When, where and how to hit a flop shot

     The flop shot just might be the hardest shot in all of golf.

     Now, it should go without saying that there is plenty of competition for that title, as golf is a difficult game that is full of challenging shots.  Some would argue that the long bunker shot is the toughest play of all, while others might say it is a simple three-footer with a match on the line.  However, given the combination of skill and nerve that is required to pull the flop shot off properly, it at least merits carefully consideration for the 'crown'.

     Despite the fact that the flop shot is among the toughest shots in the game, you should still work on adding one to your own arsenal for use from time to time.  You never want to find yourself playing a flop shot on a regular basis, because they are hard to pull off and are inherently inconsistent, but you certainly want to have one available when the situation arises.

     In the title of this article, we asked three questions all rolled up into one – when to hit a flop shot, where to hit a flop shot, and how to hit a flop shot.  Let's work through the answers to those questions one at a time.

When to Hit a Flop Shot

     Shot selection is an important skill to develop in your golf game.  Part of this skill comes along simply through experience, but there are also things that the inexperienced player can learn in order to make better choices.  With the flop shot, it comes down to risk avoidance. You don't want to take on any more risk than is necessary when playing golf, and the flop shot is an inherently risky shot to play.  The possibility of hitting the ball thin and sending it over the green is always there, as is the chance of going right under the ball and leaving it at your feet.

     So, when deciding whether or not the flop shot is going to be the right pick for a given shot, the best thing you can do look around to consider where your ball might end up if something goes wrong.

     Is there a hazard waiting to catch a thin shot?  Is there a deep bunker right in front of you lurking and waiting to grab a flop shot that comes up short?

     If too much risk is present around the green, the best option may be to play a safer shot onto the big part of the green – even if that means leaving the ball farther away from the hole.

Where to Hit a Flop Shot

     The idea behind the flop shot is to stop the ball as quickly as possible.  That's why you are hitting the ball high up into the air in the first place – so you can bring it down soft and have it stop near to where it lands.

     When spinning the golf ball isn't an option to provide the stopping power you need, such as when you are playing a shot from the rough, you may need to turn to loft to do the job.

     So, it's when you don't have much room to work with that you are going to need to think about using a flop shot.  Most likely, that means you are short-sided with only a few feet of putting surface between yourself and the hole.  Also, the flop shot is often the go-to choice when playing downhill, as you will need as much stopping power as possible when going down a slope in order to keep the ball close to the cup.

     One other point that needs to be highlighted in this section is the importance of the lie.  If you are going to attempt a flop shot, you need to have a 'fluffy' lie – meaning there is a little bit of grass between the ground and the ball, providing space for the club to slide under the ball cleanly.  This kind of lie is usually found in the intermediate cut of rough, but it will depend on the conditions of the course you are playing.

     If the lie is too deep or too thin, you should forget about the flop shot and look for another option!

How to Hit the Flop Shot

     We have saved the big question for last – how do you go about hitting this shot?

To give it your best try these steps:

   Step 1 – To start, take the most-lofted wedge from your bag to use for the shot.  You are going for maximum height, so you need to use as much loft as possible. Hopefully, this club will have at least 60 degrees of loft.

   Step 2 – As you set up to the ball, you want to use an open stance in combination with an open club face.  Lay the club face open behind the ball to where the face of the wedge is nearly pointing directly up to the sky.  Also, position the ball in the front of your stance so you can catch the ball slightly on the upswing.

   Step 3 – When you start the swing, make sure to stay down in your stance – especially in your lower body.  You have to get the club under the ball if you are going to pull this off, and that isn't going to happen if you lose the flex in your knees during the backswing.

   Step 4 – To hit a true flop shot, you are going to need to make almost a full backswing.  Even though you are potentially just a few yards from the hole, you may need to swing all the way up and around your back in order to send the ball high enough to pull this off.  It takes good nerves to make this kind of swing from short range, so going into the shot with confidence is required.

   Step 5 – On the way down, the shot is all about releasing the club with the right hand through impact.  The aggressive release of your right hand will send the club whipping quickly under the ball, and maximum height will be achieved.

Just five easy steps, right?  Not so fast…

     This is a hard shot, and you are going to have to execute perfectly if you want it to come off properly.  The key to the flop shot, as is true of every other shot in the game, is practice.  If you are willing to put in plenty of practice, you can become more and more confident in this play.  When practicing, be sure to find somewhere safe that will allow you to make mistakes without hitting anything or anyone with your errant shots.

     In the end, it is important to remember that you don't actually want to be hitting flop shots during your rounds of golf.  Having to hit a flop shot means that something has gone wrong – your ball is out of position, and you are trying to recover.

     The best flop shot is always going to be the one you don't have to hit.

     However, the need may arise from time to time, so having this shot as an option will give you the chance to escape with an unlikely par save.