Masters 2023: The Augusta National practice round trick shot you need, explained
The Champions Dinner. The Par-3 Contest. Tiger Woods and Fred Couples playing a practice round together. These are the type of Masters traditions most amateurs will never get to experience. One that they can try to replicate, however, is the practice round ritual of skipping shots across the water, which players try at Augusta National's par-3 16th.
If you play on a course with water, you probably know this trick shot comes with high stakes. Pull off the shot and you’re the artist confident enough to risk a $4 ball to show off your moves. Fail, and watch your Pro-V1 torpedo to the bottom of the pond.
Fortuntatley the shot is fairly straightforward provided you follow a few fundamentals. A few years back, Rickie Fowler gave us his keys to pull it off. Our advice: Start with a cheap scuffed ball until you’ve mastered the shot. Otherwise, this can be an expensive pursuit.
1. Move it back
The secret of this shot is to create the proper angle of the ball hitting the water. If you drive the ball into the water at too steep of an angle, it won’t skip. Yet, if you don’t create a downward trajectory, you risk the ball never hitting the water, as Tom Kim did on Monday, playing alongside Tiger, Rory and Fred Couples.
To find the proper window, Fowler says he plays the shot “middle, to a little back of middle” in his stance. If you watch the guys hitting the shot at Augusta, they will head to the front of the tee and hit the shot off a slight downslope. This also promotes the downward trajectory needed to get the ball to skip.
2. Long iron
You’re essentially hitting an extreme punch shot, so avoid any club with significant loft on it. (We’re guessing that was the mistake Kim made in flying the water.) Fowler opts for a 4-iron, which makes it easier to get the ball to come out low and driving forward. If you tend to have a steep swing with a lot of shaft lean, you can get away with a 6-iron, since you already deloft the club in your normal swing.
3. Open stance
You need to hit the shot hard. Each skip the ball takes kills the momentum, and without enough initial power, the ball won’t have the energy to make it across. As you saw in the above video, Tiger, Rory and Freddie all failed to put enough heat behind it to climb the bank on the other side.
To make sure he has enough power behind the shot, Fowler says he takes a “little open stance, which helps me get through the ball.” With a square or closed stance, your lower body will have a tough time rotating out of the way on this punch shot. Opening your stance encourages the lower-body rotation needed to provide the power at the bottom of the swing.
4. Weight forward, stay level
The water-skipper falls into the same family of shots as the bump-and-run and the punch. In all three, you need a descending blow to hit a driving shot that comes out low. With your ball position already moved slightly back, put the majority of weight on your lead leg.
“I feel like my weight is more on my front foot, just so it makes it easier to get level with the ground,” Rickie says. This is especially important if you’re hitting the shot off a downslope, when you’ll need your body tilting with the slope to avoid hitting it fat. Keeping your weight on your lead leg throughout the swing will promote the steep angle of attack and significant shaft lean needed.
Rickie talks about the importance of staying level with the ground through the shot. “If I’m able to stay level, that allows me to get into my left side and get the ball starting down and low,” he says. Avoid any backward movement of your head or upper body in the downswing—that will add loft and make clean contact difficult.
5. Pick a spot
Just like you might pick out a spot where you want to land a chip, get specific with where you’re looking to hit the water. “I’m picking a spot kind of 10, 12 yards out,” Fowler says. There’s a bit of personal preference involved, but in general, if you pick a spot close to you, the ball will take more skips, so be sure to hit it hard. Avoid picking a spot closer than 10 yards in front of you. You’ll drive the shot too low and risk it diving into the water.
Mix it up and have some fun with it. Hitting the water in different spots will change the way the ball reacts. For Rickie’s full explanation alongside Butch Harmon, check out this video.