As much as he’s achieved, Tiger Woods’ driving accuracy has been a bit, shall we say, hit or miss since his landmark 2000 season.
But Woods long ago developed a shot that lets him leave the driver in the bag when it’s misbehaving, and virtually assures him of hitting the fairway when conditions are extra narrow.
It’s called the “stinger,” and Woods typically uses a 2- or 3-iron, sometimes a 3- or 5-wood, to execute it. Perhaps the greatest example of his proficiency with the shot was the 2006 Open Championship at Hoylake, when Woods hit his driver just one time during four rounds over the baked-out, hard-running links. He led the field in fairways hit en route to his 11th major title.
We’ll break down Tiger’s signature shot and explain how you can play your own version of the stinger.
What it looks like: Whether he’s using a fairway wood or long iron, Woods’ stinger is a low, penetrating bullet. He generally shapes the shot left to right (fade) for added control, so it doesn’t run that far unless the fairways are very firm. While he does sacrifice some distance, Woods is able to hit the stinger 240 yards plus with regularity.
How Tiger does it: Obviously, Woods is incredibly strong, especially in the arms and shoulders. This gives him great control over the club, and he can manipulate the path and angle of the clubface at impact like no one else in golf.
Physical gifts aside, technique is critical to Woods’ execution. He plays the ball back in his stance with the shaft leaned toward the target at address, then “traps” the ball hard against the turf coming through. He often takes a divot when hitting the stinger because he drives down and through with such force.
How you can do it: Assuming you lack Woods’ raw strength and talent, you shouldn’t rely on the arms and hands to put the club on the ball in the manner necessary to create the stinger trajectory. Nor should you try it with a long iron or low-lofted fairway wood unless you can generate Tiger-like clubhead speed.
Instead, go with a 5-iron, or a hybrid with at least 20° loft, and follow these steps:
- Stand a little wider than usual, with the ball in the middle of your stance.
- Place slightly more weight on your left (lead) foot – about 55-60% -- and make sure your hands are ahead of the ball.
- Grip down an inch or so on the club, and aim just left of your target to allow for a fade.
- Make your normal backswing with a full shoulder turn.
- On the downswing and follow-through, rotate your upper body through the ball while keeping the toe of the club to the right of the heel (in an open position).
- Abbreviate your finish, with your hands reaching about shoulder height.
Mastering the stinger takes time and practice, but it can prove a valuable weapon when your driver is off – or when the fairways are a bit too tight for comfort.