It’s a real knee-knocker if you attempt it, but incredibly rewarding if you pull it off. Picture this. Say you have some skins on the line with your opponent, you’ve got no green to work with in a thick rough lie, he/she is snickering thinking you’ll be paying up and buying drinks. Little do they know, you have a secret weapon in your game, the flop shot. You take your swing, your golf ball lands close to the hole and stays, you save some shots and you steal one back from them.
The flop shot is one of the riskier shots in golf. It requires patience, plenty of practice with a good dose of guts. On the same note, it is not as scary as you think and is a shot many golfers have fun hitting. Personally, it is one of the best feelings to pull off a nice high flop shot that gets me out of trouble and helps me save par on a tough hole.
This great game of golf is also game of experience, and the more shots you have in your arsenal, the more you will see your scores improve. In this article, we will walk you through what exactly is a flop shot and will describe step-by-step how to successfully hit one.
What is a Flop Shot in Golf?
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A flop shot is a high-launching shot that lands softly on the green without much roll. It is typically a short distance shot and is used to maneuver around the green. The launch of a flop shot if exponentially higher than your typical chip shots around the green. A flop shot is unique because it typically requires an aggressive swing for relatively short distance. It is a shot that can be highly rewarding if you pull it off, but it requires plenty of practice before you put it in play.
Most times, this shot is used to help players save par in difficult situations. It is a useful option to have in your bag and can give you an edge over the competition.
When do you hit a Flop Shot in Golf?
Say your approach shot from the fairway lands in the rough just off the green, and there isn’t much green to work with. You can’t hit a bump-n-run or a normal chip shot because you know the golf ball will scoot and roll way past the hole. You want to eliminate roll, have your golf ball land near the hole and stay. This is where a flop shot comes in handy.
There are other situations where the flop shot comes in handy as well. Say, on your next shot, your golf ball needs to clear a bunker, or a little stream of water that is separating it from the hole, and that there isn’t much green to work with. This is where a flop shot will work well.
It makes a huge difference when you’re putting from 6 feet away for par versus 20 feet. A flop shot has the ability to get your golf ball closer to the hole if executed properly. This takes a lot of stress of your game because golf is already so tough! The flop shot is also a creative way for you to manage your game around the green. Chances are, us average golfers are likely to miss the green on our approach shots, so the more tools we have in the bag to save that crucial par, the more you will see scores improve.
What Golf Club is the best for a Flop Shot?
The easiest golf club to use to execute a flop shot is a lob wedge. It has the most loft (typically 58, 60, 62 degrees) to begin with and is easier to ‘open’ the golf club even more to get more loft. However, keep in mind that this question really depends on what you already have in your bag for wedges. Some players do not like to hit lob wedges but may have sand wedges that are 56 degrees and lower. You can definitely hit flop shots with sand wedges as well. Rarely do players use pitching wedges or irons to hit flop shots.
Considerations When Hitting a Flop Shot
- Judging the lie
One of the first things to assess before deciding if a flop shot is appropriate is how the golf ball lies on the grass. If the lie is not conducive to a flop shot, you should consider a different kind of shot to hit. Diving into details, if the golf ball sitting softly on the grass and you feel the clubhead can slide under the golf ball, that would be a decent lie for a flop shot. Be wary of the golf ball sitting too far up because you could easily hit your flop shot fat. In contrast, if you feel the ground is firm and your wedge can’t get under the golf ball, then your clubhead will likely bounce off the ground. This will result in hitting your shot thin and ‘skulling’ it.
- Bounce on your wedge
After addressing lie quality, you need to connect how your wedge’s bounce affects the shot. If you’ve read our review of best wedges on the market, we explain bounce as the curvature of the sole on your wedge. The rounder it is, the higher the bounce. When applying to flop shots, a bounce of 10 or 12 degrees should be good enough. Too low a bounce and you may find your wedges digging into the ground too much. Too high a bounce and it may be hard to slide the clubface under the golf ball and hit a flop shot properly.
- Swing length
Flop shots can be hit with a full-length backswing for longer distances, or shorter backswings on shorter distances. Assuming the flop shot is ideally struck, the harder and longer you swing, the higher the golf ball should launch and travel. Let’s say you need to clear a bunker or a water hazard, but the pin is tucked close to the fringe with little green to work with, an aggressive full-swing flop shot could be the play. If you are closer to the green, but you want to land the golf ball softly with a bit of trickle, a three-quarter swing or half-swing flop shot might be more suitable. These are more delicate shots and require softer touch and lots of practice. But this is where you can be creative and add many different kinds of shots to your bag!
