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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Phil Mickelson on the Difference Between Flops and Lobs

Secrets of the Short Game book coverThis is something I found in Phil's book Secrets of the Short Game. And it concerns some definitions that not all instructors use the same way.

Some instructors use the terms 'flop shot' and 'lob' interchangeably. Others say they're different shots but can't seem to agree on which shot is what.

But almost all instructors agree that Phil is the master of these shots. So his definitions should be the definitive ones, right?

Here's a short quote that starts the last section of his book:
I chipped for hours in my backyard as a kid but at some point I'd get a little tired of that, so to have some fun I'd hit flop and lob shots. What I call a flop shot is one out of a fluffy lie in the rough where you don't catch the ball cleanly; it comes out without spin, so you use trajectory to control the distance and how softly it lands. A lob is like a flop but out of a lie where you don't get grass between the club and the ball and it comes out with spin. (p185)
Okay, there's a lot in this little quote. Let's break it down.
  1. A chip is different from a flop or a lob. That may seem obvious, but I've read instructional pieces that made lob shots sound as if they were just hard chips. They aren't.
  2. If the ball is in a fluffy lie in the rough where you don't catch the ball cleanly -- which means you can't spin it -- you use a flop. 
  3. If the ball is in a clean lie where you can spin the ball, you use a lob.
  4. You have much more control over a lob shot than a flop shot.
  5. You control a flop shot with trajectory (the height of the shot) and a lob shot with spin.
  6. A lob shot (controlled with spin) flies lower than a flop shot (controlled by trajectory).
Now, pulling a few scattered thoughts from the rest of the section, here's how Phil describes the techniques.

First, the lie. That's what really determines the shot, and there are three main lies:
  • Ball sitting down in tall grass
  • Ball suspended in tall grass
  • Ball on hardpan or a tightly mown area near the green
The first two are flops, controlled by trajectory. The last one is a lob, controlled by spin.
  • On the first two shots, you deliberately hit well behind the ball. That means you're using the bounce on your wedge to hit a flop.
  • On the last shot, you hit down sharply on the ball. That means you're using the front edge of your wedge to hit a lob.
You play the ball a bit forward for a flop, and bit farther back for a lob.

Finally, all of these shots use a long backswing. Phil says flops require more force in the swing, but lobs are more about technique.

Hopefully, next time you're out on the course, this info will help you make a better decision about which shot to use and when to use it. It doesn't sound so confusing once you see it laid out like this.

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