(This article first ran in September of 2007.)
You can wear Tiger’s clothes, play Tiger’s driver, and pump your fist when you make a crucial putt. But can you play like Tiger? Yes, you can, or at least you can learn to hit his low, penetrating tee shot, called the “stinger.” Contrary to popular belief, Tiger did not invent the stinger. My dad, Claude Harmon Sr., taught the mechanics of this shot to many of his students, including my three brothers and me. I’m sure he never envisioned that someday a player would be using it to hit the ball 280 yards with a 2-iron, and I don’t think you can expect to get Tiger-like distance from this shot, either. But the good news is, with the right technique, just about anybody can hit it. Why, you ask, would you even want to try? First of all, it comes in handy when windy conditions demand a low, controlled shot that hits the fairway and runs. Second, it can be hit with virtually any club off the tee — if you don’t carry a 2- or 3-iron, a fairway wood will achieve similar results. The concept behind the shot can also be used for punch approach shots to receptive greens, using any club down to a pitching wedge.
At address, play the ball an inch or two farther back in your stance than normal, which will set your hands slightly forward. Choke down about an inch on the grip for added control. These adjustments should cause your arms and the shaft to form a “y”. Make a smooth, full backswing, and try to retain this “y” as much as possible throughout the swing.
The stinger’s low trajectory and extra roll result from the bowed wrist position at impact. This means the left wrist is firm and curved toward the target. To feel this, my father had students hit a punch-slice with a long iron, asking them to “hit and stop.” The only way to stop so quickly after impact is to keep the wrists firm.At impact, my arms resemble the “y” position from address. This prevents the wrists from flipping over or “releasing” after impact. Once you achieve the bowed impact, the finish flows naturally, as the trunk and arms rotate the club around to the left. Instead of causing a slice, this allows for a low, running draw. The faster the body unwinds, the farther you can hit the ball. The finish should feel very different from a normal swing where the hands turn over. To “sting” it, the wrists stay firm, and the left elbow folds down toward the ground.
Drill: Chip the 5-iron
Start small and work your way up. Begin by hitting a 5-iron punch shot about 30 yards, and then gradually add distance by extending your follow-through. Once you have it, the stinger can be one of the most reliable shots in your bag.