What's a go-to short game shot for amateurs?
Keep it simple stupid ( K.I.S.S.) is used often and almost a cliche by now but very good when it comes to playing around the greens. I’ve seen too many players with low point issues or the yips trying to use the bounce on a simple chip. I would rather see more amateurs putt the ball when possible or use a putt chip. The YouTube video I attached explains the putt chip.
Learn a Basic Chip
I define a chip shot as a shot that has minimal moving parts and is hit with a de-lofted club that engages a bit of the leading edge. It’s best chosen when there’s a bit of a cushion under the ball, as it’s not the most forgiving motion, but it is one of the simplest.
Set up with your feet close together, your weight favoring your front foot, and the ball in the middle of your stance. Play it too far back and you’ll engage too much leading edge and dig easily. Grip down and get closer to the ball. Hinge your wrists slightly during the backswing, let the club come to a stop, and rotate your chest moving your hands through (not throwing the trail wrist to move the clubhead). Phil Mickelson calls it “hinge and hold,” but I call it a simple and effective shot that can be played with anything from a 5-iron to a lob wedge.
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The Go To Shot
Learn to hit a chip shot and you can hit any shot, any where!
You can hit chip shots from the fairway, the rough, around the green, under trees, over bunkers, and the list goes on. Chip shots can also be hit with almost any club in the bag, making it that much more versatile.
Go-To Short Game Shot: No Wrists
Leave the wrists out of your short game shots. I see many of my students attempt to garner extra spin and check on their short shots by flipping their wrists at impact. This does not help with consistency, or with solid contact.
When looking for a go-to short game shot, practice hitting half-shots with your lower irons. Make sure the golf ball is even with your lead ear (somewhere around the upper-middle of your stance), and remember to club up so you will not have to make a large swing. This will improve consistency and help your strike down at impact.
If you need a PGA Professional to look at your swing. Simply log on to www.SwingEssentials.com and send us a video of your swing.
The Return of the Chip
A great go to shot around the green for any player is a chip with a 9 iron. First, let me explain why a 9 iron…you see, a 9 iron will have around 45 degrees of loft. This is important when you think about ball contact and control. If you consider the equator of the ball sitting on the ground, 90 degrees and the bottom of the ball touching the ground 0 degrees…the 45 degree club has the most margin for error while still imparting enough lift and backspin for control.
The mechanics of the chip shot are simple; Use your regular full swing grip, set up with a narrow stance, ball in the middle and address the ball with the hands directly above the ball. Some coaches like a forward leaning shaft here but I don’t because this may introduce the leading edge of the club to the ground which will create a chunk. At this point, your arms and club will form the letter Y. Swing the Y back and forth the same distance while gently brushing the grass at impact. By maintaining the Y, you are basically making a long putting stroke.
Have fun with this simple to learn, easy to use shot.
Chunk and run
Most amateurs that I work with will typically try to use the wrong club around the green and leave the ball a long way from the hole. In doing so this adds strokes to their score. I try to help them understand club and turf interaction and using the proper club and technique to get closer to the hole. The amount of times I see a 58 or 60 degree come out instead of a pitching wedge or 9 iron still amazes me but we are working on it. The other part is helping them understand where to land the ball to get it closer to the hole. This has been even more helpful for me to keep working on it. Experiment with loft and stroke to become more consistent and your scores will start dropping.
Keep it simple
Close to the ground whenever possible is the key. Always putt, when you have a relatively good surface. Next look for the 6 or 7 iron pitch and run. Many players use a putting stroke, but brush the grass and it is a player preference as to the grip and approach to this stroke. Most players want to loft the ball with a wedge, but spin comes into play, A chop down blow will probably come up short and a brush stroke may run. Wind may affect the end result. Confidence through practice can turn you into a Phil Mickelson and take it as high as you want !
Play the ball as close to the ground as possible.
I see too many amateurs use one club for all their short game needs, and it’s usually the highest lofted club in the bag. The best players in the world will play short game shots closer to the ground because that shot is easier to control, it doesn’t have to be hit perfectly to get an acceptable outcome. Pros will only take it high if they have to go over a bunker or don’t have much green to work with. The bump and run is an underutilized shot to those who need it the most. Pick a less lofted club and play the ball as close to the ground as the shot allows and watch your up & downs increase.
Select your appropriate club for the distance you need to roll the ball. Place the toe on the ground, heel in the air, stand the club up to almost a putter lie Angle-70 degrees or so (close to vertical). You are now standing almost putter distance from the golf ball. Chip the shot off the toe of the club. This takes the “heel dig” fat shot out of the equation. One caution-because you are hitting off the ball the shot travels less distance. Allow for that!
