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 Big Shift: How to master pressure and the golf transition using prior sports training
If you’re an #AverageJoeGolfer, work a day job, and don’t spend countless hours practicing, you might be interested in knowing that sports you played growing up, and even beer league softball skills, can be used to help you play better golf. We’re sure you’ve heard hockey players tend to hit the ball a mile, make the “best golfers”, while pitchers and quarterbacks have solid games, but baseball/softball hitters struggle with consistency. Did you know that a killer tennis backhand might help your golf game if you play from the opposite side? Dancers are way ahead of other athletes making a switch to golf because they understand that centeredness creates power and consistency much more efficiently than shifting all around, unnecessary swaying, or “happy feet.”
Lurking beneath fat shots, worm burners, and occasional shanks, are skillsets and motions you can pull from the old memory bank to apply on the golf course. Yes, you heard us right; your high school letterman jacket can finally be put to good use and help you improve your move. You just need to understand some simple adjustments different sports athletes need to make to be successful golfers.
In golf, shifting from your trailside into your lead side is what we’ll call the TRANSITION. Old School teachers refer to this motion, or shift, as “Foot Work”, New-Fangled-Techno-Jargon-Packed-Instruction uses “Ground Pressure/Force” to refer to the same concept. Don’t worry about the nomenclature; just know, as many GolfWRXers already do, that you must get your weight to your lead side if you want any chance at making solid and consistent contact. TRANSITION might be THE toughest motion in golf to master.
The good news for you is that TRANSITION happens in all other sports but in slightly different ways, depending on the sport. Golfers can more quickly learn TRANSITION, and speed up their swing learning process by understanding how prior sport experience can be applied to the golf swing.
[The basics of a solid golf move are; 1) you should have a SETUP that is centered and balanced, 2) you move your weight/pressure into your trail side during the TAKEAWAY and BACKSWING, 3) TRANSITION moves your weight/pressure back into your lead side, and 4) you FINISH with the club smashing the ball down the fairway. Okay, it’s not quite as easy as I make it sound, but hopefully our discussion today can relieve some stress when it comes time for you to start training your game.]
Hitting coaches don’t like their hitters playing golf during the season, that’s a fact. The TRANSITIONS are too different, and if they play too much golf, they can lose the ability to hit off-speed pitches because their swing can become too upright. Golf requires an orbital hand path (around an angled plane) with an upright-stacked finish, while hitting requires batters to have a straight-line (more horizontal) hand path and to “stay back or on top of” the ball.
Now we apologize for the lack of intricate knowledge and terminology around hitting a baseball, we only played up through high school. What we know for sure is that guys/gals who have played a lot of ball growing up, and who aren’t pitchers struggle with golf’s TRANSITION. Hitters tend to hang back and do a poor job of transferring weight properly. When they get the timing right, they can make contact, but consistency is a struggle with fat shots and scooping being the biggest issues that come to mind.
So how can you use your star baseball/softball hitting skills with some adjustments for golf? Load, Stride, Swing is what all-good hitters do, in that order. Hitters’ issues revolve around the Stride, when it comes to golf. They just don’t get into their lead sides fast enough. As a golfer, hitters can still take the same approach, with one big adjustment; move more pressure to your lead side during your stride, AND move it sooner. We’ve had plenty of ‘a ha’ moments when we put Hitters on balance boards or have them repeat step drills hundreds of times; “oh, that’s what I need to do”…BINGO…Pound Town, Baby!
Softball/Baseball Pitchers, Quarterbacks, & Kickers
There’s a reason that kickers, pitchers, and quarterbacks are constantly ranked as the top athlete golfers and it’s not because they have a ton of downtime between starts and play a lot of golf. Their ‘day jobs’ throwing/kicking motions have a much greater impact on how they approach sending a golf ball down the fairway. It’s apparent that each of these sports TRAINS and INGRAINS golf’s TRANSITION motion very well. They tend to load properly into their trailside while staying centered (TAKEAWAY/BACKSWING), and they transfer pressure into their lead side, thus creating effortless speed and power. Now there are nuances for how to make adjustments for golf, but the feeling of a pitching or kicking motion is a great training move for golf.
If this was your sport growing up, how can you improve your consistency? Work on staying centered and minimizing “happy feet” because golf is not a sport where you want to move too much or get past your lead side.
My wife was captain of her high school dance team, has practiced ballet since she was in junior high, and is our resident expert on Ground Pressure forces relating to dance. She has such a firm grasp on these forces that she is able to transfer her prior sports skill to play golf once or twice a year and still hit the ball past me and shoot in the low 100s; what can I say, she has a good coach. More importantly, she understands that staying centered and a proper TRANSITION, just like in Dance, are requirements that create stability, speed, and consistent motions for golf. Christo Garcia is a great example of a Ballerina turned scratch golfer who uses the movement of a plié (below left) to power his Hogan-esque golf move. There is no possible way Misty Copeland would be able to powerfully propel herself into the air without a proper TRANSITION (right).
Being centered is critical to consistently hitting the golf ball. So, in the same way that dancers stay centered and shift their weight/pressure to propel themselves through the air, they can stay on the ground and instead create a golf swing. Dancers tend to struggle with the timing of the hands and arms in the golf swing. We train them a little differently by training their timing just like a dance routine; 1 and 2 and 3 and…. Dancers learn small motions independently and stack each micro-movement on top of one another, with proper timing, to create a dance move (golf swing) more like musicians learn, but that article is for another time.
Hockey is a great example of the golf TRANSITION because it mimics golf’s motions almost perfectly. Even a subtlety like the direction in which the feet apply pressure is the same in Hockey as in Golf, but that’s getting in the weeds a bit. Hockey players load up on their trailside, and then perform the TRANSITION well; they shift into their lead sides and then rotate into the puck with the puck getting in the way of the stick…this is the golf swing, just on skates and ice…my ankles hurt just writing that.
If you played hockey growing up, you have the skillsets for a proper golf TRANSITION, and you’ll improve much faster if you spend your time training a full FINISH which involves staying centered and balanced.
Now we didn’t get into nuances of each and every sport, but we tried to cover most popular athletic motions we thought you might have experience in in the following table. The key for your Big Shift, is using what you’ve already learned in other sports and understanding how you might need to change existing and known motions to adapt them to golf. If you played another sport, and are struggling, it doesn’t mean you need to give up golf because your motion is flawed…you just need to know how to train aspects of your golf move a little differently than someone who comes from a different sport might.
Clement: Effortless power for senior golfers
Are you struggling with range of motion? Want more EFFORTLESS POWER? We are truly the experts at this having taught these methods for 25 plus years, while others were teaching resistance, breaking everyone’s backs and screwing up their minds with endless positions to hit and defects to fix. Welcome home to Wisdom in Golf!
Clement: How to turbo charge your swing
The shift in golf instruction continues and Wisdom in Golf and GolfWRX are right out there blazing a trail of fantastic content and techniques to get you to feel the most blissful, rhythmic golf shots you can strike! This here is the humdinger that keeps on giving and is now used by a plethora of tour players who are benefitting greatly and moving up the world rankings because of it.
The new trend (ours is about 25 years young) is the antithesis of the “be careful, don’t move too much, don’t make a mistake” approach we have endured for the last 30 years plus. Time to break free of the shackles that hold you back and experience the greatness that is already right there inside that gorgeous human machine you have that is so far from being defective! Enjoy!
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