Weaken Grip to Master Soft Lob Shot 2

Phil Mickelson makes the flop shot look awfully easy, and guess what? It is.

Okay, so attaining Mickelson-level proficiency with the high lob takes world-class talent along with perfect technique. But regardless of your physical gifts, there's a very simple method for hitting this useful – and visually impressive – golf shot.

All you do is adopt a weaker grip on the club. In other words, rotate your hands to the left (for a right-hander) on the handle. This may cause an odd feeling of the hands being restricted on the takeaway.

In fact, the clubface may actually become slightly closed relative to the target line on the backswing. However, the clubface will open on the downswing, producing a high-arching shot which lands softly as a feather.

Practice this technique to get a feel for how much to weaken the grip to create the height you're looking for. Also work on shots of varying lengths, including very short lobs of no more than five yards. See how hard you can swing to produce an extremely high shot that travels just a short distance.

Work on this simple solution and you'll be launching flop shots like “Lefty” in no time.

Should You Weaken Grip to Master Soft Lob Shot?

Should You Weaken Grip to Master Soft Lob Shot?

Variety is the key to success in the short game. If you are going to get your ball up and down with great consistency, you need to be able to turn to a number of different shots depending on the circumstances. Sometimes, a basic bump-and-run shot will be the perfect option for the shot at hand. Other times, you will need to lob the ball up into the air softly in order to stop it close to the hole. Having the ability to hit a number of different shots is going to allow you to get up and down from all kinds of different spots around the green.

This article is going to focus on one specific kind of short game shot – the lob. Specifically, we are going to take a look at how your grip will impact the kind of lob shot you can hit, and whether or not a weaker grip is a good thing in this situation. The soft lob shot should be seen as one of the basic building blocks of the short game, and it should be included in everyone's collection of options. With a soft lob at your disposal, you may be able to get up and down even when you are in a tough, short-sided position. Also, if you frequently play on courses with firm greens, the soft lob will help you to stop the ball before it runs well past the target.

First, before getting into the instruction, we need to define a soft lob shot. A soft lob is just as it sounds – this is a gentle short game shot which will float up into the air before landing softly on the putting surface. With this shot, you are not using backspin to stop the ball. Instead, you are going to use loft and a lack of speed to settle the ball down quickly. This is different from a flop shot, where you would use a big aggressive swing to hit a high shot with plenty of spin. Both a lob shot and a flop shot are hit up into the air, but they are achieved with different kinds of swings. It is also useful to have a flop shot in your arsenal, but that is a topic for another article.

As is the case with all short game shots – and, indeed, all golf shots in general – you are going to need to practice the soft lob shot if you hope to hit it successfully on the course. You won't improve at anything in golf without practice, and that certainly includes the short game. Make a point to not only practice your short game on a regular basis, but to practice a variety of shots in order to prepare yourself for many different circumstances.

All of the content below has been written from the perspective of a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.

The Basic Technique

The Basic Technique

Before talking about the impact that your grip has on this shot, we first want to address the basic technique you should be using to hit a soft lob. The grip is certainly an important part of your technique, but we will address that aspect later in the article. For now, review the points listed below to understand the basics behind this useful short game play.