Putt, Chip and Pitch - in that order
The short game in golf simplified – is having the golfer play the odds. The quicker a golfer can get the ball on the ground and rolling towards the hole the better. So with this in mind, the process for evaluating / deciding the shot to hit around the green should be as follows:
Evaluate the lie – good lie allows the golfer to hit either a low or high shot, mediocre to poor lie limits the player to shots of a lower trajectory or rolling.
Evaluate distance from edge of green and location of hole.
Once both of these items have been evaluated a golfer needs to see if a low trajectory or rolling golf ball will work. If you are a couple feet off the green, the apron is in good condition, the grain is not an issue and the hole is in an accessible location, putting is the way to go. The old saying, “a bad putt is usually better than a good chip” comes to mind. If the ball is say 10′ off the green and you have plenty of the green to work with, a chip may be the shot of choice. Again, getting the ball to start rolling as soon as possible. If your shot is further away from the green than the 10′ and lie and access to hole location are challenging, you might need to make a decision based on comfort level of risk. Is this a chip or pitch opportunity? Once you decide, commit to the shot and don’t second guess yourself. Most bad shots around the green are caused by golfers not fully convinced they picked the best option.
Your odds are in your favor if you can get the ball rolling as soon as possible. Our goal is to minimize the risk for the shot and maximize our chances of scoring as low as possible.
Go-To Green Side Chip
The best shot for all golfers to use when they are close to the green, with no obstacles in the way, is a green side chip shot. Think of it this way: chipping is like putting. Use a PW, a 9 iron or an 8 iron. Here’s how: aim the club face at the target. Forward press the hands to get a little shaft lean. Play the ball in the back of your stance. Use a narrow stance and stand with comfortable, upright, relaxed posture. Keep the club head low to the ground going back and low to the ground coming through. Just like putting. Do this by swinging your shoulders and arms like a pendulum. Do not use your wrists with this shot. You want the club face pointed at the target and you want it to remain aimed at the target throughout the stroke. Keep your grip pressure soft at the start, soft during your stroke and soft as you finish. Amateurs tend to tighten up their hands as the club approaches impact. Keep your grip soft!
Remember that chipping is like putting, so use this confidently as a go-to shot around the green. Enjoy!
The Feel Shots
I get asked all of the time. How do you hit those 50, 60, or 70 yard pitch shots? Well, my answer to those students is that they’re feel shots. But, don’t get confused on that because feel can be taught, especially with those types of feel shots. It’s about doing your math. For example if you have a 75 yard shot. Grab your 100 yard club and do your fractions and percentages. Put 75 (your distance) in the numerator and 100 (your full swing distance) in the denominator to create the fraction. Then, find the common denominator and you will narrow that down to 3/4 or 75%. That’s how much of a backswing you should take to hit that shot and likewise accordingly with those types of in between yardages and feel shots.
Inexperienced players, chip and run shot for more fun!
I can’t emphasize enough that amateur golfers get the ball on the ground, and rolling like a putt as soon as possible. Your feel for distance is based mostly on how a ball will roll out.
It takes a long time to develop the skill and confidence to manage a sand wedge consistently around the greens.
I recommend that you work hard to master the lofted clubs and use them when necessary. But until that time, have a stock chip and run type of shot with a 7,8 or 9 iron that you can count on. These shots are simply easier to hit solid and have consistent performance early in your golf career. Choose an easier shot whenever possible. It ain’t fashion, it’s function. Make good decisions and eliminate those 6,7,s, and 8s on your card that are a result or bladed and chunked wedges!!!!!
Keep it simple
I am a big fan of a 54 of 56 degree wedge played in the middle of your stance with your weight more on the lead foot. Too often golfers try to lift the golf ball during a pitch or chip shot. The bottom of the club and the ground are your friend.
Finding each amateurs personal go to shot.
I would say that there is no single go-to shot for every amateur. Amateurs have been inundated with so many varying ways to go about hitting shots around the green that it often leads to confusion and poor short games.
For example, many students have seen the Phil Mickelson hinge and hold method. Now, there is no way I am criticizing Mickelson who clearly has one of the greatest short games of all time, however many amateurs who attempt this method end up having the hands so far forward and hinge so early and then try to lean the shaft forward even more coming down they end up digging the leading edge into the turf and hit mostly fat shots and experience inconsistent distance control.
