You may or may not have come across the term stinger. It is a fairly unique shot that a few players have perfected and useful to have in your arsenal. We look at what it is and how to hit a stinger.
Do you know people who are afraid of heights? Some people won’t go near the edge of a cliff, others refuse to cross a swing bridge or these high-rise glass walkways.
There are circumstances on the golf course when you might also find yourself being scared of height. You might be off the fairway and under the trees and not only have to find a gap to play through but also avoid the overhanging branches. It could also be a particularly windy day, and launching the ball up into the air might see it veering off with the wind into the rough or worse.
Some days you might just feel that your drive is not on and your confidence is a bit lacking. A controlled low flying shot, to make sure you stay in play and on the fairway, is the safe alternative.
What we need in these circumstances is a penetrating low shot that will hit the fairway and run to give you a good distance. This is not a punch shot to get out of trouble it is an attaching, controlled, and strategic golf shot.
How To Hit a Stinger
This shot is known as the “Stinger” and is synonymous with Tiger Woods. Tiger neither invented the shot, nor did he name it, but through the media, it has been linked to his name and has stuck.
Most probably the shot was developed by a player on the Mini-pro tour by the name of Zac Radford.
Having a faulty driver swing Radford spent months perfecting this low-launch, penetrating shot that he could rely on when the crunch was on.
The story goes that when Tiger was doing a photo shot to demonstrate this shot the photographer took up apposition directly in front of Tiger.
The ball zipped inches above his head and he called that a stinger. He then resorted to a remote-controlled camera.
Why Play a Stinger?
Most players have their “go-to shot” one that they know they can trust and always pull off if the need arises. Some players favor the power fade and try to eliminate the left-hand side of the fairway. Tiger has this stinger in his arsenal and some years ago played a major where he only used his driver once in four rounds.
A stinger then is a controlled power shot, with a low trajectory that will hit the fairway and continue to roll for maximum distance. It is usually played off the tee with a long iron or a fairway wood but can be played anywhere and with medium clubs even hybrids.
How then do we go about playing this shot?
This is a shot you are going to practice on the range before you try experimenting during play. Start with the 5 iron, this was the club Radford used mostly for his stingers. Once you have mastered the stinger with the 5 iron you can try a lower iron up to a fairway wood.
You don’t want to punch the ball to keep it low with no follow-through, but you do want to compress it, so the position is midstance or a fraction back. Place your feet slightly closer together with your weight more on the front foot.
Choke down about an inch on the shaft, this will give you more control for this difficult shot. You will be trying to turn a five iron into a four-iron to get the desired effect.
The backswing should be smooth and full unlike a punch shot with a shortened backswing. Get your hands up level with your ears and have a full shoulder turn.
Next, you want to lead with your lower body and your hands. Think of it as “pulling” your club, the hands will be level with your left foot as the clubhead makes contact with the ball. This might feel strange, but once you feel comfortable with it you will be set to mastering this shot. The clubface will be square at impact and you will have a slightly descending strike.
Keep it loose. This is an unusual shot so don’t make it difficult by tensing up. You need a smooth flow for this shot and keep a neutral grip. Radford says “think noodle arms” you want zero tension in your forearms at impact. Tensing the grip and arms will slow down your swing through the ball. Keeping your wrist firm, look for a divot forward of the ball as a result of the downward blow.
By keeping your wrists firm you will avoid turning them over as with a normal swing, then slow down the swing after impact and finish with a shorter follow-through. This shorter follow-through helps to produce the lower trajectory by reducing the loft.
Coming back to Tiger, he says he was advised early in his career that the longer the ball stayed in the air the more time there was for things to go wrong. His aim with the stinger is to keep it below tree height and have the best chance of hitting the fairway.
Speed up the lower body and try to keep the right shoulder over the ball. The key to the low flight is breaking the follow-through, the sooner you break the follow through the lower the trajectory of the ball, but this also forfeits distance. To put a draw on the stinger, simply place the ball further back in the stance.
What About a Hybrid?
Can you hit a stinger with a hybrid? Yes, you can, but there are differences.
The nature of a hybrid means that you will have to make concessions and not expect the same result as you would get say with a 4 iron. By slowing down the shot you will tend to lower the trajectory.
This will not be a “Tiger stinger”, but will certainly be much lower than the normal hybrid shot. Remember that slowing down the shot does not mean you forget to rotate the body, all you are doing is reducing the spin.
What is the best club to use to hit the perfect stinger?
Once you understand the mechanics of hitting a stinger you can apply it to almost any club in your bag.
With minor adjustments, you will perhaps move the ball slightly more forward or back in your stance or maybe open or close your stance a fraction. You can play the stinger off the tee or anywhere on the course.
When to Use The Stinger
The stinger will come into play if you are faced with very windy conditions and you need to keep the ball low, below tree height. Should you have strayed off the fairway and are faced with a shot under the trees with low branches the stinger might be a better option than a punch shot, especially if you are looking for more distance.
Lastly, if you are feeling that your tee shots are not as comfortable as they should be and you need confidence this could be your “go-to shot”.
To summarize, place the ball in the middle of your stance. Keep your weight slightly more on your front foot. Take your normal backswing then move your body towards the target and lead with your hands as you rotate the shoulders. Don’t tense up or increase your grip, and “break” the follow-through finishing with your hands level with your head.
Once you master this you can try a banana slice or low hook around trees and obstacles and be ready to take on any Tiger.