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Skipping the Ball at The Masters


Skip Shot Across No. 16 Water at Augusta National
Skipping balls across the water at The Masters on the 16th hole

Tiger Woods (from left), Jim Furyk and Fred Couples take part in the Masters tradition of trying to skip balls across the water on the 16th hole during practice rounds.

Andrew Redington / Getty Images
There are a lot of traditions during tournament week at The Masters. Perhaps only one of them can be called "impish." That's the tradition of players trying to skip golf balls across the water on the 16th hole during practice rounds.

Hole No. 16 at Augusta National Golf Club is a 170-yard par-3; most of that yardage is carry over a pond. Here's how the "skip shot" usually goes:

Players in their practice rounds arrive at the No. 16 tee. They hit their tee balls as part of the practice round. But fans want more. Some of them start yelling out "skip" or "skip it." Most of the golfers who hear the chant respond to the fans' demands. (Those that don't are often booed.)

The players move up in front of the tee boxes to a bank that slopes down to the water's edge. They hit their balls down onto the water's surface (often by closing the clubface, setting the ball back in the stance, and putting hook spin on the ball), attempting to make the ball skip or skim across the surface of the pond.

If the golf ball reaches the other side of the pond, it must climb an embankment in front of the No. 16 green in order to reach the putting surface.

Any skipped golf ball that does wind up on the green receives a huge cheer. But every player who makes an attempt, whether successful or not, receives applause and cheers from the fans.

These days, almost every golfer attempts the skip shot at No. 16 (who wants to disappoint those fans?). How many successfully get across? Estimates vary, but the percentage of balls that wind up on the green is not high. Maybe half the balls reach the opposite bank.

Has Any Skip Shot Resulted in a Hole-in-One?

Golfers who've been going to Augusta National for years can get pretty good at skipping the ball. Nick Faldo once skipped four balls in quick succession, rapid-fire style, across. And, yes, there have even been a couple holes-in-one. Vijay Singh in 2009 and Martin Kaymer in 2012 both skipped balls across the pond that reached the No. 16 green, rolled to the cup and dropped in for aces.

Who Started the Ball Skipping Tradition, and When?

Who started the skip shot tradition? Nobody is really certain, but a Golf Digest article published in 2005 pointed to Lee Trevino as the prime suspect. Trevino is believed to have first skipped a ball across the No. 16 pond sometime in the early to mid-1980s. So while the ball-skipping tradition is one of The Masters' most fun, it is also one of its youngest traditions.

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