Is there some sort of magnetic power in water that attracts a golf ball? If not, then why on earth did a great golfer like Tom Weiskopf need 13 strokes to play a little par 3 hole on Rae's Creed in Augusta? It makes us weekend backers wonder if some unseen force pulled those five balls into the creek or if Tom is just another ordinary human being.
Well, maybe water hazards don't really cause bad golf shots, but they do demand a big penalty for a little mistake. There are very few situations in golf when a bad shot can make a duffer feel more helpless -- or hopeless. Even when a sliced ball is rattling around in the woods, we have a few seconds to hope it will drop into an open lie, or maybe bounce out into the fairway. And the same hope follows a duck hook: Maybe it will hit the cart path for a long roll and a good position. But there is no hope for a ball that plops down in the center of a lake.
Oh, sure, once in a while a ball will hit near the far side of a pond and skip out on the bank, but that skip shot is not always the safest way to play a hole. And when the ball splashes down with that awful sploop!, that shot is finished. It's final.
The marines at Quantico are willing to pay the penalty for knocking the ball into water, but they see no need to lose the ball. On the par 3 fourth hole of the base golf course they have a pond right in front of the green. It's very shallow, lined with concrete, and equipped with a long pole for retrieving the ball. As a hazard, it's not exactly hazardous.
Only a few area golf courses have no water hazards; most have at least one, and several have water on more than half the holes. Most of the larger, straight-across hazards are on par 3 holes. Apparently the architects want to give us a close-up, agonizing view as the ball makes its last journey. There are other wet hazards -- lakes bordering fairways and creeks winding through courses -- where we don't get a big, dramatic splash, but still lose the ball. And then there are those water holes that aren't even supposed to come into play but somehow find a way to reach out and grab a golf ball.
Water holes have been called "psychological hazards" and "a state of mind." This seems to take a little blame off the player, like saying, "If the water wasn't there, I woulda had a good shot!" or words to that effect. But water can also be very attractive. Most water holes greatly enhance the appearance of a golf course, and many serve as reservoirs. And, for one and all, they add excitement to the game.
Here's a very short golf-course made up of water holes selected from 18 of our local courses. According to the clubs' scorecards, it measures less than 4,300 yards, and the holes are generally played at even shorter yardages. The average golfer will shoot a low, low round -- unless, of course, he runs into the same unseen power that caught Tom Weiskopf. . . . 1 -- COUNTRY CLUB OF FAIRFAX, Par 4,362 yards. The water on this hole is no great problem, but the view here makes it a nice place to start a round. The teeing area is elevated in three terraces, and the water lies at the foot of the hill. Long hitters simply ignore the hazard and cut the dogleg to the left; however, a shot directly over the water sets up an easy approach to the green. 2 -- Fort BELVOIR, NORTH, Par 3, 155 yards. Between tee markers and flagstick are 100 yards of water and about the same number of Canadian geese. When the lake was drained for a short time a while back, the mud bottom was dotted with hundreds of golf balls -- and you couldn't see the untold number buried in the mid. 3 -- EVERGREEN, Par 3, 147 yards. On my first visit to Evergreen I played as the guest of a member who was quite familiar with the layout. At No. 3 he popped three balls into the water in three different places. When he finally recovered his voice he had many more than three words to say about it. 4 -- TWIN LAKES, Par 3, 140 yards. With the green located near the end of a long lake, tee markers can be moved along the opposite side of the lake to alter the yardage as much as 60 yards. At any distance, the shot is from shore to shore and must be played over the water. 5 -- WESTWOOD, Par 3, 158 yards. The size of the hazard here is not a matter of great concern; it's the way the water wraps around the right front of the green. A ball with too much fade on it may never be seen again. 6 -- GERMANTOWN, Par 3, 180 yards. A good, crisp iron shot will carry a creek and a lake and then land on a big green surrounded by water. But this is not a gimme par; like most of the undulating greens at Germantown, No. 6 can be tricky. This island green is the most attractive hole on the course. 7 -- INTERNATIONAL TOWN & COUNTRY, Par 4, 380 yards. From the white markers the tee shot must carry 140 yards to clear the water; from the blue it's about 165. It's not safe to play along the side of the hazard because it's too close to the trees. But anyone who's able to avoid the water on No. 6 should have no problem here. 8 -- GREENDALE, Par 3, 157 yards. Here's a good example of the impotenance of water on a golf course. Without the water, this hole would be so dull you might never remember playing it. But dunk a ball, and you might never forget it. 9 -- MARLBOROUGH, Par 4, 323 yards. Water is just about the easiest thing to find on this course. Here a 135-yard tee shot (165 from the gold tees) will clear the major hazard, but a slice can find trouble at a greater distance. On the approach shot the situation is reversed. A hooked ball can catch another hazard near the left front of the green. 10 -- TANTALLON, Par 4, 400 yards. Fourteen water hazards come into play on this course. The white markers on this hole are set about 60 yards behind a 30-yard water hazard. This makes it rather easy to start the back nine -- and to save those tough shots for later. 11 -- CHANTILLY, Par 4, 430 yards. It's possible to play the tee shot off to the side of the lake and carry only about 40 yards of water. But that's a long journey to the green, and not the way the hole was designed. A shot directly across the water to the middle of the fairway must travel from 165 to 195 yards. It's interesting. 12 -- GREENCASTLE, Par 3, 140 yards. Both green and tee are elevated, making this a short, simple shot from one hill to another. Water fills about 90 yards of the distance between hills, and a weak shot can reach the far bank and roll back in the pond. 13 -- WASHTONIAN, Par 4, 364 yards. Water on the right borders this dogleg fairway all the way from tee to green. The player can get by with a 60-yard water carry or he can cut much more yardage off the dogleg. In any case he has another shot over the water, because several months ago they extended the lake to protect the entire front of the green. This is a fine golf hole. 14 -- HERNDON, Par 3, 110 yards. You can't build them much shorter than this and still have room for water. It's an easy shot over a relatively small hazard to a big green. And it's as easy to drop one in the water. 15 -- NEEDWOOD, Par 3, 151 yards. The tee is elevated to where the player can look down on the green and a pond in front of it. This offers a good view of the situation; if the ball should happen to take a dive, you have the dubious pleasure of watching it all the way. 16 -- WOODLAWN, Par 3, 180 yards. There's no shortage of water hazards on this course, and this one may well be the most hazardous. With 80 yards of water waiting right in front of the green, the tee shot must not fall short. Some have done just that. 17 -- BETHESDA, Par 3, 162 yards. Water extends about half the distance from tee markers to a slight uphill rise before the green, and there are no other problems here. In most seasons of the year this could be called a "picture hole." As a matter of fact, it's pictured on the club scorecard. 18 -- NEWBRIDGE, Par 4, 360 yards. The tee shot here is played along the right side of a lake that extends all the way from tee to green. The longer the drive, the shorter the approach shot, diagonally, across the water. It's a good finishing hole, and rated as the most difficult on the course. THE NINETEENTH. Yes, this one is generally wet. But few golfers find water on the 19th.