As with all golf swings, committing to the shot is essential to successfully pulling off the flop. As we said before, flop shots are high-risk high-reward and you need to believe that you can execute it successfully. This point is part of the mental aspect of the game. Flop shots aren’t easy and require ample amount of practice before bringing it to the course. Our advice would be to stay focused, take some good quality practice swings, and eliminate any doubt before pulling the trigger. Easier said than done, but if the situation calls for a flop shot, just do it.
How to hit a Flop Shot
- Visualize your flop shot
This first step is key. Painting a picture of how you want your flop shot to look is an important aspect in generating a flop shot. Being able to see in your mind the ideal flop shot trajectory and where your golf ball lands lands is a positive way to have your mindset in the right space before hitting a tough shot. After addressing the condition of your lie, take a moment to visualize that ideal picture, and translate that into action.
- Setting Up
When setting up for a flop shot, you always want to have an open stance. For right-handers, this means your feet point left of the target, and your lob wedge is open as much as possible to maximize loft. Feet point to the right of the target for left-handers. Your wedge should also be pointed towards the target. This kind of setup allows you to slide the golf club under the golf ball, almost cutting across it to pop the golf ball up in the air. It also makes it easier to accelerate the clubhead through the ball which is essential in a flop shot.
- Build your stance
Naturally, when using your highest lofted wedge and opening up the loft further, the club may feel very short. However, this is a good thing because this encourages you to bend your knees and create a stable base. For flop shots, take a wider stance compared to your normal wedge shots. Imagine your feet are slightly further apart than your shoulder length. Keep your knees bent and your back straight and feel as if your body is planted firmly over the golf ball. This creates a strong stance that leads to proper contact on a flop shot.
- Ball Position
Where you place that golf ball in your stance depends on the lie. On flat and even uphill lie, it is ideal to have the golf ball forward in your stance (closer to the left foot for right handers, opposite for lefties). This promotes the clubhead to slide underneath the ball and increase loft even more, creating a shot trajectory that launches high and leads to the ball landing softly. When faced with a downhill lie, the golf ball should be placed closer towards the back foot. Downhill lies naturally lower the trajectory of your shots but it doesn’t necessarily take the flop shot out of the equation.
- Weight Shift
Don’t hang back. Keep this thought in your mind because we see average joes make this mistake often. For a flop shot, provided you’ve built a proper and sturdy stance, you should feel 60-70% of your weight on your forward leg during the entire swing. This is the opposite of ‘hanging back’. It allows your golf club to hit the golf ball first and minimize the chances of hitting your flop shot fat. Flop shots typically take place in the rough or when the grass is long and scruffy. Your clubhead is bound to catch some grass before hitting the golf ball, but ideally the impact should be as close to the golf ball as possible. Ensuring your weight is shifted to your forward leg will lead to the best possible strike.
In addition to our earlier comments about swing length, the backswing mechanics shouldn’t be too much different than your swing on regular wedge shots. One thought to keep in mind is as your start your backswing, ensure you have a wide takeaway and feel as if your clubhead is in front of you. This allows the clubhead to get under the golf ball in a steep path, which gets your ball in the air faster.
As you start your downswing, we refer to our earlier pointer about commitment. Whatever you do, stay committed and do not decelerate your swing. This is key in achieving the proper strike in a flop shot. With your strong stance and weight on your forward foot, keep your eye fixated on the golf ball and your head steady throughout the swing. When the golf club is close to impact, feel as if your hands are releasing, sort of a flipping-over movement that you see in baseball swings. Ensure your weight continues to be on the front leg but remain balanced on the follow through.
Wrapping Up the Flop Shot
Congratulations, you’ve managed to successfully hit that high, soft-landing flop shot to give yourself a tap-in for par. Well, at least we hope the above content will give you the tools to build yourself a flop shot to do that.
As we mentioned before, the flop shot will take time and practice to master, but once you’ve gotten the hang of it, it can be quite fun to hit and very useful wherever you play. We’ve talked a lot about the mechanics and fundamentals of the flop shot, but also keep in mind that the element of feel is just as important. Everything from getting used to the stance, to how your golf club feels with the clubface open, to how the golf club reacts with the golf ball in the flop shot translates to muscle memory. We like to think of this as information for your body. The more information, the smarter your game becomes, and to acquire more information is to practice. You won’t get comfortable with the flop shot until you get on the course or chipping area and start practicing. Also, this article serves as a guide. Feel free to mess around with instructions above to find your own feel for the flop shot.
In our experience, the flop shot is not used often during a round. Typically, it is a shot you do not want to hit if you don’t have to. It is a sort-of last resort type shot for situations where you’re unable to chip or pitch the golf ball close to the hole. The flop shot can bail you out of these tough spots and is a useful tool for anyone’s golf game.
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