Editor’s Note: John Renslow is enjoying a much deserved week off so here is a classic ‘Get Into Golf’ that was first published Oct. 14, 2010 but remains relevant today.
Today’s modern golf courses demand a larger range of shots than in days past. Traditional layouts have fewer bunkers and often allow approach shots to roll onto the green. As opposed to many recent designs which have numerous “bunker complexes” and require higher shots that can land softly.
Not only is this true for the approach shots (you can reach the green with one full swing), but it can be very imposing around the green. A prodigious bunker may placed inconveniently between you and the green, coupled with the fact that the green is very firm and a ball is going to run away from you.
You need the “flop.” No, not a bad movie, pancakes or the British overnight house. It is a valuable shot to have in your arsenal and results in the ball flying high and landing like a butterfly with sore feet.
The shot is often tried, yet often misplayed by even the best of players. Rather than achieving the flop, the ball will dart of the edge of the club face like a laser toward a land where no man has gone before. Or, in the flop attempt, the club face will slide underneath the ball, rendering the shot well short of the green (and in the bunker).
In trying this shot, we usually make one of two errors. The first is a misunderstanding of the method for the shot. You may have heard that the bunker shot is the easiest shot in golf … because you don’t even have to hit the ball. Well, that having been said, the flop shot is the second easiest shot in golf … because you are trying to hit it like a bunker shot.
It is best to use a high-lofted wedge. Most of us have a sand wedge or befittingly a “lob” wedge. Your stance should be slightly “open” or left of the target (for you right-handers) and the club should be facing your intended target. Next, make sure that the weight of your body is primarily on your left foot. Now, a good, aggressive motion will pop the ball up in the air and move toward the target.
Imagine that there is a Post-it Note directly underneath your golf ball. The 3-inch square piece of paper is on top of the grass and your ball is on top of the paper. To hit this shot right, you make a good-sized swing that will hit the paper out from underneath the golf ball.
The second is fear. Unfortunately, when fear becomes a factor in your golf swing, the big muscles stop, and the small muscles (your hands) are left trying to maneuver the golf club. The result is almost always an off-center hit and another attempt at a similar shot. This shot must be addressed boldly.
After a little practice, hitting the ball softly onto the green will become very comfortable. From there you can hone in your distance by adjusting the size of the motion. Generally speaking, the larger the motion, the farther the shot will travel. For a shorter shot, try a smaller motion. Now, read this carefully. This does not mean that you try to swing easier. You must stay assertive and trust your swing, trust the shot.
This shot takes courage and confidence because you have to make a fairly big swing from a short distance. However, after a few buckets of balls on a lazy afternoon, this shot will save you a stroke or two a round. Then when you’re faced with your next downhill, slick green, carry the bunker pressure, this shot will be an arrow in your quiver.
John Renslow is general manager and director of golf at Alta Sierra Country Club. Please contact John with your questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.