A solid short game can save you over 10 shots a round… that turns your measly 85 into a round that hovers around par. All this takes is solid fundamentals, feel and good imagination. To get to this point however, takes a lot of creative practice in every situation, with every club you could possibly think of. So, before you can start practicing and improving your short game, start with the basics… once you understand the do’s and don’ts of chipping – you’ll soon become a lot more confident around the greens.
Do not spread your body weight evenly
When chipping your weight should not be spread out 50/50 on each foot… this encourages a sweeping swing path which will lead to thin shots and miss-hits. You need to have your weight favoring your front foot to encourage a descending blow into the ball. Couple this with a mid to back ball position and this will help impart more backspin and limit the amount of grass between your club and the ball – which will improve your consistency.
Wedges are designed with a thing called bounce, which helps the club bounce off the ground rather than dig into it… hence the name. This means that when a wedge with bounce lies upright on the turf, the leading edge of it will lie above the grass. By employing the techniques above, the club should be tilted forward setting the leading edge of the club flat on the ground (as shown in the picture at right).
Do not flip your wrists
The one secret to solid chipping involves a stable trailing wrist. It’s positioning is crucial throughout the chipping stroke. A good way to get into the proper position is to imagine holding a club in your trailing hand, now from this position rotate your wrist so you palm faces the ground – you should see wrinkles on your bent back wrist. This position is only possible if your club is leaning forward and beating your clubface to the impact position.
A neat drill to try is to stack two shafts on top of each other (with about 1 foot of separation), have one point about knee height, the other, hip. Place a ball directly under these shafts, and setup to the ball as if you were to make a normal shot. When you swing into impact, your hands should contact the top shaft first. If not, you’re not maintaining a stable trailing wrist. This picture should give you a better idea of what I'm talking about. This drill is not designed for you to hit balls with, it’s simply to be used to ensure correct positioning of your wrists coming into impact.
When looking down at the ball from address your hands should start ahead of the clubface… this should continue throughout the entire motion and follow-through.
Do not slow down
Deceleration is killer on your short game, it will produce poor results and add strokes to your score… not to mention ruin your confidence. You must vary the distance your shot travels by fiddling with the length of your backswing, not by fiddling with your swing’s tempo and speed.
Do you fix your car by throwing a wrench at it? Of course not! So why would you try and fix your distance control by interrupting your tempo? Acceleration and tempo ensures you will follow-through, your club will not get trapped in the grass, you have rhythm and consistency, your distance control is consistent and your contact will be more solid.
Do not swing only with your arms
Your arms and body are connected… you should try and have your body face your arms throughout your chipping stroke. Since the motion is rather limited, so too should your body rotation. Your arms should rub against your mid section as you swing – almost as if your elbows are attached to your love handles.
By using your body as a basis for your swing to rotate on, this will reduce your margin for error and limit the amount of faults you could potentially make.
Take these fundamentals to the practice range and develop a better short game because of it.