If you want your golf score to look less like your credit score, you need to save strokes around the green. Not every woman on the course can hit enormous drives or plunk irons next to the cup. But the short game requires touch and technique, not strength and power. Improved chipping can shave one, two, even three shots off a single hole. Multiply that over a round of golf and your scores will drop dramatically.
A simple adjustment to your chipping setup can help you strike down on the ball, a key to making clean contact and putting enough backspin to the shot to get it into the air and carry onto the green. Assume your set up for a chip with a narrow, slightly open stance, ball back near your right foot, hands pushed a little forward, weight on your left heel. Lean your upper body toward the hole so the center of your chest is ahead of the ball. Your left shoulder will dip down a slightly, but this adjustment will make it easier for the club to swing up going back and stay low going through.
Good chippers get the ball onto the green and rolling like a putt quickly. Stand next to a practice green with a few golf balls. Try throwing some balls all the way to a hole and get them to stop close. Now, toss a few balls just onto the green so they can roll the rest of the way. Most people find the second group of balls end up closer to the hole than the first. Practice the toss and roll from different spots to improve your feel, then hit some chip shots from the same spots. Experiment with different clubs from your 7-, 8- and 9-irons down through your pitching, gap, sand and lob wedges to work on your touch with various clubs around the green.
Players with impressive short games often have great imaginations. They can picture exactly the type of shot they want to hit in any situation. Legendary instructor Harvey Penick taught generations of golfers, including LPGA Hall of Famers Mickey Wright and Kathy Whitworth, to picture the best trajectory of their chip shots by imagining a bench between themselves and the green. Their goal was hit the ball under the bench, carry it just onto the green and roll to the cup. To improve your trajectory control, try this drill with different clubs to see if you can produce a 7-iron trajectory with a sand wedge, for example. Visualizing the bench is a mind trick you can use in practice and on the course for better chipping.
The chipping stroke is mostly a short arm swing with a tiny bit of wrist action. A small amount of leg motion can add some fluidity to the motion and enhance your touch and feel. The motion is subtle. Swing the club back with your hands arms and a small amount of shoulder motion. As you swing through, let your right knee move toward you left just a few inches. Freeing your legs will cut some of the tension in your upper body, which can hinder your feel.
- 100 Percent Golf; David Leadbetter
- The Little Red Book; Harvey Penick
- Getting Up and Down; Tom Watson
David Raudenbush has more than 20 years of experience as a literacy teacher, staff developer and literacy coach. He has written for newspapers, magazines and online publications, and served as the editor of "Golfstyles New Jersey Magazine." Raudenbush holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and a master's degree in education.