Missing greens isn’t all bad. It depends on where you miss them. You can often get back in the hole with your basic pitch or chip. It’s the tough lies to watch out for, the ones that test your finesse and precision. Saving par from difficult spots is what separates great players from good ones—you need an answer for whatever the course throws at you. Consider the challenge I face in the photos above. I’ve hit my third shot on a par 5 long and left, putting me in thick rough on top of a mound. A standard pitch won’t do here—the ball will hit and scoot down the green’s slope and end up a good 30 feet past the pin. I’d be looking at a two-putt bogey at best.
The “Phil Flop”
The good news? A garden-variety pitch isn’t my only option. There’s a shot that greatly improves my chances for par or even birdie, but executing it takes commitment and practice. This scenario is the perfect opportunity to hit a lofted shot that not only won’t run away from the pin but will spin back close to the cup.
If this sounds like a Phil Mickelson move, you’re right. Phil and I have been friends for years, and I’ve learned from the master. And believe me—he owns this shot.
To properly execute the “Phil flop,” you need to loft the ball as high in the air as you can, which means becoming comfortable making an extra-large swing with a wide-open clubface. This is the only way to get the ball to grab the green and spin back to the flagstick. By no means is this the “safe” shot, but it sure is fun to try—and to pull off.
How It’s Done
You’ll need a 60- or 64- degree wedge with clean grooves (very important for creating spin). Address the ball as though you’re hitting a bunker shot, with an open stance pointed slightly left of your target and with the clubface laid wide open. As with a greenside sand blast, position the ball forward in your stance—it helps the clubhead cleanly slide under the ball. A word of caution: Before committing to this shot, take several practice swings to get a feel for the thickness of the rough and how the club reacts to it. If after a few swipes you feel substantial resistance and can’t get the club through the grass with good speed, then this isn’t the lie from which to flop. Abort! Hit a safer pitch. (For all of Phil’s thrills, he only flops it when he’s comfortable doing so.)
But if all systems are go and you think you can pull it off, have at it! Make a full backswing, stay committed through impact (while leaving the face open), and swing to a super-high, complete finish. As you can see in the top-left photo, my shot—zip!—spun back to the pin just as I’d hoped.
Granted, I’ve practiced the lob a lot, so I can hit it without fear. You should do likewise. Rehearse it often. Get good at it, and you won’t be mad when you miss the green. You’ll relish the chance to pull off a jaw-dropping flop that would make Lefty himself tip his cap.
Follow Dave Pelz on Twitter @pelz_golf.