Not Flip-Flop But Flop-Flip

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Like it or not, its election season. That means the term flip-flop will regain currency in news broadcasts and coffee counter conversation, emerging from the mouths of paid pundits and armchair analysts like so much poisonous gas. .
 
But Im all about turning negatives into positives. Lets start by focusing on something infinitely more important than the election ' golf ' and switching up the order. Instead of the flip-flop, lets discuss the Flop-Flip.
 
The Flop-Flip is what you do from short yardage to get the ball close to the hole, set up birdie or par, and amaze your friends out of their ill-conceived Nassau bets. Employ a confident flop shot to flip your ball in tight, and Lincolns will be pushing their way out of competitive wallets in an effort to get close to you. .
 
The flop shot, made famous by Phil Mickelson but available in the arsenals of a great many players, can be achieved two ways: equipment or technique. All you have to add is practice; this isnt one you can fake. And what better way to adjust the balance of your practice the way the experts always say you should? Less long game, more short game.
 
Equipment is a good bet. By now were all familiar with the 60-degree wedge, whose sheer loft allows you to make a standard, back-and-through swing while literally letting the club do the work. You can even go as high as 64 degrees from some manufacturers, but you can also achieve a creditable high, soft-landing butterfly with a 58 or even a 56.
 
Just a few considerations when shopping and test-driving: check the back. If youre flopping from tighter lies, you dont want a big flange or too much muscle to get in the way and bounce the leading edge up into the equator of the ball for a dreaded skull job. Thats why a lot of players carry a nice, bouncy sand wedge (say, 12 degrees of bounce) and a low-bounce with 58 or 60 degrees of loft.
 
But if you go the technique route, youll essentially be hitting a sand shot from turf. So youll want to open the face of the wedge as you do for a sand shot. The idea is to strike the ball and the ground under it in such a way that the leading edge goes under, while the increased loft of the open face flings the ball high so that it lands like the proverbial sore-footed butterfly. Here, a non-bulging back is crucial. Some players have a favorite wedge from which they will grind the back down a bit (or more likely, have it done by experts in such things so as not to overdo it and ruin the head). Or you can buy a low-bounce model and be done with it. The grinders also may want to have the heel shaved down a bit so it wont accidentally catch the turf and turn the clubhead inward, squirreling the shot away in directions unknown.
 
The key to this more advanced shot is to get a wedge whose back you can confidently flatten to the turf. Then, keeping the handle in front of the ball but not deflected too far downward, you can make that sand-shot swing along the line made by your feet, which are in an open stance to the target line. Up goes the ball, soft is the landing.
 
I say this not as some expert, but as a lucky student. On a Whats In The Bag? shoot some years ago, Vijay Singh and I were demonstrating wedge properties. Between takes, I hit a few pitches while the cameraman loaded a new tape. Watching in restrained horror, Vijay said, I cant let you leave here without trying to help you.
 
He did. Flattening the back of a wedge to the ground and getting the handle ahead enough to point to a spot beneath my belt buckle, he got me to make a confident, pretty big swingand the ball did as instructed. .
 
You got it now, bro, he said. Now just practice it to get your distance control down.
 
That may have been the most important part of the brief lesson. Whether you decide to go square-swing-and-high-loft or open-faced-cut-shot, the flop requires serious feel. Hit a lot of them. Pick a practice area that lets you take big swings, as you must do to get these things to go 20 yards or more. At first it will feel like youre swinging for 95 yards, and youll skull a few. Choose an area with a safe landing area.
 
Once you can flop, though, youll gain a lot of confidence, and it will spill over into other parts of your game. And thats better than a political promise, election year or not.