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The flop shot that kept Jordan Spieth from flopping at The Masters

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Late in the day on Saturday at The Masters, it was looking like a coronation was taking place. Jordan Spieth had a crazy big lead through 52 holes and looked virtually bullet proof. He was Superman!

Then things got interesting in a hurry.

Spieth made a mess of No. 17 from just off the green, and from the middle of the fairway on 18, he hit it wide right into the patrons above the bunker. With the pin position on the back right of the green, he was terribly short sided. You could hear the ghost of Bob Rosburg saying, “He’s got not shot.” This is where Jordan proceeded to hit the shot, specifically hit the flop, that saved The Masters for him. It was a momentum-shifting shot of immeasurable proportion that took him into Sunday on a high note. Instead of finishing double bogey-bogey (or worse), he made the par that Greg Norman needed in ’86 from the same spot.

I can coach a player to play eight different flop shots. I have them all named: Flip Flop, Freddie Flop, Cut Flop, Full Flop, Closed Flop, Max Flop, Set Flop and Safety Flop. The one that Spieth played is the most common one used on the PGA Tour under pressure, because it’s the least risky of all the shots. It’s called “The Safety Flop.”

So how did he pull it off?

The other day I set up the same shot as Jordan: short sided, above the green, skirting a bunker, landing on a down slope. The missing elements are millions of people watching at home, a full gallery on No. 18 and the pressure of The Masters. Otherwise, it was very similar!

Flop_recreate

The Setup

  • Club selected was my 60-degree wedge.
  • Ball forward in my stance (opposite the logo on my shirt).
  • Face open 45 degrees (or more if the situation dictates it).
  • Hands low and not pushed forward.
  • Pressure balanced 50/50 on my feet with my feet close together.
  • Left foot flared to support rotation of the chest forward through impact to the finish.
  • Arms completely relaxed with zero tension.
  • Slight tilt to the shoulder line, with the front shoulder up and the right hip inward a little.

Flop_Setup

The execution of the shot requires two pieces: One is speed, and two is the swing.

First is the assessment of the speed needed to make the ball go forward, but also to make it go up. When golfers hit a flop shot most of the time, they only account for the speed necessary to make the ball go forward horizontally like any normal shot. They end up hitting a high, soft shot that goes about half the required distance. But since this shot has two factors, horizontal and vertical, you have to account for the energy needed to meet both requirements. So you need to power the swing to propel the ball upward and forward, and this requires you to swing harder than if you were just going forward and low with the shot. A key is to keep the speed of the chest moving with the fast arms. There is no lower body in this shot. It is all upper body speed from the chest and arms.

Ball_Vectors

The bigger the difference between the two lines, the more you have to add energy to account for the “up” in the shot.

The swing is part two. I call it the “Safety Flop” because the setup is very vanilla without any special tricks. It’s the easiest of the flop swings to execute, and I can teach someone the “Safety Flop” simply in one session.

The Swing

  • The backswing is very vertical, with the right arm hinging immediately and the swing moving in a “V” shape. You are setting the distance of the shot with the size of the backswing.
  • On the downswing, with the vertical angle of attack, the open club face slides under the ball lifting it high and straight. Some of the errors I see in executing this shot include taking the club back too low and also too much around. Both of these will make you hit the ball to the right, sometimes drastically.
  • Another problem is that most players generally stop their follow through too soon. Keep it going! If you were going to throw a ball underhanded, high and soft, you would finish the toss with your hand high. The lower body is not an active participant in this shot. So keep it quietly responding to the movements up top.

Vertical_Backswing

The other part of the swing that is necessary — and a learned trick — is the follow through. I want you to learn it by reverse engineering it. Work it back to impact from the finish to feel it correctly.

Check out this picture of my finish.

Flop_Finish

Notice how the face is open and looking at me, and the shaft is leaned toward my head. This is a huge key in making the ball go straight up and land very softly, so practice posing in this position. From here, return the club head back to the ball like you are swinging backward. Feel all the movements that this entails. Now from the ball, go forward to this position again without taking a backswing. Keep repeating this until you look like the picture every time. You should feel the club face rotating open as the shaft feels like it is going to hit you in the forehead.

If you can learn the more vertical backswing the safety flop requires, and also learn to put the club in the right position on the finish, you can execute this shot successfully. All that is left to do is judge the power needed to hit the ball up and forward. Just pick the correct backswing length to do that.

