Skipping Your Ball Across Water: A Quick Lesson from a PGA Pro

– By Charles Lostracco

Over the years, I have been fortunate to play with many of golf’s greatest players. When I first moved down to Naples, Florida, I was playing a round of golf with the late, great Ken Venturi at Eagle Creek Country Club. On the fifth hole, he hit this beautiful iron shot from 120 yards to about 5 feet with what appeared to be a longer iron.

I asked him what he hit. His reply was, “Don’t ever ask me what I hit again, son.” You have to be able to see the shot and feel the shot, and then hit the shot. As the round went on that day, Ken revealed that the iron on the 5th hole was in fact a five iron, and that I must be able to hit a five iron 100 yards, as well as a full 185 yards.

On the 18th hole, a sharp dog leg left 465 yards long, with trees and water along the left side of the hole. Ken hooked his persimmon driver left into the trees, and I ripped my tee shot down the middle. Ken called me over to survey his shot.

He asked me, “What do you think I should do here, son?” Seeing as we were both a couple under and playing for a few bucks, and I was sitting directly in the middle of the fairway, I suggested that the prudent play would be to pitch the ball back into the fairway, get it up and down for par and hope I don’t make birdie. Ken looks me in the eye and says, “Hand me my 2 iron,” and then tells me to step back. What happened next was amazing.

When I tell you he is completely blocked out by trees, and has to cover 190 yards of water to get to the green, but makes birdie and beats me, would you believe me?

He’d take this 2 iron low under the trees, and skip it across the water. It hopped onto the front of the green about 10 feet from the hole, making it the most amazing shot I have ever seen. He looks at me and says, “I bet you did not see that coming.”

Ken talked about the shot where the odds were against him, but the situation dictated him to take a chance. After the round, we had some drinks, and then he showed me how to skip golf balls across water. I have spent years practicing, and any chance I get when the situation calls for it.

How to Develop this Shot

Skipping a ball across water is a lot like skimming a flat stone on a pond. You need to make the ball and the stone hit the water at the shallowest possible angle.

When you envision your swing for this shot, just think about how you drop the shoulder of your throwing arm to make a sidearm motion. It is a similar move with your golf swing.

To hit this shot, use a long Iron (in today’s world that would be a 4 or 5 iron). Then, set the ball back in your stance, with your weight on your front, and your hands well ahead of the ball. This is not a long swing, but it is a much flatter swing than normal. You must be sure to contact the ball crisply, with a descending blow. Hooking the ball will give it added momentum and spin, and possibly an extra skip or two, so through impact you’ll want to try to turn the toe of the club past the heel.

Just as with any other trouble shot, you need to take a good look at the intended landing area on the other side of the water. If the area is steeply- sloped with tightly mown grass, the ball will hit and then roll back into the water, so in that situation it may not be worth trying this specific shot.

– Charles Lostracco PGA is the Director of Golf at The Classics at Lely Resort

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