your confidence dip considerably when getting ready to make a swing. You know that miss-hitting the ball, even just a little, could cause you to hit the shot into the water. Of course, golf course designers know that water hazards make golfer nervous, so they tend to put them in places which will achieve maximum effect. To play this game well, you need to learn how to make your way over water hazards without too much trouble.
  • Hitting a tee shot to a narrow fairway. There don't necessarily need to be hazards involved when you find yourself facing a scary shot. It is easy to be intimidated by the look of a narrow fairway as you stand up on the tee. Without much short grass waiting to catch your shot, you might find yourself thinking more and more about the trouble that lurks to the right and left. Maybe there are some trees you need to avoid, or maybe the course features long rough. Whatever the case, you may struggle to make a quality swing simply because you are thinking about all of the ways in which the shot can go wrong. Narrow fairways are extremely common in golf, so this is one type of scary shot you'll need to learn how to handle as soon as possible.
  • Playing from a poor lie. Sometimes, the amount of intimidation provided by a given shot has more to do with the lie of the ball than anything else. When the ball is lying in a tough position – down in some deep grass, on a bare patch, etc. – it will be harder to strike a clean shot. Therefore, your mind is going to be racing before the swing begins. Where is the shot going to go? Will you be able to make clean contact? The only way to improve your skills from bad lies is through experience, so you should find that poor lies are less and less intimidating as time goes by.
  • Aiming too close to out-of-bounds stakes. It is often true that out-of-bounds stakes are the most-damaging kind of obstacle you can face on the course. Since hitting your ball out-of-bounds is a stroke and distance penalty, you'll essentially lose two shots as a result of that mistake. So, when you aim a shot relatively near to the white stakes, you are sure to be nervous. Sometimes, you can alter your game plan to play away from the stakes and reduce your risk. In other cases, however, you won't have much of a choice. Being able to rise to the occasion and strike a great shot despite the lurking white stakes is the sign of a quality player.
  • Hitting an approach shot to a difficult hole location. The last point on our list is one that probably doesn't seem so scary at first. Even if the hole is cut near the edge of the green, this shouldn't be too intimidating, right? Without a water hazard or out-of-bounds area to give you problems, it is tempting to think that there is nothing to worry about here. That would be incorrect, however. If you miss the green in the wrong spot when the hole is cut close to an edge, you can easily waste a stroke or two trying to recover. Fortunately, this type of scary shot has a relatively easy solution. Instead of taking on the hole location, play your shot toward the center of the green and let your putter do the rest of the work.

Scary shots come in all shapes and sizes, and you never really know when one is going to pop up on the course. For instance, you could be playing a relatively easy hole but wind up with a scary shot as the result of getting out of position. Or, you could play a difficult hole with easy, thanks to a beautiful tee shot that gives you a great angle to the green. Since you never quite know when you'll face a scary shot in golf, the best thing you can do is to be prepared at all times to handle this pressure. Throughout the rest of the article, we will offer some tips on how you can effectively deal with scary shots on the course.

Finding the Right Frame of Mind

Finding the Right Frame of Mind

Without a doubt, your mindset before hitting a scary shot is going to be the most important piece of the puzzle. You will need to have the physical side of your swing on the right page as well, and we will deal with that later. For now, however, we are going to talk about your mental approach to the scary shots you are inevitably going to encounter.

It would be easy enough for us to tell you that it's important to relax when getting ready to hit a scary shot. If you could just relax, you'd be able to make a comfortable swing and you would probably be left with a great result. But how do you relax when you are staring at a huge water hazard between your ball and the hole? Clearly, the task of relaxing is easier said than done. So, to actually get to a good frame of mind for these swings, we are going to have to dig a little deeper.

First, you need to make sure you are aiming at the right target. One of the best ways to reduce anxiety in this kind of situation is to pick a smart target. That doesn't mean you'll be able to take all of the fear out of the shot necessarily, but you may be able to make it a bit more comfortable. A good example of this strategy can be seen when playing over a water hazard to a green. In our example, playing around the side of the hazard is not an option – this is a forced carry, and the only way to reach the green is to go over the pond.

To make this type of shot less stressful, you may want to think twice about your club selection. Instead of picking a club based on the hole location, choose a club that is going to let you hit the green in an area which is as far away from the water as possible. So, if the water comes up near the front of the green, use a club that can carry most of the way to the back. Sure, a well-struck shot is going to leave you with a long putt, but that's okay. You will have successfully avoided the water, and you can do your best to two putt for a par. Better yet, you should be able to relax during the swing, as you will know that you are using enough club to clear the water with ease.

At this point, we've already reduce your nervousness a little bit simply be picking a target which is going to maximize your margin for error. The other thing you can do to improve your frame of mind is actually to think about the negative side for a moment. What will happen if your ball goes in the water? Or out-of-bounds? Or into that deep bunker in front of the green? Sure, you'll lose a stroke or two if you hit a bad shot, but that probably isn't such a big deal in the long run. It's just golf, after all, and you can enjoy yourself on the course even if you hit a few bad shots along the way.

Thinking about negative outcomes for a moment can be incredibly liberating. While you still don't want to hit a bad shot, of course, you'll realize that doing so just isn't that big of a deal. You will simply move on with your round and try to make the best of the situation. Thinking this way can take some of the intimidation out of tough shots, allowing you to focus more intently on the task at hand.

With practice, you should get better and better at finding the right frame of mind for dealing with scary shots. Even just using the two tips in this section – picking a smart target and keeping the game in perspective – will go a long way toward helping you succeed. By building up your mental toughness when dealing with scary shots, you mind will be that much stronger when dealing with a 'standard' golf shot elsewhere on the course.