Editor's Note: Every Monday Kevin Hinton, Director of Instruction at
Piping Rock Club in Locust Valley, N.Y. and one of Golf Digest's Best
Young Teachers, tells you how a tour player hits a key shot. This week,
Kevin examines Tiger Woods' miraculous flop wedge from behind the 16th green at Muirfield Village. Jack Nicklaus said afterward that it was "The gutsiest shot I've ever seen...He hits it short, the tournament is over, He hits it long, the tournament is over...He put it in the hole." Tiger went on to win Jack's Memorial Tournament by two strokes, and in the process tied Nicklaus' career tournament victories at 73.
First, here's the shot again...
1. The Mental Component The greenside flop is almost more about the mental side of the game than it is about technique. So question No. 1 is, should I even be thinking about trying this? If you're attempting it for the first time in your club championship, the answer is No! If you've been practicing it and have selected to play this shot, you must commit 100 percent. Any fear or tentativeness will lead to disaster. It is essential you accelerate the club into impact, something that won't happen if you are at all afraid of the potential miss. If you're not "all in," taking your medicine and hitting a chip toward the center of the green is nothing to be frowned upon.
2. The Technique Component Tiger hit this shot almost identically as he would a lofted bunker shot. He said the lie wasn't great--the ball was sitting down a bit in the short rough. He had a very small area of the fringe to land the ball on. He played the ball forward in his stance, the clubface wide open, and the shaft straight or possibly leaning back. This is the setup to maximize loft. He then made a nearly full swing on both sides of the ball, setting the club very early in his backswing, then swinging the club fast and to his left through, keeping the clubface open through impact. Speed is essential to pull off this shot. One absolute in golf is that slow swings produce low shots. The flop is impossible without club head speed.
3. Thump the Ground Just as trying to "thump" the sand is a key to quality bunker shots, making sure you "find" the ground is necessary in hitting a well-executed flop. The feeling is the same. You must return the club to ground level, ensuring the club gets under the ball. This is one of the few times you don't really hit down on the ball, but rather try to get the club to slide underneath. If you do err, however, especially when the ball is sitting down a bit, you must hit this shot fat and come up short. Hitting this shot thin will send the ball 100 yards over the green (in this case, in the water).