Made famous by Tiger Woods, the “stinger” is an extremely low shot hit with a wood, hybrid or long iron.
It takes enormous talent and skill to play the stinger like Woods does, but most amateurs can learn a modified version.
The stinger is a great option when playing a short par 4 where accuracy is paramount. The shot's low trajectory makes it useful in the wind as well.
Woods typically pulls a 2-iron or fairway wood when the stinger is called for. His powerful arms allow Woods to manipulate the clubhead through impact, keeping it hugging the turf well after the ball's been launched. He's even been known to take a divot when playing the stinger – highly unusual with these clubs.
For mere mortals, the stinger is best played similar to a standard knock-down or punch shot:
- Tee the ball very low, no more than a quarter-inch off the ground.
- Play the ball two-thirds of the way between your lead foot and the middle of your stance.
- At address, make sure your hands are ahead of the ball with the club tilting slightly toward the target.
- Make an abbreviated backswing.
- Visualize the club “chasing” the ball after impact to ensure a shallow path into and past contact.
The Stinger Shot for Everyday Golfers
As a golfer, it is to your advantage to have as many various shots in your bag as possible. When you have a number of different shots that you are able to produce on command, you will be able to adapt to the situations in front of you as you make your way around the course. One of the biggest challenges in golf is the sheer variety of circumstances that you can face during a single round. Players who are only able to hit one or two kinds of shots will struggle to make those shots work in all situations. Take the time and effort to add to your repertoire and you will reap the benefits on the scorecard.
One of the shots that you may want to consider adding to your 'toolbox' is the stinger. A stinger is a low-flying shot, usually played from the tee, which is designed to provide you with accuracy while still rolling out enough to achieve a useful distance. This shot is typically played with a long iron; however, it could also be played with a fairway wood or hybrid club. No matter what club is used, the idea is the same – to produce an extremely low ball flight that will split the fairway and set you up for your approach shot into the green.
While you might have seen this shot from time to time on TV before, you probably never thought about using it in your own game. However, it is a realistic shot for most players to attempt, and you might find that you can get rather adept at it with just a little bit of practice. It is important to use the right technique when trying to produce this kind of shot, as you will need to modify your stance and swing slightly in order to create the ball flight desired. Of course, you are going to need to work on this shot on the practice range prior to attempting to use it on the golf course. Not only will your time on the range allow you to learn how to create this shot, but it will also help you build the confidence needed to take this shot out of the bag when the pressure is on.
As you are going through the process of learning how to hit a stinger – which will be outlined in the content below – it is important that you learn the strengths and weaknesses of the shot as it pertains to your game. For example, when you miss with this shot, do you miss to the right or the left? Are you usually able to hit it pretty straight, or does it curve in one direction or the other? Just as with any shot in your bag, the key to using the stinger effectively is being able to predict exactly what it is going to do in the air. When you are confident that you know what you can expect from this shot each time you decide to use it, it will become a trusted and useful part of your game.
All of the content below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
Why a Stinger?
Before getting into the details on how to hit this shot, we should first look at what this shot can do for you on the course. After all, if it isn't going to benefit you in terms of helping you shoot lower scores, there would be no reason to add it to your game. Fortunately, there are a number of different benefits that can be enjoyed when you are able to use this shot, so it is certainly worth your time to teach yourself the technique needed to hit a stinger.
Following are three of the benefits that you may experience when using a stinger ball flight on the course.
- Fighting the wind. The stinger is a great shot when played in the wind. As you already know, hitting accurate shots in windy conditions is difficult, and it is even more difficult when you send the ball high in the air. To keep your ball in play while still getting the distance you need to reach the green with your approach, the stinger is a great option. Since it should fly close to the ground (when struck properly), the wind will have a minimal effect on the flight of your stinger shot. This method of keeping the ball out of the wind is not only effective on shots played into the breeze, but also for holes where the wind is blowing from side to side. If you play a lot of your golf in areas that tend to be windy, adding a stinger shot to your arsenal is one of the best things you can do for your game.
