Have you ever seen Tiger Woods hit a stinger and wished that you knew how to do this? Or maybe you’ve seen Bryson Dechambeau hitting one of his huge drives and wondered how you could gain some speed?
In this article I will talk you through some of the “speciality” shots which we can play in golf and how you can learn to play them yourself.
Some of these shots might be a bit of a luxury item and not truly necessary (ie. The long drive or “belly-wedge”) but some will come in handy quite regularly (ie. Stinger, hook, slice, and fairway finder, among others).
Another reason to learn how to hit these shots is that they provide an irrational level of satisfaction to pull off! I can promise you will remember these types of shots more fondly than a bog-standard seven-iron from the fairway.
I think this is essential to why we play golf, to have fun and access that child-like enjoyment we feel from pulling off a shot that impresses your friends and playing partners.
We may as well start with the one which creates the biggest furore on social media, the stinger. This shot was undeniably made famous by Tiger Woods, archetypically followed by his famed club-twirl, and he certainly produces one of the more eye-catching executions of this shot that you can find.
The characteristics of a stinger are that it starts off very low, remains low and runs out a long way once it hits the ground.This makes it a great shot for windy conditions, but some players also use it as a reliable shot if they really need to hit a fairway or keep the ball in play. It is typically played with one of the longer irons in your bag, maybe a utility iron or 3-iron for example.
There are varied ideas for how to play this shot, so I will give you the tips and tricks that I use myself when I am going to play the stinger.
- The first thing I do is stand a couple of inches closer to the ball than normal, I also put the ball back towards my back foot in the stance. Both of these things will encourage you to hit down and into the back of the ball, driving it forward rather than trying to sweep it off the ground.
- The next thing I do is to shift my hips towards the target, pretty much as far as I can without it feeling like I can’t retain my balance. I will also grip down on the club, towards the bottom of the grip.
- As you can see here, the changes are taking place in the set up. You don’t want to be messing around with your swing too much because it is too difficult to repeat changes like that, whereas you can always get yourself into a good set up and let that impact the shot.
- When it comes to the swing I try to keep my chest down as I’m hitting the ball and I don’t try to hit it too hard. When you hit the ball hard, it increases the spin on the ball, which in turn is likely to make the ball rise up and lose its effectiveness as a low shot.
- The follow through is that of a “punch” shot as you are really trying to push down through the ball to get it starting off as low as possible. As you can imagine, it is going to help you to feel like your weight is as forward as possible when you make impact with the ball and make your follow-through.
- Leaning back will make the ball go higher, so leaning forward can keep it lower.
One of the tips which has helped me the most with this shot has been to concentrate on maintaining a good rhythm and balance throughout the swing.
If I try to hit it too hard then I tend to lose balance because of the slightly bizarre setup and this causes me to create too much side spin on the ball. The best stingers will have a neutral ball flight so that it stays in the air for a short period of time, traveling straight and then running out straight on the fairway
If you put too much side spin on this shot then it increases the chances that it will run into trouble considering how much run this shot creates.
This is an especially unusual golf shot to be honest, but it is one which I have used surprisingly frequently and always to good effect because it is, essentially, very easy!
- To hit a “belly-wedge” shot, you use one of your wedges (normally the most lofted but it really doesn’t matter much) and make a putting stroke at your ball while trying to hit the equator of the golf ball.
- You are not trying to get under the ball like a normal shot, you are trying to hit it half way up the ball.
- This gets the ball to pop up a little bit and then roll out.
You will find this shot very handy if you have a short shot just off the green and you want the ball to pop up out of the rough and then start rolling like a putt. The reason you can’t putt in this scenario is that you will get grass stuck between the putter face and the ball, leading to a greatly inconsistent strike.
If you try to chip the ball from this spot, it can be very difficult to judge the speed because you need to put considerable speed into the ball to get it out of the rough, but you must strike it perfectly in order to get the spin to stop the ball by the hole.
The beauty of this shot is that, because you are hitting the ball ‘thin’ but with low speed, you give yourself a larger margin of error than the other options.
Clearly you have to practice this shot a little bit in order to understand how it reacts, but once you get used to it, you will find that it is very repeatable and your dispersion could be much more favourable to using a putter or chipping it.
This shot is less about excitement and more about having a go-to shot which you can rely on in tricky situations.
There are different iterations of this shot as it depends on the player and their usual shot shape, but a lot of players go for a ‘cut’ driver.
This tends to be a softer swing which gives you a dependable cut shape and goes maybe 80-90% of your usual driver distance.
It is a wonderful shot to feel comfortable with because it can be so useful in tense situations caused by either a tough shot, or a nerve-wracking situation.
Maybe you’re standing on the last tee and you need to make a par to beat your handicap, this would be a great time to bring out a shot like this to increase your chances of getting the ball in-play.
- What I tend to do is tee the ball a little bit lower, so that only 25% of the ball is visible above my driver head (as opposed to at least 50% for a normal shot)
- Move the ball an inch or two backwards in my stance,
- Open my feet a little bit and then hit down the direction of my stance.
- This will create a more downward blow on the ball from out-to-in which gives you a more consistent control of your spin.
The point is to be sure that your ball will move with a little cut, so that is what we are looking for here because it will make it that much easier to aim for the little cut and be confident that it will come back into the middle of the fairway.
