6 Shots Every PGA Tour Pro Needs in His Bag
On golf's premier circuit, many PGA Tour pros are able to go low if the conditions are right, but only a few are able to play in every situation imaginable.
The sport's elite are separated from the rest of their golfing brethren by the so-called "pet" shots in their back pockets, for use when the going gets really tough.
From Tiger's "stinger" to Phil Mickelson's mile-high flop, we're going to take a look at the specialty shots every Tour pro needs in his bag, though only a few have actually mastered them.
Called the "stinger" by Tiger Woods, this shot is one of the most useful a golfer can learn to hit, as it can be used on both links and parkland style courses. While Tiger coined the name, the stinger is essentially an exaggerated knockdown shot and can be used with any club in the bag.
In most cases, a long iron is desirable, as it's easier to deloft an already low-lofted club. If you ever need to keep a shot out of the wind and want the ball to roll a ways, the stinger is the perfect shot to hit.
At address, play the ball two to three inches further back than normal while positioning your hands slightly forward. The primary fault by those who unsuccessfully mimic this shot is a failure to take a full backswing—this is crucial.
The other main point to remember when hitting the stinger is that your leading wrist should be bowed through impact, similar to the technique that Dustin Johnson uses in his normal swing.
The flop shot might be the most fun shot to practice at your local putting green. There's an allure to hitting a 25-yard shot twice as high in the air, and it's one of the only shots that true amateurs can generate backspin from.
On the PGA Tour, the flop is used ubiquitously, but it may be most synonymous with Phil Mickelson. As seen in the video above, Phil can hit a flop shot over just about anything, people included.
The keys to hitting a flop shot are as follows: (1) take an open stance, (2) flatten your club face to parallel with the ground, (3) swing in line with your feet, and (4) keep the club head as low as possible through impact.
Other than those tips, this is a feel shot, and it requires a lot of practice time to perfect.
Driver off the Deck
Hitting a driver off the deck (fairway) isn't a technique that every golfer employs, but in today's game of 650-plus yard par-fives, it may be worth looking into.
While Tiger Woods used to hit this shot in his early years, he has strayed away from it recently. But one golfer who hasn't been afraid to hit the big stick off the deck is Bubba Watson.
As seen in the video, Bubba hits his driver off the fairway how most would expect: with a low trajectory and a defined fade that some would even call a slice.
When attempting to hit this shot, it's important to visualize the club as if it is a longer, bigger five-wood and swing accordingly.
A final key to remember when addressing this shot: The ball should be positioned further back in your stance than it normally would with the driver.
One of the best recovery wedge shots in recent history is Rory McIlroy's at the Hong Kong Open in 2008, but it might be the hardest shot to master in the game today.
In general, the reason that recovery shots are so difficult to hit consistently is because they are so tough to practice—each situation calls for its own ball trajectory.
The most important thing a golfer can have in a recovery scenario is creativity, followed by restraint. It's best to know the limitations of one's own golf swing before attempting to punch it through an air-tight gap in the trees, but it's also important to have the vision to see the potential shot in the first place.
Plugged Bunker Pitch
Each PGA Tour pro seems to have his own method of escaping from plugged lies in a bunker, but Luke Donald's may be the most effective. Donald has finished in the Top 20 on Tour in terms of sand save percentage each of the past four years, twice finishing first by a significant margin.
In this video, Donald will explain how to hit out of a plugged lie in a bunker by using the heel of the wedge to "get the ball out a little bit higher and coming down a bit softer."
As is the case with most things in life, there are times you must trust your intuition, even though you can't see a particular solution with your own eyes.
Golf is no different, especially when it comes to holes with blind tee shots. The 17th at St. Andrews—nicknamed the "Road Hole"—is a perfect example. The tee shot requires a fair amount of intestinal fortitude, as golfers are required to hit over a hotel that is out of bounds.
In any situation when one is faced with a blind tee shot, it's crucial to pick out a specific external indicator, whether it's a treetop, a light pole, or a grandstand. Failure to invent some sort of "bulls-eye" when hitting a blind shot will make it more difficult to replicate a normal swing.