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If you are an avid Golf Channel viewer you are familiar with Rob Strano the Director of Instruction for the Strano Golf Academy at Kelly Plantation Golf Club in Destin, FL. He has appeared in popular segments on Morning Drive and School of Golf and is known in studio as the “Pop Culture” coach for his fun and entertaining Golf Channel segments using things like movie scenes*, song lyrics* and familiar catch phrases to teach players. His Golf Channel Academy series "Where in the World is Rob?" showed him giving great tips from such historic landmarks as the Eiffel Tower, on a Gondola in Venice, Tuscany Winery, the Roman Colissum and several other European locations. Rob played professionally for 15 years, competing on the PGA, Nike/Buy.com/Nationwide and NGA/Hooters Tours. Shortly after embarking on a teaching career, he became a Lead Instructor with the golf schools at Pine Needles Resort in Pinehurst, NC, opening the Strano Golf Academy in 2003. A native of St. Louis, MO, Rob is a four time honorable mention U.S. Kids Golf Top 50 Youth Golf Instructor and has enjoyed great success with junior golfers, as more than 40 of his students have gone on to compete on the collegiate level at such established programs as Florida State, Florida and Southern Mississippi. During the 2017 season Coach Strano had a player win the DII National Championship and the prestigious Nicklaus Award. He has also taught a Super Bowl and Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, a two-time NCAA men’s basketball national championship coach, and several PGA Tour and LPGA Tour players. His PGA Tour players have led such statistical categories as Driving Accuracy, Total Driving and 3-Putt Avoidance, just to name a few. In 2003 Rob developed a nationwide outreach program for Deaf children teaching them how to play golf in sign language. As the Director of the United States Deaf Golf Camps, Rob travels the country conducting instruction clinics for the Deaf at various PGA and LPGA Tour events. Rob is also a Level 2 certified AimPoint Express Level 2 green reading instructor and a member of the FlightScope Advisory Board, and is the developer of the Fuzion Dyn-A-line putting training aid. * Golf Channel segments have included: Caddyshack Top Gun Final Countdown Gangnam Style The Carlton Playing Quarters Pump You Up

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Jim

    Apr 20, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    I was right beside Jordan when he hit that shot, and honestly it wasn’t a very difficult shot. Granted it was followed by a great putt, but I think an amateur that has a flop shot could get than within 15 feet 7/10 times. Making the putt probably 3/10, which makes it a great up and down for Spieth. But the actual flop shot admittedly wasn’t as difficult as it probably appeared on television.

    • Brutus

      Apr 20, 2015 at 1:41 pm

      Like the author said, make it with all the pressure and patrons literally breathing down your back? 1 in a 25 would be a reasonable number. The shot would be hard enough, then add the pressure putt on and maybe it gets to 1 in 50. Oh, one has to throw in the confidence factor after butchering the last hole with a double bogey too. 1 in 100…

      • jim

        Apr 22, 2015 at 12:34 am

        You get used to all that attention, I’m sure. The point is, the shot wasn’t that bad. The elevation was nearly nonexistent, the bunker really wasn’t in the way (Spieth and his caddie were discussing a bump and run in fact, which would be dumb), and the green had almost no undulation where the pin was. Also, the lie was perfect. Jordan even responded to Michael when asked “how is the lie,” and Spieth said “I’ll hit grass first.” I mean, as an amateur, do you ever hit off half grass/dirt lies and feel it’s a good flop position? He was in the perfect lie for a flop, almost a fake lie. Trust me, this was an easy shot. The fame/attention, he was used to already, as you would be as well if you had his fortune.

  2. Earl

    Apr 20, 2015 at 12:12 pm

    Reminds me of a video I bought from Monte.. All that video made me do was it it fat and tons of shanks. So want my money back from that piece of junk video.infact most of his videos are crap

    • Rob Strano

      Apr 20, 2015 at 7:45 pm

      Earl, thanks for your comment…
      Regarding your struggles, that is what happens when the club gets behind your hands going back and you lose angle of attack. Be sure you get vertical and the club stays outside your hands in the backswing. That should help you play the safety flop.

  3. Dennis Clark

    Apr 17, 2015 at 9:41 am

    Another example of how the game has changed. In the 56° wedge era, he makes bogey there.

    • Alex

      Apr 17, 2015 at 11:13 am

      In the 56° era only Seve Ballesteros could’ve done that!

    • moses

      Apr 17, 2015 at 12:56 pm

      “GET OFF MY LAWN”!!!!!!!!!

      Really!!! That’s all you have to say?

    • TR1PTIK

      Apr 20, 2015 at 9:08 am

      I’ve hit a couple of decent flops with my 56*, but it’s a very low percentage shot because of the additional bounce. Sometimes you just have to use your imagination and try something a little different. It might work, it might not.

      • Rob Strano

        Apr 20, 2015 at 7:47 pm

        I did not get a SW until I was in HS. So I learned to flop the ball with a PW from age 6 through 14! Your bounce needs to be adjusted for your conditions and you need to get your hands down to be sure you slide the flange across the ground not into the ground.

  4. PK

    Apr 16, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    Just watching Spieth set up for that shot gave me anxiety.

