The short game ‘chipping and pitching’ lays the foundation for executing the basic golf swing, and is essential to learning rhythm, balance, and timing. It will also teach you how to control the trajectory of the ball, improve your grip, crisply strike the ball.
Chipping with the right club will improve your score. Practice using your wedges, but don’t forget your 7, 8, 9 iron – from different points around the green. The key is to minimize air time the closer you are to the green, letting shots roll out.
The short game measure is ‘Greens in regulation’! It is the measure of a good player and their ability to shoot low scores because 70% of all shots are hit within 100-130 yards of the green, so learning to chip and pitch accurately will definitely lower your score.
Short chip shots
Most amateurs pick a club with to much loft and never get the ball near the hole. I teach that within 10-20-30 yards of the green you should eliminate air time. The rule is putt when you can putt; chip when you can’t putt; and pitch when you can’t chip!
Watch the following video!
NOTE: When I practice chipping, I imagine that my elbows are sewn to my hips with a thread. My lower body forms a base that helps me with the timing of my swing, and the rotation of my hips sets the motion and albeit eliminates the urge to get “handsy” causing me to chunk, slap, pick, or blade the ball. Lean against that imaginary wall and stiff your chips.
Phil Mickelson is known for his outstanding short game. Watch Phil demonstrate the “hinge and hold” technique for chipping and longer pitch shots! This technique eliminates the urge to ‘scoop the ball’, which is what most amateurs do when attempting long pitch shots.
NOTE: you will need to select the right club for the chip and pitch shots taking into account the speed and firmness of the green. The short game involves touch and feel – where you control the length of your swing and finesse the ball to land on a predetermined spot – short of the green, on the fringe, or on the green.
Setting up for short chips and pitching the ball …
Harvey Penick would tell his students “take dead aim”!! I believe Harvey was right, especially when pitching and chipping. But before players follow Harvey’s tip they need to know how to “set up” for each shot and develop a consistent pre-shot routine.
The SET UP for hitting short chips and pitching requires a narrow open stance. This adjusted stance will help you better control the point at which the club will bottom out and reduce mis-hits. It also makes it much easier to strike the ball cleanly eliminating the dreaded “chunk”! An open stance sets your hips to an open position without effort – open hips is the natural “impact position” for all shots – See Ben Hogan’s fundamentals.
The ball should be positioned somewhat near the middle of your stance with your hands and arms hanging freely, with the back of your left (lead) hand positioned just inside your left thigh. Your weight should be distributed a bit more on your left side (forward position). Your swing speed should be in rhythm with your hips – accelerating but in tempo with your body. I guarantee that if you practice with a “30 mph – 40 mph” swing speed mantra you will improve the tempo of your swing throughout your bag, and it will make driving and full swing shots easier.
Understanding and practicing the SET UP can not be overemphasized. As you step in, 1.) set the face of the club on the selected line and flight; 2.) your arms and hands hang just inside your left thigh; 3.) then set your hips and feet in an open stance with your weight slightly heavier on your left (forward) side. But before stepping in to pitch or chip the ball, pick a landing spot and visualize the ball landing at that point and rolling to the hole. Practice your swing and look to where your ‘belly button’ points at the finish of your swing. The ball will land in the direction of your ‘belly button’ at the finish.
Again: set the face; set your hands; set your feet; allow your arms and hands to hang loosely from your shoulders and rather close to your body. And as you swing think about and let your right elbow gently brush your right hip as you complete your swing. This should help you keep your arms and torso loose and relaxed, and as you start your downswing your hips will rotate and keep your club from bottoming out to soon and help eliminate poor contact with the ball.
The position of your hands “inside the left thigh” to start are the same whether chipping, pitching, or hitting any or all other clubs – even your putter. The swing or forward motion of the body is relatively the same with yours hands moving and staying in the slot. Remember – the golf swing begins with the same takeaway, and when PITCHING THE BALL- your arms and body move in tandem. Watch Jack Nicklaus demonstrate the one swing method he used on tour! Tour Swing Videos
Phil Mickelson demonstrates hitting approach shots into the wind
SUMMARY – Swing within yourself, and make good contact!
As you practice pitching the ball from 50-75 yards you will need to the adjust your setup, stance, and face angle of your club for the desired distance and trajectory. Never adjust or change your grip! Use the same swing tempo and grip, and adjust you stance, alignment, maintaining the same ball position, length of backswing, and rhythm and tempo (30 – 40 mantra) needed for the yardage to the pin. Remember the object is to pinch and strike the ball cleanly with a shallow divot … and as Hogan would say, “dig it out of the dirt”!
Practice without fear! Play without fear! Golf is just a game!
In a short-game session you will learn how to use your shorter irons – 7, 8, 9 and Wedges – to minimize air time and maximize roll from different points around the green. You will learn that each club has just the right amount of loft to minimize flight and maximize roll with good contact!
The swing sequence to the left is what I recommend. The goal is to establish a simple swing routine using the club with the correct loft, without making a major swing change. Your technique and swing speed should not vary. One swing, with the same pace, using different clubs to get the ball to the hole.