  • Play from an open stance. One of the keys to hitting a soft lob shot is opening your stance at address. This adjustment is going to accomplish a couple of things. First, it is going to allow you to easily swing across the ball from outside-in. Swinging across the line in this manner will make it easier to get the shot airborne without putting too much forward momentum behind the ball. In other words, it is easier to hit the shot both high and soft when using this technique. Also, using an open stance will give you a better look at the target, which is important when chipping from close range.
  • A smooth tempo. You really need to master a smooth tempo throughout the backswing and downswing when trying to hit a soft lob. When placing an emphasis on hitting the ball softly, tempo is going to be your best friend. An abrupt swing with a quick change of direction at the back will make it difficult to control speed – and you will often wind up hitting the ball too hard as a result. To avoid that outcome, keep your hands soft around the grip of the club and use an easy tempo to lob the ball up off the ground and into the air. It will take some time to build up the confidence necessary to stick with such a tempo, but your patience and hard work will be rewarded in the long run.
  • A long swing. To go along with your smooth tempo, you are also going to need to use a rather long swing to hit this shot. Not as long as a full swing, of course, but still longer than the motion you would make to hit a standard chip shot along the ground. Swinging along an extended arc, with a smooth tempo, is going to result in the high and soft flight that you are hoping to achieve.
  • Keep your head still. This is a key which can be applied to basically every shot in the game of golf, and it certainly applies here. When trying to lob the ball up into the air, you will be tempted to look up early to see where the ball is going to go. That would be a mistake, and it could cause you to severely miss-hit the shot. To give yourself the best possible chance of success, work hard to keep your head perfectly still during this swing. Keeping your head still is going to cause most of the rest of your body to stay still as well. That means you will be properly balanced throughout the shot, and the club should make clean contact with the back of the ball each time.
  • Slide the club under the ball. In order to get the ball up in the air softly, you will need to slide the leading edge of the club under the ball at impact. This is not the kind of shot you are going to want to hit down on aggressively. Instead, the club head should be moving mostly parallel with the ground through the hitting area. This will expose the full loft of the wedge to the ball, allowing it to climb up into the air without requiring you to hit the shot too hard. Using this technique will also keep the spin rate on the shot down, which is consistent with the overall plan for a soft lob.

As you can see from the list above, there are a few points which you will need to keep in order if you are going to hit a successful soft lob shot. This should immediately highlight the need for you to practice this shot. By spending plenty of time practicing the basic technique you are going to use for a soft lob, you won't have to think so much about it on the course. When the situation at hand calls for the lob, you can simply make a couple practice swings and get down to business. For any shot, building comfort and confidence in practice is going to greatly improve your chances for success during an actual round.

The Role of the Grip

The Role of the Grip

We have already talked a lot about the technique necessary to hit a soft lob shot, and we have not yet even gotten into the issue of the grip. As you would expect, the grip is an important piece of the puzzle here, so it should not be overlooked while working on the other keys. With the right grip, the soft lob can become a reliable, predictable shot capable of getting you out of all kinds of trouble. If you make a mistake with your grip, however, you could make this shot nearly impossible – even if the rest of your technique is in good shape.

To quickly answer the question which was posed in the title of this article – yes, you should weaken your grip when playing a soft lob shot. If you are not familiar, a 'weaker' grip is one which has the left hand turned to the left on the grip prior to starting the swing. So, for example, if you usually have your left thumb slightly to the right of the top of the grip at address, you will now turn your hand to where that thumb in directly on top of the grip. You don't need to make a dramatic change in order to impact the quality of these shots.

So why is it helpful to use a weaker grip when hitting a soft lob? The following points will highlight the benefits.

  • Less hand action through the ball. This is the big key, and it is the main reason why you should use a weaker grip in this situation. With a strong grip, your left hand will have a lot of control over the movement of the club – meaning you will be more likely to whip the club through the ball at impact. That is perfectly acceptable in some situations, but it is a big problem when trying to hit a soft chip shot up in the air. In this case, you want to use that smooth tempo we talked about earlier to carry the club head through the hitting area with ease. By employing a weaker grip, your hands won't have as much control over the club, and your shoulders will be able to brush the club through the downswing at an even pace.
  • Maintain the loft of the club. In order to maximize the height of the ball flight on this shot, you need to expose the full loft of the club (or more) to the ball at impact. That might not happen with a strong grip. A strong grip could cause the club face to turn down slightly before sending the ball on its way. When that happens, the shot will be lower than expected, and it will likely travel too far before all is said and done. It is much harder to close the face when you are using a relatively weak grip. It will probably take a bit of practice to get comfortable with how the club performs when using this kind of grip, but your shots should be rather impressive once you get over that learning curve.
  • Solid feel from the rough. When you have to play a high chip shot from the deep rough, your weak grip will let you use an aggressive swing without too much risk of hitting the ball past the target. Playing a shot from the rough with a strong grip is a tough challenge, as it is easy to hit the ball too hard if your grip lets the club cut through the rough with ease. Using a weak grip, you can trust your shoulders to deliver the club firmly into the ball while the hands remain quiet. It is easier to control your distance this way, meaning you will be more successful overall.

