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The birth of the stinger

Tiger Woods says this Masters champ's advice was one of the 'greatest lessons' he ever got

January 09, 2024

I'm Luke Kerr-Dineen, Senior Editor for Game Improvement here at Golf Digest and resident golf swing nerd. Golf IQ is my new, weekly newsletter where I'll bring you interesting insider information about the golf swing, and help us use it to become better golfers.

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Exactly one week into the new PGA Tour season, Scottie Scheffler may have already hit the coolest shot of the year. On the 13th hole of The Sentry, Scottie Scheffler pulled a driver and—intentionally— hit one of the lowest stingers I've ever seen.

According to the Shotlink stats, this drive registered a launch angle of just 1.66 degrees (for context, a shot that rolls along the ground has a launch of 0 degrees). Its highest point was just 40 feet, or 13 yards, which is probably about half as high as you hit your driver.

On the surface there may not be a lot we can learn from a shot as skilled as this, but there is. Learning to hit the ball low is a really important skill, especially for amateur golfers.

Which brings us to one of Tiger Woods’ simplest lessons:

"One of the great lessons I ever got was from Jackie Burke. I'm playing in the 1992 U.S. Amateur. He sees me hitting golf balls on the range, and I'm just hitting the ball everywhere. He walks up to me and says 'you have to tee that ball down, kid. The longer the ball is in the air, the more time it has to go crooked. And trust me, you need to learn to keep the ball down.'

The reason why is because every time you hit a golf ball it spins around an axis. If you hit the ball with an open or closed clubface, that tilts the axis of the ball, and the more the ball spins around that crooked axis, the more it curves off in the wrong direction.

But all these adjustments are designed in large part to knock spin off the golf ball when you hit it, which means that even if you hit a bad shot, it’s not going to veer away as wildly.

Put simply: Hitting the ball lower makes it go straighter.

Anyway, Burke’s advice stuck with Tiger, and sent him on a journey that ended with him perfecting his famed low stinger.

And as Tiger told us, it’s a recipe the rest of us can follow:

• Ball back in stance
• Choke down on the club
• Lean shaft forward
• Tee ball (really) low
• Keep weight centered
• Swing club more around your body

World No. 1 Scheffler did these same things to an extreme degree last week, and they’re the same hit-the-ball-low ingredients everyone can and should use.

They work with your full swing, and they work around the greens. Learn them, and there’ll provide a go-to shot that’ll never fail you.