Hooks and Slices
If you’ve ever watched Bubba Watson play golf, then you’ll know what a hook and a slice look like. He is absolutely an anomaly in terms of how frequently he uses these shots, but all players should have an understanding of how to play them as it can help greatly when it comes to getting out of trouble.
If you play at a golf course which is tree-lined then it will be of even more use to you. The ability to move the ball around obstacles can be the difference between chipping out sideways and getting the ball up towards the green, which can save you a shot in no time!
- To hit a hook you need to close off your body in relation to your target.
- You want to aim your club face at the target (or if you are aiming for an extreme hook then maybe halfway between your body line and target) and move your feet, hips, and shoulders so that your back is facing more towards your target.
- The club face is going to look bizarre here as it is so closed off, but the technique is to swing the club along the direction of your body, almost ignoring the fact that the face is aiming elsewhere.
- This creates a strong in-to-out club path which will put hook spin on your ball.
The important piece of advice that I give for this shot is that you need to commit totally to hitting the hook. You can’t go half-in on this one or you will hit it straight and end up in a world of trouble.
Commit to hitting in-to-out and let your hands roll over if you feel like that will help you to get more spin on it. It’s also important to hit the ball hard. If you hit this shot too soft then you won’t create enough spin to get the ball moving with a hook. The shorter the shot, the harder it is to move the ball sideways in the air.
It’s worth remembering that the ball is going to have a lot of speed and roll on it when you play this shot because the club face is so shut. Take this into account when choosing your club for this shot.
- For the slice you are going to do the same as for the hook, except you will open up your body so that your chest is facing more towards the target.
- Hit across the line of your body and watch the ball slice!
- As for your club choice here, putting such strong cut spin will reduce your distance considerably and it will not have as much run as the hook.
- Cut spin is more like backspin, whereas hook spin is more like topspin.
The Long Drive
I’m sure a lot of you were waiting patiently for this part of the article. I get it, when you stand on that downwind par 5, you want to know how to send it as far as possible. The long drive shot is definitely most beneficial on a downwind shot because the ball will travel relatively straighter with the helping wind, which makes it slightly less risky to take on the extra speed that you want to create for this shot.
Clearly, as we are talking about downwind, you want the ball to be in the air for as long as possible to maximise the impact of that helping wind. This means that we are going to adjust our set up accordingly to achieve this.
- Tee the ball a little higher, move the ball a tad forward in your stance, and get your weight behind the ball with some extra tilt in your shoulders.
- All of these things are giving you the chance to hit up on the ball and get your weight moving forwards through impact.
- During the swing I tend to focus on my weight distribution, trying to get into my back leg on the backswing, and then exploding that weight up and forward into my lead hip during the downswing.
- What you will see in professional long drivers’ technique is that they are squatting and jumping up through their legs as they go from the top of their backswing through to impact.
- Creating speed is all about using your legs and the ground, it is not about moving your arms quickly.
- The hand speed comes as a result of great balance.
Hitting the “mega-flop” is the ultimate show-off shot and brings about a few ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ if pulled off correctly. Mind you it can bring about a ‘fore’ or two if you get it wrong, so it’s worth understanding a solid technique for executing this shot.
In a previous article, ‘Chipping away at the short game’, I explained what good technique looks like for a flop shot, so here are those tips for you.
- Good technique is to keep yourself nice and stable with a wide stance, your knees will be more bent as you want to be lower to the ground with your hands.
- From that point you want to maintain your posture as well as possible while simply rotating back and through.
- You will hinge your wrists as well, but people often overdo this and get too ‘flicky’.
- It is important to approach a shot like this with confidence and a relaxed belief in what you are doing as you need to give a lot of power and keep speeding up as you get to the ball.
- If you decelerate as you get to the ball, it is not likely to end well, unfortunately. As well as that, if you tighten up and feel too nervous, it’s probably not the time to play this shot.
- Make sure that you keep rotating your upper body throughout your downswing for this shot.
- When we play a flop shot, the clubface is open so you need to have rotated through in order to get that clubface back to the ball square enough.
- Keeping up that rotation also improves your strike and will help you to clip the ball from the turf rather than taking a divot.
The “mega-flop” can certainly be considered a luxury shot, but learning how to play a basic flop shot can be a bit of a stroke-saver if you feel confident enough to use it. One of the more common struggles for amateur golfers comes when faced with a chip shot over a bunker.
If you are unable to hit the flop shot then you will either have to play around the bunker, past the pin, or you’ll take it on regardless and end up in the bunker!
Either way, that is likely to take away any realistic chance of an up-and-down, so learning how to play a flop shot can help you pick up a shot or two during your round.
As you’ve seen from this article, the specialty shots in golf range from luxury to necessity.
The way that you play golf and the spots that you find yourself in on a golf course may determine which shots fall under which category (I’m looking at you if you hit it in the trees a lot, you know which shots I’m talking about), so hopefully you’ve been able to think about these shots and which would work best for you.
As I mentioned earlier, if you play at a course with many trees, then hitting a hook and a slice can be of great use to you, but maybe a stinger isn’t that helpful.
On the other hand, if you play at a links golf course then your biggest obstacle is often going to be the wind, in which case a stinger will be of great use to you, whereas you don’t have any trees to move your ball around!
If you’re not sure where to start, or what would be most effective for you then I would recommend working on a fairway finder and a flop shot. These two shots are the most frequently applicable and can solve issues that many amateur golfers struggle with.