How to Hit the Backwards Shot in Golf

If you haven’t seen Phil Mickelson’s famous backwards shot (link on the right), you’re probably a bit confused as to what it is and what purpose it has. The backwards shot is, simply, aiming in the opposite direction of your target, then flipping the ball backward over your head and in the right direction. Sound like a trick shot? Well, it is. Sort of. As Mickelson explains, it also comes in handy on the course in rare circumstances. And although you might never have to use the shot, knowing it and showing off to your friends can’t hurt.

When To Use It

Aside from those times during practice when you want to impress everyone around you (or injure, depending on how much practice you’ve had), there are situations on the golf course that warrant the use of this creative and fun shot.

The most common situation in which the backwards shot will help you is when your ball ends up on a severe downslope on the outskirts of a greenside bunker. Because of the harsh angle, hitting the ball forward would only result, at best, in your ball diving into the sand. The “smart” play would be to punch the ball out to the side of the bunker, and play your next shot onto the green.

If you learn how to pull off the backwards shot, though, you can get onto the green in just one stroke. You might even be approached for an autograph.

Hitting the Shot

Here’s how to execute it, in six basic steps:

Step 1: Severe Downslope

Unless your ball is both on a severe downslope to the pin, and within 10 or so yards to the green, the only “backwards” thing you’ll want to do after trying this shot will be going backwards in time to decide against it. The hill is the reason this shot is possible, so keep that in mind.

Step 2: Lob Wedge

You want the loftiest wedge in your bag for this shot. Typically, you’ll need about a 64-degree club to get the ball up and over your head.

Step 3: Turn Around

Aim 180 degrees in the opposite direction of where you want the ball to go. This will turn your severe downslope into a severe upslope. Added bonus: it’ll confuse your playing partners.

Step 4: Open Face

Open the face of your wedge so that it’s as flat as possible. This will no doubt affect the line of your clubhead, so adjust your alignment once you get the face of your wedge as open as you can make it.

Step 5: Body Angle

Get your head, shoulders, hips, and feet on the same angle as the slope. Unless you tilt your body this way, you won’t have the ability to get your club under the ball at the right angle at impact.

Step 6: Flip It

The trick to the shot is the flip action at impact. Unlike with every other chip or pitch you’ll hit on the course, for the backwards shot, you have to let the clubhead lead ahead of your hands. Take a big swing, and make sure your wrists are hinged at the top. On the downswing, get the club under the ball by flipping your wrists, and keep the momentum of your wrist’s flip going even after impact. You should see the clubhead follow the arc of the ball over your head and behind you.

Practice (Safely)

Normally, practice is a good idea for one reason: to improve. With this shot, though, you have a second reason to practice: safety. This is an extremely fun shot to hit, but unless you know what you’re doing, it can also easily turn into a medical situation for anyone who happens to be standing in the wrong spot at the wrong time. Make sure no one is within the vicinity of your shot in all directions, forwards and backwards. After enough safe practice time, you’ll be able to use the backwards shot for both those rare times you need it, and for those not-so-rare times you want it.

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