Before I show any student what their “stock” chipping or pitching motion is I always explain what bounce is and how to use it. Instead of a go-to shot I have a go-to discussion. After they understand what bounce is then we can get to work and develop a go-to shot. 9 times out of 10 it involves learning to get the shaft neutral at address, with pressure on the lead side at address. Then returning the shaft to neutral at impact with more chest rotation thru the shot than they thought. This activates the bounce and almost immediately improves their distance control and contact.
Put the ball back in your stance. (For a right handed player)…off your right foot. Keep your weight 70% o n your front foot (left-foot for a right handed player). Do not just use a sand wedge. Pick the best club that will get the ball on the putting surface and roll it to the hole location . It could be a 5 iron to a pitching wedge. Read it like a putt, and you will have great success!!!
Learn the Stock Pitch Shot for Short-game Success
For amateurs looking to improve their short-game, the most important shot to learn is the basic 15 yard pitch. While most short-game instruction stresses the importance of the low running chip shot, a stock pitch shot is a better option to actually build short-game technique around. The reason for this is that once one has learned the stock pitching motion, it can be easily adapted to hit the ball higher or lower, with simple changes to ball position and set-up.
Some Pitching Keys:
Feet close together
Ball in middle of toes
Torso level to ground (no leaning back)
Weight 60-40 toward lead foot
Allow the upper body to power the motion
Allow the club to land on the ground, even slightly behind ball is okay
Chip shot – position ball in the back of the stance, lean the shaft forward and make a putting like stroke. Making ball first contact is much easier than having to worry about chunking it or blading it.
Get The Ball On The Ground Quickly
When you have a lot of green to work with, Amateurs would have much more success playing a Chip and Run then using a sand wedge and playing a Pitch shot. Since the Lob wedge became more popular too many rely on that club for most shots around the green. From my view that club and the technique needed creates a much larger margin of error then playing a simple Chip and Run. Experiment with different clubs (7 iron through PW) and develop the feel with each. Think of 1/3 air time and 2/3 roll time. I think you will find more success and relief around the green.
Less Loft Better Results
A lot of my students simply use too much loft when chipping around the greens. Place and keep your weight on your front leg. Use a pitching wedge or 8 iron and make a putting motion taking the hands and wrists out of the shot. Distance control for every golf shot is imperative. Understand how far different clubs go while using the same stroke. Different clubs, different distances, much more consistent results will equal lower scores!
To try and keep this simple I would have to categorize it into two different groupings. High handicap players/beginners and low to mid handicap players.
The high handicap/beginners should look at a bump and run shot. It is a low running shot played with a 7,8 or 9 iron off of your back foot with a putting style motion. This is optimal when there is an opening at the front of the green and you don’t have to carry it over something.
The low to mid handicap player should get a reliable mid trajectory pitch shot with a sand wedge. Play the ball near the middle of your stance and make sure you strike ball then turf. The high flop shots look great, but are much more difficult to pull off.
Short Game Magic
There are 3 rules for choosing a short game shot, 1) Putt whenever you can, 2) Chip when you can’t putt, and 3) Only pitch when you have to. The decision to select one of the short game shots depends on the situation. The biggest mistake most amateurs make is automatically reaching for a lofted sand wedge.
You can improve your short game by knowing what shot is required and using less loft around the green. Practice with your pitching wedge, 9 iron and even your hybrid club, using a putting stroke, to improve your touch. Unless you are the world’s greatest chipper or pitcher of the golf ball, rely on less loft and save shots around the green.
Same Swing - Different Clubs
A standard chip and pitch swing is the first short game stroke for every player to learn and develop. Learn to play this stroke with 3 or 4 clubs from highest loft to an 8 or 7 iron. Use this stroke with the correct ‘loft’ depending on length and green availability to get the shot reasonably close. After mastery of this stroke, then begin learning another more complicated technique (i.e. high lob).
Go to shot around the greens
Most amateurs don’t spend enough time on short game but just watch what Tour Players do on television. Set up is important, so play the ball in the MIDDLE of your Stance which is about 4 inch wide ( clubhead is 4 inches), from there grab your Pitching Wedge with hands forward, make a small swing and see if you can keep it as close as possible to the GROUND.
Go to shot
The go-to shot for amateurs around the green is a Chip, this shot has a low trajectory, place ball back in the stance, shaft leans forward, weight on lead foot, use a putting motion-minimal wrist action. Get the ball on the ground as quick as you can. Once you start pitching you put air into the equation, trying to put the ball in the air more things can go wrong.