I just finished a weekend at a “chipping mastery workshop” at the beautiful (but cold!) Cape Schanck Golf Course, Victoria, Australia. (Schanck – unfortunate name for us golfers.)
I came down for the weekend to play golf, give a few putting and playing lessons, and to experience the workshop while lending a hand.
I’m going to explain what the big takeaways for the weekend for the majority of participants were, and how you can use Andre’s best tips to hit more confident, consistent, short shots from around the green.
The BIG Key to solid, consistent shots: Know how to set-up correctly (includes alignment, ball position and posture)
Time and time again, whether participants were trying to hit clean bunker, chip, or full shots, the set up and alignment was the number 1 starting point – that leads to better swings and contact.
Your hands and arms swing the club, but they can’t swing back and through correctly if the body is misaligned. Incorrect alignment will force you to make a compensation like swinging across the line (leads to pull, hook, and fat shots) or, too much swinging from the inside if your body is aligned too much to the right or left – which leads to pushes, hooks and thin shots. Why not just start with good alignment? – no compensations necessary.
Jack Nicklaus said something like, 90% of golf swing success comes down to having a good set up (includes ball position, width of stance, posture, and alignment). The set up comes first, it is the dog, the arms and hands are the tail – and can only perform well if the set up is first correct.
Short shots are different to long shots, you need to make some set up changes for clean, consistent shots
Chip shots require hardly any weight shift. And the key to crisp, consistent shots is having the ball just behind where the club consistently strikes the grass – the zone between your spine and your left armpit. You want to turn through the ball with the left hip, but it is only a small amount compared to the turning and shifting in the full swing.
Andre, like most excellent chippers, favors a narrow stance. It is very easy to get the correct ball position all of the time if the feet areclose together. Simply position the ball in the middle of this very narrow stance.
Now, you are free to use different lofted clubs to get less or more carry and roll – using the same set up.
The hands and tempo
Andre didn’t discuss this much. Why? If the ball and body are positioned correctly, your hands will behave nicely. Sounds too simple? Try it. Once you establish consistent striking from the correct ball position, you can vary how you use your hands (more or less wrist action).
Andre is not in to Phil Mickleson like big swishes at the ball, he say’s it makes it harder for average golfers and even the majority of tour pros – like himself – to hit consistent shots next to the hole when using this big swing style. Tour pro’s can all play these shots, but most prefer a swing with moderate hands and arms action – letting the loft of a sand-iron or 60 degree wedge do the job of getting the ball up high.
You’ll have to widen the stance for this shot. And again, try and find that ball position where the club is consistently meeting the turf (use practice swings to find this position). Open the club-face up, then swing away and the ball will pop up higher, and roll less upon landing on the green.
Andre decided to give lessons on bunker shots as well. Now this is a shot that requires some set up and alignment changes, because for one, our goal is not to hit the ball, and two, we usually want to flop the ball out reasonably high.
I like to think of it as an intentional fat shot. Many golfers at the workshop had closed stances to start off with – this makes this shot very hard. The stance should be open, along with an open clubface. The ball should be positioned forwards and the weight should favor the left foot, put the ball forwards then go after the ball – your weight will automatically be on the left foot.
On our last day out playing on the course, I had a couple of long high bunker shots to play. (They were blind shots – because I had 12-15 foot high faces to go over!]
These shots required a full swing with maximum force. The last one was about 30 meters – too far for a sand wedge, so I used exactly the same set up principles (including open face) using a pitching wedge to get me extra distance (I’m still trying to hit the sand, not the ball). Both were full, bold swings from a wide open stance. They both resulted in very good shots. I feel as though when I have the ball forwards, I can be very aggressive and go forwards after the ball thereby having my weight on my left foot. I’m of course trying to hit down into the sand, but like I said earlier, I’m hitting an aggressive, intentional “fat shot” – aided by the ball being forwards of where a good swing will enter the sand.
To sum up, the ball position is vital for chip shots; once you have it correct, you can use different clubs to achieve different heights and roll. And from there, you can move up to lofted chips/pitches with an open clubface (same swing) and then up to lob shots which are getting closer to a bunker shot technique (except you are hitting the ball).
To learn more from video instruction and demonstration of the shortgame, I have created an in-depth shortgame training course covering all 3 parts of the shortgame: pitching, chipping and bunker play, it’s here: Build a Better Shortgame, Training program
Once you get key fundamentals embedded – like ball position and width of stance, chipping is quite simple – you are free to focus on feel and how far you want to hit each shot – which is pretty much what you should be focused on when you are out trying to score on the golf course. Once the basic set up is correct and ingrained, you have a platform to add more shots (successfully) to your repertoire.
What about you? Do you have any questions on how to play these shots, or any tips for how to hit clean chips, pitches and bunker shots?