A Lifetime Of Lessons: Lesson 2 Chip Shots

An excerpt from Marshall Smith's latest instruction book focuses on the 50-year teaching veteran's favorite tips.

Common FlawsAlthough the hands control the chip motion, it’s imperative that you allow your body to rotate with the club as you hit through the ball (right). If you don’t open up to the target through impact, the club will come into the ball on an ascending path. Ouch. Even in a short swing such as this, your entire body must work in harmony.

Of course, you’ll need practice to judge just how long a stroke to make in order to chip the ball different distances.

2 Common Flaws
When chipping, avoid these two flaws and you’ll be well on your way to a great up-and-down. One: Restrict your backswing. The chip shot requires a short backstroke. When you get to the point where you must take your hands past your right knee, move to a less-lofted club and shorten the stroke. Two: Don’t ease into the ball. Although the swing is short, it’s still a swing and demands acceleration. If you stop at the ball, you’re likely to hit the ball fat or have the club race past your hands. Make a fairly long followthrough (at least longer than your backswing).

Walk It Off
You’d be surprised how many golfers—even tour players—can’t correctly judge shot lengths. Today’s golfers are very flagstick oriented, and they rely too much on GPS devices and whatnot to give them their distances. I played a lot of football in my day, so I know how far 20, 30 and 45 yards is. More important, I know what these distances look like. So should you; otherwise you’ll never become an expert at hitting to specific targets. Get in the practice of walking off all of your short-yardage attempts, even on the range. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your eyes will learn.

Hit Down And Through Hit Down And Through
In a regular full swing, the speed at which the club moves negates the danger of the club stopping or slowing when it hits the turf. During a chip, however, the club’s involvement with the ground must be considered because the club moves at such a slow rate or speed. Poor contact, especially when the club makes contact with the ground before it strikes the golf ball, can spell disaster.

The key is to hit down and through. You don’t need to take any sort of divot whatsoever with a chip, but it’s still very important that you strike the ball with a slightly descending blow. That’s where that audible click comes from. If you can never produce that click when chipping, you’re probably playing the ball too far forward. On all chips, position the ball so that it rests just before the bottom part of your stroke. You can find the bottom part of your stroke by simply brushing the grass. Assume your standard chipping setup and move the club back and forth in a continuous chipping motion. As you do this, check the ground and take note where the clubhead brushes against the turf in relation to your stance. This is where you need to position the ball to ensure clean contact.

50-Year Tip: Use The Ground
When you really get down to it, there are only three choices when it comes to getting the ball close to the hole from a short distance—a chip, a pitch or a lob. I advise my students, from bogey golfers to tour players, to keep the ball low to the ground whenever possible. The sooner you can get the ball rolling on the green, the sooner you’re on a predictable surface that will accommodate a less-than-perfect shot. Now, that’s keeping things simple and, in my opinion, is the key to a lifetime of consistent, great golf.

The Book

A Lifetime of Lessons (Triumph Books) is a 164-page manual to all that’s required to play the game of golf well. It contains over 50 years of lessons developed by one of the game’s great teachers, including the less-mechanical techniques to becoming a complete and courteous golfer. 

arshall Smith has taught the game of golf for over a half century. His former students include Chi Chi Rodriguez, Gary Player, Craig Stadler and current PGA Tour player Todd Fischer. Marshall teaches at Peoria Ridge GC in Miami, Okla.


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