If you’ve read my golf tips, you know how vital I consider the short game. If you want to cut your scores and slash you golf handicap, you must learn how to turn three strokes into two. The secret to that is hitting a precise spot on or near the green when chipping and pitching letting the ball run to the hole. The more accurate you are at hitting the right spot, the more accurate your shots will be. The more accurate your shots, the lower your golf handicap.
In addition to accuracy, you also must develop a “feel” for chipping, which comes with practice. Keep in mind that your feel may change over the years, so you may need to change your approach over the years as well. When Tom Watson was young he played every chip shot near the green with a pitching wedge. Tom was one of the better chippers on the PGA tour. He had a great feel for chipping and pitching. As he aged and lost the great feel, he used different clubs to compensate for it. You may have to do the same.
Club Selection is Critical
Club selection is critical when chipping and pitching, as I’ve stated in my golf tips. On shots just off the green, you have an option. Some players with low golf handicaps prefer putting the ball from here. The stroke is simpler and the ball behaves more predictably. Others prefer chipping it. The preferred clubs for chipping are the sand wedge and the 5-iron. If you use the wedge, pick a spot about three-quarters to the pin and aim for it. If you use the 5-iron pick a spot a few feet from you and aim for it.
On shots about 10 feet off the green but still on the fringe, you’re better off chipping the ball than putting it. The ball must go through to much grass. The clubs of choice are the 7-iron and the 60-degree wedge, if you have one. If you use the wedge, land the ball about three-quarters to the pin and let role to the hole. If you use the 7-iron, land it just on the green and let it role to the hole. Most golfers prefer the 7-iron because there’s a higher margin for error. Practice and experience tell you how close or far away from the pin you need to hit the ball.
When in Trouble
On shots farther from the green and in the rough, it’s even more critical you hit the right spot with your chip, especially if you don’t have much green to work with. Your choices here are an 8-iron or a sand wedge. Here, the more lofted club may be your best bet. You have to carry the ball just over the fringe and run it to the hole. If you hit the ball a little heavy you could easily miss your spot, ending up in the grass or falling far short of the hole. With the sand wedge, you have a better chance of carrying the rough. Shoot for a spot three-quarters of the way to the hole and let the ball run to it, as if it were a putt.
Of course, sometimes you have no choice. For example, if you have to lob the ball out of the rough, over the bunker, downhill to a tight position, the sand wedge is the club of choice. Block out the bunker mentally and focus on the spot you want to hit, which in this case is the fringe, then hit away. No other option enables you to stop the ball near the hole. Keep the knuckles of your left hand (right hand for left-handers) pointing to the sky, which keeps the clubface open and gets the ball up quickly and down softly.
Choosing the Right Club
A good drill for learning to chip and pitch to a spot is to practice hitting the same spot with different clubs. For instance, try a sand wedge, a 9-iron, and a 5-iron from the same distance. The idea is to carry the ball in the air with different clubs but to the same spot. Study the various distances the ball rolls after it comes down. This drill provides a sense of how far the ball carries and runs with different clubs, giving you a better idea of which club to use when.
Regardless of which club you use, the key is hitting the right spot. Visualize landing on that spot before swinging. Then, it’s just a question of judging how far the ball will travel as a “putt.” Practice hitting a spot and before long you’ll be turning three shots into two and chopping off strokes on that golf handicap.
Copyright (c) 2007 Jack Moorehouse