A solid short game is the linchpin of great golf. Even the top pros miss the green quite often, which is why they work so hard on those vital up-and-down opportunities to save par. I can’t emphasize enough how this part of your game should be at the center of your practice routine, and it all starts with pitch shots and chip shots.
To hit solid chip shots and pitches every time, the low spot in your motion needs to be in front of the ball. Here’s my easy recipe for ensuring this happens:
- Start with your feet close together, about one clubhead width apart, your left foot flared slightly toward the target and pulled back about 1 inch, as in Photos 1 and 2.
- Place 65-70% of your weight on your left side and turn your sternum so that it points 2-3” in front of the ball, as I’m demonstrating with my wedge in Photo 3.
- Swing the club back and through, making sure that you finish with a straight line from your left shoulder to the club head. To do this, you will need to make enough of a back swing that you can let the club gradually accelerate into the ball, but not too long of a back swing that you decelerate. Many amateurs jab the club toward the ball, accelerating too quickly, which leads to mis-hits and poor distance control. Remember, a natural, correct rate of acceleration will get you closer to the hole. Photos 4-7 shows the proper swing sequence for a standard chip/pitch shot, with that all-important straight line from left shoulder through the club.
Set up for the perfect chip shot
- Heels close together, about 1 club head width apart.
- Left foot pulled back approximately 1 inch and flared slightly toward the target 15 degrees
- Weight favors your left leg so that your chin is over your left foot
- Point your sternum 2-3 inches in front of the ball
- Stand about 1 foot from the ball end bend from the hips not the waist
- Make sure to grip the club in front of you first and then push the hands forward so that the grip is aligned with the middle of your left leg at address, as I’m doing in Photos 8-9. It is crucial that you grip the club first. Most golfers make the mistake of putting the grip forward and then gripping the club, as in Photos 10-11. This causes the club to be closed somewhere in the neighborhood of 25-30 degrees! If you grip the club and then lean the shaft toward the target, the lines formed by your thumbs and index fingers will point toward your left shoulder and allow you to use the bounce of the club correctly.
Follow these simple steps every time you’re faced with a standard short-range shot around the green. Whether you want to carry the shot farther and land it more softly closer to the hole, or get it started on the ground more quickly and let it roll out, will determine the loft of the club you use. Your lie and the length of the grass will also figure in to your club choice.
Dale Abraham, PGA, is Director of Instruction at Bighorn Golf Club, Palm Desert, California