All golfers miss greens with approach shots.
Jim Furyk had a scrambling percentage of 80 percent on the PGA Tour in 2014. Scrambling is the percentage of times a player gets the ball up and in from around the green. Furyk’s percentage was the best on the PGA Tour in 2014. This is why he is the best player in the world that is not in the top 50 in driving distance. Most golfers can relate with Furyk’s game. We do not hit 300 yards drives of the tee, and most of us have an unorthodox golf swing.
A chip shot is considered to be any golf shot more than 10 yards off the green. Golfers play a lot of shots from just off the green. For many reasons, we have a lot of short chip shots: bad iron shots, playing a set of tees that are too long, and playing a shot around the green that does not get onto the green. Chipping is the part of the game we should work on the most.
Chip shots are a microcosm of our full swing, but require a shorter golf swing. We do not have time to adjust at impact while hitting a chip shot. This makes the correct set up and swing even more important than our full swing.
I have two fundamentals that my teaching revolves around. The weight must be on the left foot, and the hands must be slightly ahead of the center at impact. These fundamentals are no different when hitting a chip shot. However, the golf swing is smaller when chipping. This makes the arc of the swing shallower. The bigger the swing, the steeper the swing arc. The club needs to descend on a steeper angle when chipping, especially from the rough. The last thing we want to do is steepen the angle with our swing.
A golfer should adjust from their normal full swing set up when hitting a chip shot. The ball position should be back in the stance, adjacent to the right foot for a right-handed golfer. This will steepen the angle without changing the golf swing. Also, when hitting chip shots a golfer should move the body and club handle slightly toward the lead, or front foot. Move the body left for a right-handed golfer until 70 percent of the weight is on the front foot. This will steepen the angle of attack into the golf ball even more. When making a chipping motion, keep the weight on the left leg, because there is not time to transfer your weight.
A basic golf swing starts with a transfer of the weight to the front leg. No different when chipping, but because the swing is so small the transfer of weight to the front leg is not as predominate. This is why more weight needs to be on the front foot while address a chip shot. The feet and knees move towards the target to start the downswing. The second part of the downswing in a golf shot is rotating the big muscles.
Too many times I see a solid set up position, a good backswing, and then a golfer will swing their arms and hands to hit the golf ball. A golfer may say they were too quick. The swing looks and feels quick, but the problem is the correct body parts are not being used to hit the golf ball. Using the big muscles is not a natural motion because our hands are the only body part that are attached to the golf club. It is easy for our mind to think the hands are the engine to the downswing. Time to retrain the mind.
Let’s talk about how to rotate on the downswing in more detail. Again, the start of the downswing begins with the feet and the knees moving the momentum of the body to towards the target. The legs and torso will then start to rotate as they move towards the target. The arm and hands will engage just before impact. Think that sounds complicated.
This kinematic sequence holds true in all sports. Examples are throwing a baseball or football. Imagine throwing a baseball while on your back foot, and you can only use your arm to throw the baseball. We need to use the earth under our feet to create momentum. This helps us maximize distance and control. As you can see in the picture Tiger Woods has rotated fully and the club handle has not moved as far as the body. He is moving towards the target as well. Again, the chip shot is a microcosm of the full swing; the same principles apply.
If you are falling away from the target on your chip shots, get the momentum going toward the target. Work on making the game an athletic motion when hitting all golf shots. Worry about what the body is doing, not the golf club position. Go see your local PGA professional to make sure you are set up correctly for a chip shot and that your body is working in an athletic motion.
Todd Elliott is the PGA Head Golf Professional for Hideaway Beach. Todd is TPI (Titleist Performance Institute) Certified as a golf professional. This gives him the ability to give golf specific physical screening to detect any physical limitation that might affect the golf swing. Todd is an active Student Mentor at FGCU; a volunteer with the First Tee program and was presented the 2010 and 2011 PGA’s President Council Award