An Area of the game that our teaching professionals see most amateurs struggle with are the short finesse shots from around the putting surface. This is usually the result of a poor mental image, technique, or a lack of attention.
Most players do not realize that a chip shot is basically a putt with a lofted club. There are a few set-up differences between putting and chipping, but the motion is identical.
Both set-ups start with a neutral grip, so one hand does not dominate the other.
Regardless of whether you're making a full or less than full swing, start with the shaft of the club horizontal to the ground. With the club head closer to your eyes, you will have a better chance of squaring the scoring grooves to your target.
Ensure that your palms are facing each other, place the handle in the tips of your fingers and place the pads of your thumbs on opposite sides of the center line. Check that the crease between both thumbs and index fingers are parallel to each other and point between your back shoulder and ear.
ANGLE OF ATTACK
Most poorly struck chips are the result of a misconception of how to hit this shot. I see the majority of poor chippers trying to lift or scoop the ball into the air. They believe that they need to get under or hit up on the ball to elevate it off the ground.
The only shot where you strike the ball in an ascending direction is when the ball is teed up. And that is not because the clubhead is moving in a vertical direction, your just catching the ball on the upward arc of the swing. This is why you position the ball with a driver, closer to your front foot. Generally, it is near the instep of your front foot.
Getting the ball airborne when it lies on the ground is achieved with a descending motion. It is the loft of the club that elevates the ball off the ground.
The ball position with a chip shot should be towards your back foot. This position allows the club head to still be moving on the downward part of the arc. Place the instep of your back foot parallel to the target line and at the back edge of the golf ball for regular lies. Place the golf ball in the middle of your back foot for those less than perfect lies, and at the outside of your back foot for those nasty lies.
As you place the club head behind the ball, ensure that the scoring lines remain perpendicular to the target. Check that the face and the instep of your back foot are parallel to each other.
Keep the butt of the shaft at or slightly ahead of your zipper. This will cause the shaft to lean towards the target, with the handle in front or leading the club head. This is another postion that will encourage a downward strike on the ball.
Your hands will still be in the middle of your thighs, but your wrists should feel slightly different. Your top wrist should feel slightly bowed while your bottom wrist will feel more cupped. Check that the back of your top hand and the palm of your bottom hand are facing the target when you take your grip, with the club parallel to the target. These changes (bowed / cupped) occur as you move the club head from vertical to behind the ball.
POSTURE, SPINE ANGLE, AND WEIGHT DISTRIBUTION
With the ball positioned forward in your stance for your driver, your eyes are looking more at the back of the ball and your neck is slightly tilted away from the target. This maintains your shoulder line parallel to your target line and makes you feel slightly uphill, (as if your front foot is higher than your back foot). Some say that they feel slightly more weight on their back foot (not a bad thing).
For chipping, we want to reverse everything in the last paragraph. With the ball in the back of your stance, your eyes should be looking at the front of the ball and the base of your neck is tilted towards the target. If done correctly there is no need to shift your weight more to your front foot as the change of your spine and torso creates more downward pressure on your front foot. Again, this is another set-up feature that promotes a downward strike on the ball.
Now from this position, make a putting motion from the shoulders and arms. You will see the ball pop up in the air, carry to the putting surface, bounce a couple of times, and then roll to the target.
If you commit to these set-up changes, the only things that will need to change are the ball position, based on how the ball is positioned on the ground, and the choice of golf club dependent on the carry distance and how far you want the ball to roll once it hits the ground.
Use your more lofted wedges for shots that have minimum roll requirements and when you are further from the edge of the putting surface. Change to lower lofts as you get closer to the edge of the green and require more of a rolling shot.
To improve your chipping, first change your understanding to catching the ball on the downward arc with a lofted clubto get the ball up in the air. Be consistent with your approach to gain consistency in your results.
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