How to Hit a Flop Shot, as Told by Hank Haney

The flop is all glory or failure.

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Chase Pellerin

You just bombed a five iron out of the rough on a meaty Par 5. An unfortunate bounce, however, leaves you in the first cut of rough 20 yards from the green. Bunkers hug the front and you’ve got a pond lurking in the back. What you’re looking for is a soft arching flight that rotates feverishly in the air as it ascends towards the sky, and then dives to stick bellow the pin. Tap in birdie, right?

The flop shot is one of the more artistic shots in golf. It’s a full-swing, high-risk, high-reward scenario — and that’s if you know what you’re doing. Failure can be demoralizing, where a scorching skull off the toe can leave you circling the snowman on the scorecard. Oh, but if you succeed, the shot leaves you looking like Mickelson, at least until the next tee.

We asked golf guru, Hank Haney, one of the top instructors in the US, who has worked with everyone from Tiger Woods to Charles Barkley to walk us through hitting a proper flop shot. “The general rule from off the green”, Haney says, “is to putt whenever you can, chip when you can’t putt, pitch if you have to stop the ball quicker and flop only when you absolutely have to or are highly skilled.” If you’re skilled and you find yourself in a pinch read on.

1 If you haven’t practiced — don’t try it. “You shouldn’t attempt a flop shot unless you are highly skilled, because the bigger swing with a faster speed means that if you happen to catch too much ball, the shot has the potential for disaster”, Haney says. In other words, if you haven’t practiced it at the range, don’t try bringing it to the course.

2 Attempt only when you’re close. According to Haney, the range with an under-control flop shot is very close to the pin. “The ball won’t go very far with a flop shot. 10 to 20 yards is about as far as most flop shots should be.” This shot is hard enough when in rhythm, so if you’re out of range don’t try to be a hero.

3 Choose a weapon with loft. “You always play a flop shot with your most lofted club in the bag. For most golfers that is either a 56-, 58-, 60-degree wedge.” Even the most experienced golfers will not be able to get the desired shot with a pitching wedge. So don’t try it.

4 Keep your stance open and low. The grip for a flop shot is the same as your normal approach, but the stance should be open and a little wider. Your hands should be lower than normal at address and your club face should be set open. “The wider stance lowers your center of gravity and lowering your hands adds loft to the club face.”

5 Trust your setup and swing. If you’ve got the right club and the right stance, there is no need to try to aid the ball into the air. Just swing. But Hank offers two adjustments to note: “The handle is set lower at address and the handle is also set back a little bit, instead of forward toward the target.” After that is in place, just trust your swing.

6 Speed is dependent on skill. When it comes to taking the shot, a couple factors come into play. Haney explained that you must first note how far you need to hit the shot, and then pair that with the amount of loft that you are working with and how much you are able to keep the club face open and lofted at impact. “The more loft the faster you can swing and hit the ball higher without necessarily going longer”, Haney says. The more confident you are with this shot, the higher (but not always farther) you can let it fly.

7 Leave no trace. The common thought in golf is that a clean divot symbolizes that you were able to connect with the whole ball and therefore found the desired result. For a flop shot, the opposite is true. “Because you are hitting a flop shot with an open club face, the bottom of the club or the bounce of the sand wedge is hitting the ground rather than the leading edge, so there should be little or no divot with a flop shot.”

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