Once you get comfortable hitting this soft lob with a weak grip, you might find that you want to move your grip in a weaker direction for all of your short game shots. While a stronger grip is recommended in the long game for amateur players, there is a great argument to be made for staying on the weak side when it comes to the short game.

Picking the Right Spots

Picking the Right Spots

It isn't necessarily going to be easy to get comfortable with the soft lob shot, but you can do it. As long as you invest some practice time in this specific shot, your performance and confidence are sure to come around. However, just knowing how to play the shot isn't necessarily going to be enough. In addition, you need to know how to use the shot effectively. When should you pull it out of the bag, and when should you opt for another approach? Please consult the list below to make sure your shot selection is on track in the short game.

  • Very little green to work with. This is the first point you should be watching for when assessing whether or not to use your soft lob. If you have a lot of green to work with, it wouldn't make much sense to use this shot – you could just play a basic bump-and-run instead. However, if the hole is cut barely onto the green from your angle, or if you are playing over a hazard such as a bunker, it may be best to use the high lob to get the ball to stop quickly. As always in this game, you want to make your shot selection based on using the easiest possible shot for the situation. Only choose the high lob when the easier types of shots won't get the job done.
  • A reasonable lie. You don't have to have a perfect lie to play this shot, but you don't want to be in a really tough spot, either. If your lie is giving your second thoughts about whether or not you will be able to get the ball up in the air, it might be best to opt for a simpler method. This may mean that you have to play away from the hole just to get on the green. Good golfers have the patience and perspective necessary to take a prudent path, even when that path is not the most exciting option on the table.
  • Into the wind. It is obviously okay to use this shot when playing across or down wind – or when there is no wind at all – but it is an especially good choice when chipping into the breeze. The force of the wind will cause the ball to come nearly straight down onto the green, meaning there will be very little in the way of forward movement after the ball lands. With a little practice, you will find it very easy to control the distance of your lob chip shots in this situation.
  • Dealing with firm greens. Generally speaking, you won't find many situations where you need to use the soft lob when the greens are soft. Since the soft playing conditions will help you stop the ball quickly, it is usually just fine to keep the ball lower to the turf. However, if you are playing on a firm and fast course, loft is going to be your friend. Play the ball up into the air to take some of the speed out of the shot when it comes down.

Once you start to use this shot during some of your rounds, you will quickly gain a better understanding for when it can be used effectively – and when it should be kept in the bag. Depending on the style of golf course you usually play, this is a shot that may be used frequently, or it may only be needed on a rare occasion. Keep an open mind when approaching your short game shots and let the circumstances in front of you dictate your final decision.

Using the Right Equipment

Using the Right Equipment

There is a lot of equipment involved in the game of golf. You need clubs, a bag, golf balls, shoes, clothes, and more in order to tee it up on a regular basis. Within the set of clubs you carry on the course, you are allowed 14 slots – it is up to you to determine how to best use each of those 14 spots. Of course, at least two or three of the clubs you carry will be wedges, and those are exactly the clubs we will be discussing in this final section.

In order to hit a soft lob shot, you are going to need to have a high-lofted wedge in your bag. Some amateur golfers think that they can get by with the sand wedge being the highest lofted club in the bag, but that usually isn't going to cut it. Instead, you should be thinking about adding a lob wedge to your collection (if you don't have one already). Where a sand wedge usually has approximately 55* of loft, a lob wedge is going to have 58* - 60*. Naturally, this added loft is going to make it easy for you to hit the ball high in the air.

Could you get by without lob wedge? Sure, you might be able to make your sand wedge work for this shot. However, you would have to open the face of the club at address, which would expose the bounce angle on the sole of the club to the turf. That bounce angle helps the sand wedge do its job properly in bunkers, but it can cause trouble on the grass portions of the course. Instead of forcing the action with a sand wedge, simply add a lob wedge to your set and be ready anytime the need for a soft lob arises. Once your lob wedge is in your bag, you will likely find that it has a number of other valuable uses as well.

In summary, it is a good idea to use a weak left hand grip when playing a soft lob shot. However, this shot cannot be produced with simply your grip alone. You are going to need to have solid technique all the way through this shot, so get down to work on this skill as soon as possible. Once you