For the sake of simplicity, all advice on swings and drills is provided from a right handed perspective; lefties …. well, you know what to do!
I wrote the last two newsletters before I went on vacation, so in this issue I would like to address some interesting comments that I received in response to Issue 243 from William C.
His comments: “When chipping or pitching you never let the club head pass your hands. You don’t even want that “passing feeling”. The chances of blading it are too great. The idea is to let the bounce of the club work for you. This is true under all conditions weather its deep rough, sand or a tight lie. Let the club do it’s job. 1) Put the ball slightly forward in your stance 2) open the club face slightly 3) regrip 4) adjust your stance so that your club face is on target 5) use enough back swing to reach the target.”
William took umbrage to my advice regarding lofted chips: “To execute a lofted chip, simply set up with the ball a little more forward in your stance, set up with less forward shaft lean, and when you execute the chip allow the clubhead to feel like it’s passing your hands at impact.”
First of all, I always appreciate feedback – and here’s why I feel that William may be missing an opportunity to develop another shot for his scoring arsenal by being a bit too rigid in his thinking.
My first choice for all chipping situations is a compression chip unless circumstances warrant otherwise. The wrist position for this type of chip is described in the Hinging – Unhinging section below.
However, there are shots in golf – although very few – where you would actually allow the clubhead to pass your hands at impact.
In my lofted chipping tip, I didn’t advocate actually letting the clubhead pass the hands at impact, rather to have the feeling that it’s getting to that point. The feeling is generated by your setup with a shaft that’s very vertical, as opposed to having shaft lean as you normally would for a chip. The more forward the ball position, the more vertical your shaft would be at setup. The leading edge of the club does make contact with the ground for the lofted chip that I advocate, which is a very different technique from intentionally using bounce with a chip shot.
There could actually be a situation in deep rough with a good lie, when you need to hit a very high, soft shot to a short sided pin. In this situation, where you would be able to have your ball placement slightly forward of the bottom of your swing arc, you should absolutely feel your clubhead catch up to and perhaps even actually pass your hands at impact to obtain maximum loft on the shot. It breaks one of my tenets of never “flipping” the club at impact, but it’s an unusual circumstance and sometimes we have to adapt.
Is this an easy shot?
No, it takes tons of practice – but it’s good to have it in your bag for when you absoultely need it in a win or lose situation.
Bounce (angle) is an indication of how much the sole, or bottom-most part, of the club head lifts the leading edge. The purpose of introducing bounce into club head design is to control how easily wedges, with their steep angles of attack, penetrate the ground under the ball. It also keeps your sand wedge from digging too deep on explosion shots from a bunker.
Regarding bounce, it’s use should be purposeful and specific. I would not advocate using bounce for most chips because it’s a low percentage shot; it’s very easy to blade the shot and produce a horrible result.
For the lofted chip that I advocate, I’m talking about using a pitching wedge or perhaps a gap wedge, neither of which normally has much bounce, unless you custom order it. If, however, you open the clubface of any club, any bounce that’s on the club is magnified. If your choice of club for chipping is a sand wedge – which is normally manufactured with much more bounce than a pitching wedge or gap wedge, bounce is a huge consideration. You need to be critically aware of your ball placement when you decide to open your stance and your clubface. Too much forward placement may unwittingly bring too much bounce into play.
It’s a good idea to practice a stroke utilizing the bounce of the club in case you are ever on a green and you can’t putt because a piece of the fringe is in your line to the hole. This actually happened to Henrik Stenson at the Players Championship this weekend, where he used a bounce chip on the green instead of putting (note: no divot). Some players who have a bounce chip shot in their arsenal also like this method from tight lies in the fairway. Personally, I’ve never been much of a fan of this shot because there’s such a small margin of error. I have the shot when I need it, but I almost always can come up with a safer option.
There’s no divot with this shot, because you are simply skipping the bounce off the surface, the leading edge of the club doesn’t ever touch the ground.
I used to practice this shot many, many years ago by hitting shots off a wooden deck on a balcony at a course where I played a lot, over a close railing, onto the putting green. To be candid, it wasn’t actually practice, there was usually a bet or two involved. I’m way too mature to do this any more, and a better way to practice a bounce stroke is as follows: find a firm piece of flat ground (not a putting green until your technique is perfect) get a dry erase black magic marker and put a generous amount on the leading edge and the bounce area of your sand wedge practice short, vertical shafted, dead handed chipping strokes – skipping the bottom of the club off the ground at impact, with no shaft lean and firm wrists. You should be brushing the black dry erase marker off the bounce area but not the leading edge. after you’ve mastered the stroke, try it with a ball to get a feel for loft and distance. Be judicious about using bounce, it’s a low percentage shot and actually magnifies your chances of blading the shot – BUT – just like the lofted chip shot that I mentioned, there may be that unusual situation when you need the shot, so at least have an idea of how to execute it.
The message here is to own your setup for your stock shots, but to realize that exceptions exist, and to practice those other shots once in awhile to get a feel for execution.
Love your practice, enjoy your golf,
Tom Tucker is a World Golf Teachers and United States Golf Teacher Federation-certified golf instructor. He may be contacted via his website or at the Plum Creek driving range in Batavia, NY.