- Hit the fairway. There are some holes you encounter on the golf course that simply demand accuracy. Often, these are shorter par fours that have been designed to test your ability to hit the ball straight. The fairway may be lined with sand bunkers, water hazards, trees, or some other obstacle waiting to punish you for a poor shot. When you face this kind of hole, using the stinger is a great way to put a premium on placing the ball in the short grass. Keeping the ball low to the ground will minimize the time it has in the air to turn off line, and the technique you use to hit a stinger will help you avoid sidespin. This certainly isn't going to be the right kind of tee shot for every hole that you play, but it can be perfect in the right situation.
- Take advantage of conditions. When you play golf on a soft course, the stinger shot isn't going to provide you with much value. On the other hand, when you play a dry and firm golf course that is offering plenty of roll in the fairways, the stinger can be your best friend. This is a shot that derives much of its distance from the roll that it gets along the ground, but you are only going to get that roll when the conditions are right. Evaluate the firmness of the fairways early in your round and opt for the stinger when you feel that the course is going to give you the bounce and roll you need.
Once you learn how to hit a stinger, you will probably find that it offers you even more uses and benefits than those listed above. For example, you may find that the same technique you use to hit the stinger from the tee allows you to punch out of trouble after a drive in the trees. No matter what purposes you end up finding for the stinger shot once it is added to your 'collection', you can be sure that it is going to help you lower your overall scoring average.
The Basic Mechanics
To get started learning how to hit a stinger shot, you will need to head to the driving range with one of your long irons and a bucket of balls. Most likely, you will want to learn this shot with the longest iron in your bag – a three iron for most amateur players. Your longest iron is the one that will give you the best combination of a low trajectory and plenty of ball speed, which is exactly what you want in order to create a low, rolling shot.
Of course, you can't just use your normal swing to produce a stinger. Instead, you are going to have to alter your technique to produce the lower, penetrating ball flight that is associated with the stinger. The following tips will help you make the adjustments necessary to create this shot.
- Ball in the middle of your stance. Ball position is an important part of the stinger. Many players, thinking they want to hit the ball low, will move the ball way back in their stance – to the point where it is lined up with the right foot. That is the right idea, but it is taking it too far. The ideal ball position for a stinger is right in the middle of your stance. This will allow you to hit down on the ball nicely while still offering you the ability to release the club head through impact. If you get the ball too far back, you won't be able to release and you will have to 'chop' at the ball to hit the shot. Before you get started hitting any stinger shots on the range, make sure you find the middle point in your stance and place the ball precisely in that spot time after time.
- Choke down slightly. Since the ball is in the middle of your stance, you aren't going to want to use the whole golf club for these swings. Instead, choke down on the grip of your iron by around an inch or two to shorten the overall length of the club. By choking down, you will add control to your swing, making it easier to strike the shot cleanly on a regular basis. Also, this adjustment will effectively stiffen the shaft during the swing, leading to a lower ball flight. While it might seem like a minor thing to move your grip down the club an inch or two, this tweak to your set up will have a big impact on the way the ball comes off of the club.
- Stay over the ball. The main key to producing a quality stinger shot is hitting down on the ball through impact, and that is only going to happen if you stay over the ball throughout the swing. Rather than allowing your weight to drift back to the right in the backswing, work on keeping your center of gravity right over the ball throughout. To hit on this point correctly, focus on the very beginning of your golf swing. During the takeaway, you should monitor your balance carefully in order to avoid the dreaded slide to the right. As long as you are able to avoid sliding within the first foot of the backswing, you should be set up nicely to complete the rest of the swing.
- Commit. This last tip is a mental note rather than a physical one. If you are going to hit a stinger shot – whether on the range or on the course – you need to be fully committed to the swing. As you are coming down into the ball, there can be no doubt whatsoever in your mind. The club has to be accelerating through impact if you are going to strike this shot with the kind of force that is necessary to rip the ball well down the fairway. Before taking your stance and starting the swing, commit your mind to the stinger shot selection and trust that it is going to come off perfectly.
The four tips listed above are all you should need to get started hitting your first stinger shots. If you set up with the ball in the middle of your stance, choke down on the club, stay over the ball, and commit to the swing, you should produce a low, penetrating ball flight. Don't expect brilliant results right away, however – it will take some time and practice before you are able to get comfortable with this style of swing.
