The flop shot

This is a post I’ve been wanting to make for a while, but haven’t found the time until now. As a player who considers himself a solid ball striker and able around the greens, one shot I’ve developed that has really bailed me out when I need it is the flop.  Many golfers really don’t know how to maximize their potential shots around the green, and too often try to work without an idea of what is appropriate or when.  The point of entry is to get you on your way to developing a solid, go to flop shot.

PRE-SHOT CONCEPTS

Before anything technical is started, I’d like to first talk about when this shot is actually a good idea to use.  If you find yourself in a position around the green that leaves the pin very tight, and possibly need to get over a hazard, the flop is a very nifty trick.  The flop sets up in such a way that you can control its spin, how it will land, and what kind of distance you want out of it, so in this regard it is a very enticing shot.  This doesn’t always make it the right shot, however.  The driving force of the flop shot that makes it such a creative and useful option is the amount of height you get on the ball, and the relative angle of descent.  On lies that are below the pin, or in other words the pin is elevated above you from wherever you are, this means that the ball will come into its landing zone sooner with more spin, and as a result will stop quicker.  On lies that are equal to or above the pin, you have just the opposite effect.  The ball takes longer to reach its landing zone, and as a result will lose spin as it is coming down.  this promotes a ball that will likely hop and roll slightly or simply release once it lands.  While the latter can be useful, most of the time the better option is  some type of chip shot onto the green or a bump and run.  If you do find yourself below the pin however, especially in a situation where the pin is tight, the flop is a very, very useful shot to have in your arsenal.

One other word of caution: even if the situation deems it to be a viable option, the flop is not always the best shot to make.  I love playing in a random foursome with the guy who just learned how to use the flop shot and every time he gets around the green thinks that’s the shot he needs to make.  It’s fun to throw darts at the pin, but it’s not always something that is doable.  I can vividly remember watching a foursome member in a random pairing at a local public course hit a Phil-style flop from just off the green at a tight pin for almost no apparent reason, and seeing him land it to within 10 ft.  I was in about the same position, as we both came up short, and proceeded to take my putter out, putt up and hole out with a birdie.  He ended up two putting, and if we were playing any kind of money game, I would’ve robbed him blind.

THE SHOT

Alright, so onto the fun stuff. To pull this shot off, you need at least a 58* wedge, and hopefully for the beginners reading this, a wedge with a good amount of bounce (10 degrees or more). One of the most important pieces to the flop, from Mickelson’s short and high flops to Angel Cabrera’s releasing flops, is the setup.  First, you need to open your club face almost completely.  It has to be to the point where you feel like the back of your club is evenly touching the turf below it. You are going to want to have the ball pretty far up in your stance as well, definitely no farther back then one ball length past the inside of your left heel (for right-handed golfers) and no farther up then your big toe.  You also want a very open stance, to offset the club head being so far open.  Finally, you have to let the position of the ball dictate how you set your weight. If the ball is on the fairway, you would want to move your weight forward, allowing you to come into the ball aggressively and the back of the wedge you are hitting, called the bounce of the club, to literally bounce off the turf and kick your ball up.  If you are in the rough and your ball is sitting up, then your weight has to be more even. This shallows out the clubs path to the ball and at the same time adds bounce so you can create the same effect you had on the ball from the fairway.  If you find yourself deep in the rough, almost like a plugged bunker shot, you want to position your weight forward again, like you would in the fairway, but this time exaggerate it a bit.  If you don’t, you wont be able to get through the grass. You’re also going to need to swing quite a bit harder or again, you will not get through the grass.

The swing path taken with a flop is also different from a normal shot.  In order to properly use the bounce on your wedge, you need to make sure that your club is coming across your body in a very outside to in manner. That may sound strange at first, but the reasoning is pretty simple:  with the club face open as aggressively as it is, an inside out swing path  would not be able to properly get under the ball and as a result you would blade all of your shots.  An outside in swing path essentially returns the club to its proper orientation and shoots the ball forward, where an inside out path would in theory actually push it way right.

IMAGES (click to enlarge)

As you can see here, I play a 60* wedge with 6* of bounce.  The reason for less bounce is simple, my swing doesn’t tend to dig and I play on courses that tend to firm up a bit.  If you are a better player and can adapt your game, this is not an issue, but if you are just starting out I recommend getting more bounce no matter what. A lob wedge doesn’t need 14+ degrees of bounce, but for the beginner I would start at 9 and end at 12, depending on your swing.

You want to see the club at least this far open, and in reality a bit more would not hurt.  If you’re after a Phil-style flop, then you would want the toe of the club to almost actually touch the ground.

Here the ball is about a ball length back from my heel , and my stance is open.  Again, if this was an actual setup you’d probably want to be a bit more open, and depending on the spin I want to get out of the shot, I will play the ball a bit forward.  If you were to set up with the ball in this exact position, you would be creating a shot that maximizes spin and will lower the ball flight of the flop a bit, causing it to fly farther and stop sooner.

If you have any questions on the content of this post, please leave a comment and I will respond as best I can, or drop an email.  I am not a teaching pro, just a good golfer who is looking to pass on the lessons he has learned in his golfing life.

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