You can't just roll out of a golf cart and hit a flop shot. This high-lofted pitch—where the ball goes straight up, hangs in the air and lands dead—requires a decent amount of practice and a whole lot of confidence. It's one of the game's ultimate risk-reward plays. Hit it well, and your playing partners will be shaking their heads as you tap in for par. Hit it poorly, and you'll be scrambling to save double bogey. I flop it only when I have to, mostly when I've missed a green right next to the pin and any other type of shot won't get the ball close. Think of it as an "in case of emergency, break glass" shot. Here's what I've been working on to hit the flop great when I need it. —with Ron Kaspriske
SET UP WIDER AND MAKE A HEALTHY SWING
The flop-shot setup (above) is part full swing, part short game. You're going to take your most lofted wedge and add loft to the clubface with a few adjustments. But you're also going to make a big swing, which needs to be supported by a wide stance.
Start by opening the face so it's pointing skyward, then take your grip. Address the ball with your feet spread apart, which will help keep your lower body quiet during the swing to reduce the risk of a mis-hit. The wide stance also lowers the shaft so the grip is closer to the ground, adding more loft to the face. Ball position matters, too. Playing it forward, close to your front foot, will help the club swing into impact on a shallow angle, which is another way to help pop the ball up. (More on that later.)
No matter what kind of swing I'm making, I tend to bow my left wrist as I get to the top. It's just the way I swing, and it makes it harder to keep the clubface open on shots like this. I wouldn't recommend it for you. Instead, let your left wrist cup as you swing back. The toe of the club should be pointing downward at the top (below). And don't be shy: Swing all the way back. If you shorten things up, you'll make it harder to get the loft and spin you want.
“I vary my speed to hit different flops: faster means a higher flight.”
SWING WITH SOFT ARMS TO A FULL FINISH
The flop shot is all about commitment. You've got to trust that this big swing you're making is not going to send the ball 50 yards over the green. That can be a challenge because the flop is so different than a normal full swing. For example, the hands and arms control most of the action. As I mentioned earlier, the lower body stays quiet. If you try to help the ball into the air by coming out of your posture, it's Skull City.
It's also important to swing with light grip pressure and almost no tension in your forearms. And unlike most other shots, you don't want your arms and hands to lag behind your body rotation through impact—that's how you compress the ball and drive it forward. The flop technique is the opposite: You want your hands and arms to pass your body as the club skims along the ground and slides under the ball (below, left). The energy pushes upward, not forward.
The last thing to remember is, don't quit on the shot. If you squeeze the handle too hard, the clubhead won't release. Let the momentum of the swing carry the club through to a full finish (below, right). I regulate distance by varying my swing speed (faster for longer and higher shots), but the length of the swing really doesn't change.