It is easy to get discouraged with this shot if you only hit it a few times on the range before deciding it is too hard. Before even getting started, you should understand that there is going to be some challenge associated with learning how to hit this shot. Be patient, expect some difficulties along the way, and be willing to work through them until you are comfortable with your stinger swing.
One of the problems that you are likely to have right away is catching this shot fat. You probably aren't used to hitting down into your long irons like you are going to be doing with the stinger – most long irons are hit with a flatter swing path through impact. When swinging down steeply into a long iron, it is easy to hit behind the ball slightly and create a fat shot as a result. To correct this problem, you need to look to your lower body. During the downswing, the lower body should be rotating aggressively through toward the target. A lack of lower body rotation is going to cause you to bottom out your swing prior to reaching the ball. To make sure you hit the ball before the turf, focus on turning your left hip toward the target throughout the downswing.
Another problem you may have with the stinger is getting yourself aligned correctly prior to the swing. As you move the ball back in your stance, it is going to be necessary to aim a little bit farther to the left than you would otherwise. The ball is likely to be pushed slightly at impact on a stinger shot, which you can adjust for by rotating your feet to the left a bit at address. As you gain experience with this shot, you will figure out how your ball flight normally behaves and you can then aim accordingly. At first, plan on aiming a little bit left to account for a possible push, and then fine tune your own personal approach moving forward.
After ironing out the contact you are making with the ball and the aim you need to use, another problem you might find is an inability to keep the ball as low as you want. Even if you are doing everything you think you need to do to hit a stinger, the ball may still climb a bit too high into the air. When that happens, you are probably releasing the club prematurely coming down into impact. You have to hold off the angle on the way down and hit through the shot with the back of your left wrist as flat as possible. If you allow the left wrist to cup prior to impact, you will be adding loft to the club and the whole point of the stinger shot will be lost.
Should you find that it is difficult for you to keep that left wrist flat, work on making some smaller, softer swings to practice that kind of impact. Hit little punch shots that only travel 40 or 50 yards in the air while keeping the back of your left wrist solid at impact. As you gain confidence in that feeling, add more and more speed to the swing until you get back up to your full motion. Once you master the technique of flattening out the left wrist through the ball, the last piece of the puzzle should be in place and your stinger shots should look great.
Picking Your Spots
Now that you have a reliable stinger shot that you trust, the next step is to understand when you should pull it out of the bag. As was mentioned previously, this isn't going to be a shot that you want to use on every hole. More likely, you are only going to use this shot a couple of times per round, depending on conditions. Knowing how to pick and choose your spots for the stinger is going to be key if it is to add value to your game.
Following is a list of three opportunities that you may find during a round of golf to deploy the stinger shot.
- Short par fours. This is probably the most-common place for you to use your stinger. Deploying the stinger off of the tee on a short par four should set you up nicely for a short approach shot into the green. By using the stinger, you should be able to keep the ball out of trouble to make sure you have a chance to set up a birdie putt. Many golfers use their driver on the tee of short par fours, only to hit the ball into the rough and make the hole much harder than it needs to be. Use your stinger often on par fours under 350 yards and give yourself a great chance for par or better.
- Long par fives. Believe it or not, you could choose to employ your stinger on long par fives when you have no chance of reaching the green in two shots. If you know you aren't going to be reaching the green in two, you might as well hit a tee shot that you are confident will leave you in the short grass. The last thing you want to do is play your second shot from the rough and leave a difficult third, so do your best to just get the ball in the fairway – even if that means leaving the driver in the bag.
- Pressure tee shots. The stinger is great under pressure. When you are feeling nervous – whether due to the circumstances of your round or just the hazards that are waiting along the fairway – you might not want to unload on a driver. However, using the stinger is a great option as you can keep the ball down low to the ground and minimize the number of things that can go wrong. The more success you have with the stinger tee shot under pressure, the more confidence you will feel each time you put it to use.
The stinger is a useful shot that can benefit the game of nearly every golfer. While it might take you a little time and effort to figure out how to produce this shot consistently, your patience will be rewarded as you begin to have more and more success. With the stinger successfully added to your arsenal, you will have one more way in which you can attack the course to shoot the lowest possible score.