The "Dog Blog"

On the Practice Tee with JR Ross

The average golfer hits less than 6 greens in regulation. Translation, you will have 12 holes where you have less than a full shot into the green.  Every day golfers spend countless hours at the practice range in pursuit of a perfect golf swing - knowing in reality this does not exist. If only the same amount of time and effort was put into perfecting your short game you would see many strokes drop off of your handicap. Hopefully this article will give you some structure and ideas on how to improve your chipping and pitching.

The Motion
In the short chipping and pitching motions there is limited time to make compensations in your swing so they demand more exactness than a full swing. Brute strength and club head speed aren't as important as touch and feel.

The good news is that, with practice and sound fundamentals, virtually any golfer can possess a solid short game, and if you get your technique correct on the short chip or pitch shots it will not only save you strokes around the green it will help your long game.

Remember the chip shot is just a mini version of the full swing thru impact. The chip shot requires the shortest of strokes with minimal head and little body action which makes a sound setup crucial to producing solid shots. It's equally important that when you hit pitch shots your hands don't get overly active. However as the shots get longer the body plays a bigger role.
On these longer shots you must use your lower body to help propel the club threw the ball. Working under the ball allows your right shoulder to move almost on the same line as the right knee helping keep the clubface square through impact. There's no scooping or crossing over motion with the hands, and the clubface never closes. With turning the chest and the lower body propelling the hands remain passive.

All great short game players have great imagination around the green. You will become more creative by visualizing your options. To develop better judgement on shot selection practice tossing balls underhanded to the holes on a practice green. Experiment with different speeds and trajectories from high and soft too low and running. When doing this notice which trajectory you need and where you have to land the ball to allow you to get it close to the hole. You can then use the results as a guideline to select the club and the type of shot you need to play.
For lower shots use your lower lofted irons for higher shots use your higher lofted irons. Not only is tossing a ball underhanded a good concept to help you develop short game creativity it's also a spitting image to help you improve your short game mechanics. As you would do pitching a softball on a chip shot the right-hand faces up through impact under the left hand. You're not trying to scoop the ball. The right-hand mirrors the clubface and keeping the palm face up through impact help he's the clubface square. With the proper loft the clubface doesn't close until well into the finish of the swing. Good chipping strokes require you to nip the ball off the turf with a slight descending blow.

To help you set up properly imagine that a tiny car jack has raised your right heel off the ground. This image will help you put more of your weight on to your left side and encourage your hands to be ahead of the ball at impact. Just position the ball back in your stance and the club will automatically swing up and down striking the ball on its descent. The idea of picking up your right heel is to help improve your chipping technique. I often tell my students to practice chipping while standing on the left foot only. When you pick your back foot up and encourage your chest to move forward to the ball your impact point and the low point of your swing arc will move forward allowing you to squash the ball. Positioning the weight on the front foot also helps eliminate excessive lower body motion. You should focus on the feeling that the left-hand leads the club head. This is imperative for hitting a solidly struck chip shot. Poor chippers set up with too much weight on the right side and make a “wristy” upward strike. Good chippers keep their hands ahead of the ball at impact. A cupped left wrist at impact is the cancer of the golf swing.

Spending time on these short game tips should allow you to shave a few strokes off of your handicap.