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How you make a practice swing when chipping from off the green is especially critical. First of all, you’re not just trying to calculate how far you need to hit the ball, you’re also trying to determine how high the ball should fly and how much roll you want it to have. Also, a practice stroke helps you to assess the lie, which can range from having a ball that’s sunken down in the rough to one sitting high on the collar. All these variables come into play when making a practice swing, which is why I think it’s critical that every golfer learn my “rehearsal” technique before hitting a chip or pitch shot.
To get it close from inside 100 yards, make sure your swing features these 10 elements
Whether it’s your third shot on a long par-5 or your approach on a short par-4, the full-swing wedge—be it with your gap, sand or pitching iron—is a critical play. All good players accept the short-range shot as a relatively easy opportunity to get up and down for birdies and pars, and do so with the regularity average golfers get up and down from just off the green. The reason: practice.
If only we could tee up every golf shot. We’d always have perfect lies, where no grass or trees or sand could get in the way of making clean contact with the ball. Of course, that isn’t the case. Between the tee and green, we have to surrender to the course and “play the ball as it lies.” That means adjusting to a number of challenging circumstances, such as plugged bunker shots and awkward stances. For this story, I’ve concentrated my efforts on just those types of lies—the ones you get where you look to your playing partners, throw your arms in the air and say “anybody have any suggestions?” Take time to practice these shots, and you won’t wonder what to do the next time you’re faced with an awkward lie.
When you desire a softer type of explosion shot out of the bunker from this normally “hot” lie, you need to employ an open clubface and relaxed hands. Make your angle of attack steeper by leaning your weight toward your front foot. This weight shift also accentuates the digging action of the clubhead, making soft hands and an open clubface that much more critical. Otherwise, the golf ball will come out with more velocity than desired.
They don’t keep stats for it on the PGA Tour, but all pros excel at hitting the mid-range lob. It’s played with your highest-lofted club (usually a lob wedge) from around 30 yards, and it’s one of those shots that, if you pull it off to save par or make birdie, can energize the rest of your round.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the famous Sam Snead tip, “Hear your putts.” To ensure that he didn’t come out of his putts too early, the “Slammer” held fast in his putting posture until he hopefully heard the ball rattle the bottom of the cup.
The chipping and putting motions are linear in nature. By that, I mean the face remains square to the target line throughout, never opening or closing like it does with full swings from the fairway and the tee. Moreover, the path of the stroke shouldn’t deviate from the target line. Realizing these facts can save a lot of amateur golfers a lot of headaches around the green, where the majority of less-than-skilled players chip the ball with a full-swing technique and leave themselves with a lengthy putt.
There aren’t many shots that touring professionals fear, but if you had to choose one, the buried lie bunker shot would probably take the cake. It’s a shot even more feared among amateurs who have no idea how to approach it, let alone how the ball will react off the clubface and once it hits the green. I’ve always believed that a buried lie isn’t a cause for despair, but rather an opportunity to demonstrate your short-game prowess. With some adjustments to the normal bunker setup, you can accomplish the goal of getting out of the bunker and onto the green every time.
Few shots on the golf course are more satisfying than a well-executed flop shot. Unfortunately, unless you’re Phil Mickelson, the risk is probably not worth the reward. There’s very little margin for error. With the wrong lie, you can swing the club under the ball without advancing it. And, with such a big swing, you’re liable to hit an 80-yard screamer if you catch it thin.
Golfers who are confused about the amount of body action normally associated with a pitch shot can learn from the simple mental image of pitching horseshoes. During this underhanded motion, the arms and body work together in response to the target. The body parts don’t need to be consciously controlled; rather they should react naturally to the command of pitching the horseshoe based on what the eyes see as a target.
The following pre-putt alignment routine is one that I developed with Patrick Burke and teach to each of my students. Its success has been so dramatic that many have adapted it to the full swing. It’s easy to learn and remember as long as you think in right angles.
Chipping and putting are two areas of the game where everyone can improve. Improve your chipping and putting, and you’ll significantly reduce your handicap. The touring pros spend more time practicing their short games than all of their other shots combined. How many weekend golfers can say the same?
Use these simple chips to become a scoring machine
Whether your skills are strictly amateur or allow you to keep pace with any single-digit handicapper, you’ll never reach your true potential as a golfer unless you learn one of the game’s great tricks: turning three shots into two around the greens. In other words, you must find a way to become a scorer. Scoring is what separates the better players you know from everybody else. Taken to a higher analogy, it’s what separates the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh from the rest of the players on the PGA Tour.
Never make the same mistake twice and start shooting lower scores by fixing your swing faults
The game of golf is full of excuses. Whether it's an excuse for a bad shot, a bad pair of slacks or the dreaded excuse for a late or missed tee time, golf is littered with blame. Rarely, however, does a golfer blame himself or herself for a poorly hit shot. It could have been a distraction, a bad lie, a miscalculated yardage or my favorite—an unexpected 40 mph gust of wind. In any case, and despite the plethora of excuses for what seems like everything in golf, if you want to get better at actually playing golf, you must check your ego at the door.
An excerpt from Marshall Smith's latest instruction book focuses on the 50-year teaching veteran's favorite tips.
The most important thing you can do to improve your chipping game is to
know your distances precisely. Heres a drill that can help. Find an
area where you can pace off 30, 60 and 90 yards. Then place a small
builders brick at each distance. Hit pitch shots at the 30-yard brick
until you land one on it. Youll get a great thrill from seeing the
ball bounce way up in the air, and you should start to develop
confidence and an aggressive attitude when you begin to hit such a
small target with regularity. After you hit the brick from 30 yards, go
for 60 then 90 yards.
4 different shots with four different clubs from greenside sand
Bunkers are the only place on the golf course where youre not always
required to hit it perfectly. Its okay—even encouraged—that you
sometimes hit it fat, hold the face open through impact and minimize
your weight shift and rotation. So why, then, are golfers terrified of
what seemingly should be one of golfs easier shots? Astonishingly, the
top player on the PGA Tour through 20 rounds of golf this year—Luke
Donald—has nearly a 90 percent success rate from the sand. Theres no
reason you cant be at least half that good.
If you think back to your last good round of golf, odds are you’ll envision a number of solid drives and approach shots. We bet you’ll also remember making a few excellent par saves or maybe draining a birdie putt or two you normally would have no business making. And if you recount your last poor round of golf, it’s likely you’ll conjure images of errant drives and sloppy iron shots, combined with recovery attempts that failed to get you on the green and into the hole. For low scores, the short game is key.
Bunkers elicit a common reaction from most recreational golfers. That reaction is fear—fear of leaving the ball in the bunker, fear of blasting it over the green, fear of looking foolish, etc.—and it stems from misunderstanding how a sand wedge is designed to function.
It’s been well documented that a solid short game is the key to consistently shooting lower scores. A vital part of the short-game mix is the “finesse shot,” typically from within 100 yards of the green. On a finesse shot, your mindset must be quite different from that applied to the full swing. For example, when hitting a shot with a full swing, your goal is to hit the ball as hard and far as possible.
Add closed and open-faced shots to your short-game arsenal
The plethora of multiple wedge offerings is fantastic. They’ve made extinct the old saying “a sand wedge is the only wedge a good player needs.” That adage came from Greg Norman, who I bet has added a lob wedge to his set since. Nevertheless, despite owning the tools for hitting any number of specific yardages from 125 yards and in, most short shots you’ll face will require something much different than a full swing from one of the two or three wedges in your bag.