Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Improved Chipping: Better Club Selection

By Ron Hanson

One of the most spectacular shots we witness on Sunday afternoons is Phil Mickelson’s high flop shot. He sets up with his blade wide open and takes a mighty cut. The ball flies high in the air and lands almost dead on the green. It is definitely a gorgeous shot but it is full of peril. Most of golfers don’t have the ability to hit the shot during play with any consistency. They will hit behind the ball leaving the ball where it is or blade the ball sending it shooting across the green. Those of you that have tried a lob shot can attest to its difficulty. It is a very low percentage shot.

Granted, there are circumstances that a lob shot is necessary, (over a bunker to a tight pin) but more often than not, the use of a high lofted club is a riskier shot than is needed. Hopefully, the club in your bag that you have the most control with is your putter. Its appeal is the ability to keep the ball on the ground. You have much more control of a ball when it is on the ground than one that is up in the air. The putter, as opposed to other clubs, is used on the green because of that control. As we move off of the green, we should be seeking to maintain much of the same control as possible. On the fringe, use the putter as much as possible.

If the fringe is uneven or bumpy, a putter may be inappropriate because the ball will bounce. The club to transition to is not a wedge. Consider using a 5-iron or a 7-iron. The objective of the shot is to carry the ball over the questionable surface and onto a safe haven, the putting green. The proper club to use is the club that has enough loft to carry the ball safely onto the green and will allow the ball to come to a rolling stop at the hole.

As you move further away, a more lofted club may be needed dependent on how much green there is to work with. On a 30 foot chip shot near the edge of the green with green to work with, a 5-iron may be the club of choice. The ball will travel about 5 feet in the air and roll the remaining 25 feet. When there is less green to work with and more fringe to carry, a more lofted club is needed. On a 30 foot chip shot with a wedge, the ball will carry about 15 feet and roll 15 feet. Spend some time chipping with a less lofted club. You will like the results.

Golf Tip: To make the most effective use of your short game practice time, vary the distance of your shots. Many golfers dump their balls beside the green and chip to the same target repeatedly. This practice is good for creating a chipping motion but it doesn’t develop feel. To create feel, set up targets at varying distance (i.e. 20 feet, 30 feet and 40 feet). Hit one shot to the first target, one shot to the second target and the third shot to the last target. Repeat the process several times, then change distances. By changing the distance each shot, you learn to react to the shot at hand and develop a feel for distance.