Renslow: Helping the chips fall where they may
During a recent conversation with a dedicated, but complacent golfer, I was told, “When I chip, I want to get the ball on the green and two putt.” Immediately, yet figuratively, I jumped out of my chair.
“No, no”, I asserted. “You should be thinking about making (holing) the chip. Then, your next thought should be making the putt.”
So, now, for those within earshot, I want to make sure we have the correct mindset about a short game shot, specifically a chip.
First, simply getting the ball on the green is a very low expectation. Many of these shots are short enough, we should expect to knock one in hole on occasion.
Second, if we’re only trying to get the ball on the putting surface, chance are our next putt is not going to be within a makeable range.
For those of us who know wish we could hit the ball like a tour player, here is your chance. Our tee shot may never resemble a professional, but there is no reason we can’t chip and putt like one.
So, grab your shag bag. You don’t have one? That is a symptom of the problem. We hit range balls, because it’s titillating. We try to hit them hard and don’t even have to find the balls or pick them all up.
Truth be known, the part of your golf game that will reward you with the most dynamic return also requires the most diligent investment. It is the ‘chip.’ Instead of trying to achieve maximum distance with every swing, let’s try and turn a bogey (or worse) into a par. You will need a pitching wedge, 8-iron, 6-iron.
Begin by viewing the practice putting green and the surrounding area. Place a few balls just off the green, where you determine a putt is no longer a prudent choice. The objective is to just get the ball over the longer grass so it begins rolling as soon as possible after the short flight.
This is how it’s done. Set up like you’re going to hit a normal golf shot, then move your forward foot (left foot for you right-handed players) away from the ball a couple of inches. Your golf club face stays on line toward the target. From here, the motion is essentially a mini-swing. Initially, using an 8-iron, rotate the club away from the ball slightly and then move the club through the ball and at the target line. This motion should be fairly symmetrical, a similar size going back as going forward, like a pendulum.
Hit a bunch of these shots (chips), but the result is not a concern at first. We just want to become comfortable with the motion. Accuracy will not be a problem. It is the distance that will take some time to get accustomed to.
Once you become comfortable with the mechanics, you can increase or decrease the size of the motion to lengthen or shorten the shot. A small motion will create a shorter result, and in turn, a larger motion will result in shot that travels further. Next, you can change clubs to adjust the distance.
One of the mistakes we make is to use the same golf club for all short-game scenarios. There are instances where a pitching wedge would be appropriate to achieve more ball flight; however, we will have scenarios where the ball will need to roll more and require an 8-iron or even a 6-iron. Choosing the right club for the current conditions will make the shot easier for you.
Again, our desired outcome is to fly the ball over the inconsistent stuff (longer grass) and watch the ball roll on the putting surface toward the hole. Practice, practice, practice. Lather, rinse, repeat.
No longer do we think, “I just want to get the ball on the green.” Our goal here is to turn three shots into two or even one. Over an 18-hole round, just think how many strokes this can take off your score!
John Renslow is general manager and director of golf at Alta Sierra Country Club. Please contact John with your questions or comments at email@example.com.
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User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
New season. New co-head coaches. Same expectations.