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!
- 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
The value of video
In the age of radar and 3-D measuring systems, video analysis has somewhat taken a backseat. I think that’s unfortunate for a few reasons. First of all, video is still a great assist to learning, and secondly, it is readily available and it can be accessed continually.
Of course, it has limitations, that is a given. It is ultimately a 2-D image of a three-dimensional motion. The camera cannot detect true path, see plane, and can be misleading if not positioned properly. That said, I still use it on every lesson, because, in my experience, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.
Things like posture, ball position, and aim can all be seen clearly when the camera is positioned exactly as it should be. In swing observations such as maintenance of posture, club angles, arms in relation to body, over the top, under, early release can all be a great help to any student.
But the real value is in the “feel versus real” area! None of us, from professional to beginner, can know what we are actually doing. The very first reaction I get upon viewing, is “wow, I’m doing that?” Yes, you are. You did NOT pick up your head as you thought you were doing, you ARE lifting well out of your posture, you are NOT coming “over the top”, your aim is well left of where you think you’re aiming, your club is pointing well right of your aim point at the top of the swing, your transition is excessively steep, your lead arm is very bent at impact, the clubhead is past your hands, your wrists are cupped or bowed and on and on!
Some of these positions may be a problem; some may be irrelevant. It’s all about impact, and how you’re getting there that matters. The chicken wing that is causing you to top the ball may very well be the result of a very early release, or a steep transition, or too much waist bend etc. The weight hanging back on the rear leg may be the result of the club so far across the line at the top, and so on.
I never evaluate video without knowledge of ball flight or impact. If one were to observe a less-than-conventional swing, perhaps a Jim Furyk, with knowing how he put matching components together, it might seem like a problem area. Great players have matching components, lesser players do not! IMPACT is king!
I have a video analysis program, as I’m sure your instructor, or someone in your area, does as well. It can only help to take a good, close slow motion look at what is actually happening in your swing. It takes very little time, and the results can be massively beneficial to your golf swing.
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Shawn Clement: Dealing with injuries in your golf swing, lead side.
Happy Father’s Day weekend and U.S. Open weekend at none other than Pebble Beach weekend! Whoa, cannot wait to see the golf action today!
In this video, we talk about how to deal with hip, knee and ankle injuries to your lead side as this one is PIVOTAL (pardon the pun) to the success of any kinetic chain in a human. This kinetic chain is a golf swing. Now, what most of you don’t get is that you were born with action; like a dolphin was born to swim. Just watch 2-year-olds swinging a club! You wish you had that swing and guess what, it is in there. But you keep hiding it trying to hit the ball and being careful to manipulate the club into positions that are absolutely, positively sure to snuff out this action.
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