Chipping – Our First Lag Putt

Chipping – The Other Half of Stroke Saving

Last week, I waded through all the information I could find on successful putting. There’s too much of it to handle all at once, but I finally got it that most of our shots are from 120 yards in, and that most of the strokes to be saved are there as well. One pro suggests that our insistence on hitting drivers on the range is akin to losing weight through fast food. Once I had internalized that, I realized that chipping, the short game around the green, is our first long putt, if we think about it that way. Chips can not only go in, but can save us miles of lag distance and provide more tap-ins. Scratch golfers get up and down from missed greens far more often than most of us do. So, here are a few suggestions from great teachers, such as Todd Anderson, David Leadbetter and Butch Harmon. The whole subject is vast, but a few tips and drills might help us all.

Anderson deals primarily with our poor distribution of weight that causes us to chunk short or blade it across the green. We tilt away from the target to “help the ball up,” then bring weight forward through hips and contact the ground too early, causing chunks and skulls. In the process, the right side of the body is lower than the left. Anderson’s emphasis is on leveling the shoulders., using a 52 to 56 degree wedge, and playing it at the center with weight mostly forward.  The left shoulder should be over the left foot, and movement should be made by the trunk rather than the hips. The grip is predominantly taken care of by the right hand, keeping the right arm straight In the swing. The right shoulder is high, and the right arm is folded in at the elbow. Pictures and videos of Anderson coaching chipping are readily available. They can’t just be described, but should be seen and heard in his words.
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Other considerations in chipping involve perception of arc and distance, and a series of never-ending drills exist to solidify specific skills. It is suggested that we pick a destination spot and land on the green to avoid the unpredictability of uneven ground for a run. At 15 feet, go for loft, but at longer 60 feet, go all the way up to a 7-iron. If the ball is in a depression, play it further back, and go for loft again. A stance of 12 inches from heel to heel is generally recommended, with the left foot pulled back (for a right-hander). Shoulders should be open to the target. To guarantee a firm, flat left wrist, tape a pen to it.

Leadbetter suggests working with a triangle or “y” shape from the arms to the shaft, then simply moving the triangle where needed. A variety of drills for practice include the Hula Hoop, staying with it until you’ve put the majority of shots within the circle at about a hula hoop’s diameter. Harmon addresses the chipping “yips,” suggesting that it always comes from the left hand stopping before impact. He suggests a normal chipping stroke, but suddenly dropping the right hand from the grip before impact. The chipping coin drill is a favorite, lofting coins off the carpet until the contact point is precise. Eventually, one should try to chip them into a cup. In order to avoid distance concepts that include running yardage, try the “slam dunk” drill where we try to send it directly into the cup from any distance.

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Again, these principles must be seen, and the videos are readily available.  I am more convinced than ever that most of us over-practice the driver and fairway woods.  If we change our pursuit for the longer driver to the saved stroke at the green end, our scorecards might start telling us a new story.

But wouldn’t you just know it? It’s snowing here in Washington State. I’m going to have to wait two or three more months to prove this to myself, but come spring, I’m going to spend more time on and around the green.

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