Golf tips: When and if you should hit a bunker flop-shot like Phil Mickelson

Phil Mickelson
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Phil Mickelson pulled off an incredible flop shot from a greenside bunker on Sunday. We chatted with PGA Professional Jeff Martin about when -- and if -- you should attempt such a shot.
By T.J. Auclair
PGA.com
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Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Monday, May 08, 2017 | 10:00 a.m.

In Sunday's final round of the Wells Fargo Championship at Eagle Point, Phil Mickelson did what he's done his entire career and absolutely dazzled us with an amazing shot from a greenside bunker at the par-4 seventh hole.

Just 321 yards in length, Mickelson nearly drove the green, but ended up just left in the bunker.

Faced with a 46-yard bunker shot, that's where Mickelson got extra creative.

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Rather than play what Johnny Miller might describe as a "chunk and run" from that position, Mickelson went way up high with a massive flop shot that he hit into a bank well past and well right of the hole, but as soon as the ball hit the green, it spun back to within inches of the cup.

And, just like that, he made a birdie.

Here's the shot:

We tracked down PGA Professional Jeff Martin, the head professional at Norton Country Club in Norton, Mass., to find out when you should play a flop shot from a bunker, if you should play such a shot and how you can pull it off.

"First off, as incredible as that shot was -- and it was amazing -- Phil had some factors going for him," Martin told PGA.com. "We never got to see his lie in the bunker, but based on the trajectory of the shot, it's safe to assume it was either on a slope, or in a flat spot. Because of the rain they had last week, the sand was probably compacted. The greens were soft. So, to get it there, he had to fly it all the way. It was a last resort kind of shot. He also had a nice back shelf to hit it into... but he still had to pull it off."

And that's exactly what he did. Expertly.

"Nothing Phil does should surprise us anymore. He's that good," Martin said. "John Q amateur probably shouldn't try that shot though. There's just too much going on that can go wrong. Why take less club and swing that hard when you can take more club and swing like a normal bunker shot? Hit a gap-wedge or sand-wedge easy from that spot instead of trying to dial up a perfect lob shot. Don't force it."

Martin said it's important to study your lie first and foremost. If the bunker is compacted, the shot is going to come out quicker, whereas if you find yourself in some fluffy stuff, it's going to be slower.

"On those longer shots like Phil hit, I would suggest taking a little more club, set up the same as you would for a normal bunker shot -- open stance, open clubface, use the bounce of the club and splash it out," Martin said. "You need to read that lie too since it's going to determine what you can do."

The biggest issue with bunker shots that Martin sees with most amateurs has to do with trust.

They're afraid, he said, to open the clubface, trust the bounce and let the club slide through the sand.

"Instead, people dig that leading edge into the sand and there's no follow through," Martin said. "When that happens, guess what? You're back to square one because the ball is staying in that bunker. Use the bounce of the club. That's why it's there. Get the ball forward in your stance -- more toward your left heel than center. Trust your swing and, just like every shot, face your target when you're done. Too many people stop and stuff the club into the ground and the ball stays right there."

T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.