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Instruction

Stickney: Sit on it (for a better backswing)

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As we know golf, is a very tough sport and one that involves many moving pieces. Whenever something overreacts or moves too much on the way back, you end up playing catch-up on the way down. One of my favorite things to watch is how the head moves or doesn’t move on the backswing. Sure, you can have some movement, but you can’t have too much or you put yourself behind the eight ball.

I have charted the head position of a tour player at address and we can see that this is a very normal set up position. It is one that looks positioned to do great things.

However, en route to the top, you can see that this player has put himself into a position where his rear knee straightened too rapidly off the start of his backswing. When this occurs the pelvis “runs out from under” the upper body on the backswing the hips will react and begin to slant downward. (You can see a -10 degree tilt versus 3 degrees the opposite way at address for you number people.)

This causes the head to move out in front of where it was at address. This is not a bad position for the irons but for a driver we have a pending issue. If you don’t make a compensation from here then the player will have an angle of attack that is too much downward through impact with their driver.

As the player moves into his transition, the hips have leveled as the rear shoulder lowers the club into delivery but the head and pelvis are still too far out in front of the ball. The only thing you can do from here is fire the lead side upwards and hope that your head falls back into the correct position. If so, you will have the correct angle of attack, if not, you will chop down on the ball causing your launch conditions to be faulty.

And as we see here that this is precisely what this player did at the very last minute…not the easiest way to swing the club but it is functional IF you make the right correction. So, now that you understand how simple things like the action of the lower body can cause your head to move and your angle of attack to become faulty, what is the secret to controlling your lower body?


Just “sit” on the rear knee flex slightly longer during the backswing as you see here. This will slow down the tilting of the pelvis on backswing and thus your head will stay more in position en route to the top.

Personally, I teach both flexion and extension of the rear knee to the top, depending on what the player is wanting to do, so it really does not matter. However, what does matter is the rate at which it begins to straighten for those of you who do allow it to lengthen. I try to make most of my students hold the most of their address flex until the club moves between belt and chest high, any sooner and you risk the faulty pivot we saw above.

Therefore, take it from me and “sit on it” slightly longer for more quiet head motions as well as a more balanced backswing—your angle of attack will thank you!

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Davies: Training the trail elbow in the golf swing

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Alistair Davies shares with you how to get the correct trail arm and elbow action in the downswing. He shares some great drills that can be done at the range or at home to help lower your scores.Get the correct training for the trail arm here today!

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The important lessons you can learn from Peter Senior’s golf swing

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He may not be a household name in the United States, but Australia’s Peter Senior has a swing for the ages. At 60 years old, Senior has 34 worldwide professional wins including the 2015 Australian Masters beating a competitive field with several top-ranked players in the world. Turning professional in 1978, his career has spanned over 40 years.

Senior’s game and swing have stood the test of time, and the longevity of his career should be recognized. Senior formerly worked with Australian instructor Gary Edwin, and the structure to this swing taught to Senior paved the way for a future of consistent, high-quality professional golf.

Having a great golf swing isn’t the only key to becoming a great golfer, one must learn to play the game. However, you can learn a lot from Senior’s swing.

The origin to Senior’s swing lies in his set-up. Senior sets up in what I call his “hitting angles” or a position that mirrors impact.

From this position, Senior is able to simply keep these angles he established at address throughout the swing. This is why the set-up is so critical. The further he deviates from these “hitting angles”, the more he will have to find that impact position with his body in the backswing and downswing. In other words, more movement. The goal of his backswing will be to maintain these original starting angles.

From the picture, Senior has maintained his original body shape that he established at address. From this position, it will be much easier and repeatable to return the club to impact.

Note how his impact position now mirrors his original address position. All his original angles were maintained with a slight bump of the body towards the target. From impact, he can simply fold up his arms as his right side of his body rotates around his left side, keeping the clubface square to the body.

This standing tall finish position with the head following the torso is much easier on the back. His body has come forward and around beautifully, covering the ball for a proper strike.

The beauty of Senior’s swing lies in its simplicity. The changes Senior made to his swing can apply to anyone. Let’s look at two simple drills to make your swing more efficient and powerful.

“To a large extent, my backswing is a product of my set-up position” – Tiger Woods, Golf Digest 2020

To get into these impact angles simply practice pushing into an impact bag with the head and shaft of the club. Make sure your trail arm is tucked, lowering the trail shoulder as you pressure the bag.

To get the feeling of the proper coil from this set-up position, grab an impact bag and hold the bag in front of you.

From here, swing the bag around you with your arms keeping the top of the bag level. You will feel the trail side of your body move back and the lead side move out, coiling around your spine angle.

The trail glute will also move back and around with this drill, a key move the great Ben Hogan used to pivot his body. To develop an efficient swing and a long, injury-free career, take note of Peter Senior’s key moves.

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