In the last year I have changed my thinking on how the amateur golfer should chip and pitch the ball on the green. Previously I taught students to rotate their body through the ball and get the club handle to “zip” through impact. In most golf shots the hands should be slightly ahead of the golfer’s center. I still believe this is a successful way to hit short shots.
However, for most golfers this takes a lot of practice to develop the skill to time this correctly. What happens to many golfers is they “drag” the handle. From the top of the backswing on a chip or pitch the amateur golfer pulls or drags the handle downward. The reaction to the dragged handle is the hands having to slow down at an extreme rate just before impact. To the spectator this may even look like the yips, because the golfer is compromised at impact. I see the handle moving so fast to start the downswing that the player has to put the brakes on the hands to get the club head to catch up. If the hands kept moving at the same rate of speed the hands would be so far ahead of the club head that the club is not long enough to hit the ball. The golfer’s subconscious knows that he or she is going to miss the ball, then the golfer will proceed by making funny looking body jerks to make contact with the golf ball.
I have had much more success with teaching students to focus on swinging the club head while hitting standard chip and pitch shots. Ultimately I am trying to get the student to have the shaft straight up and down or a 90 degree angle in the club shaft at impact. The reason for this is the bounce on the wedge is made for this desired impact position. I encourage amateurs to get a sand wedge with as much bounce available. Example, Titleist makes a 56 degree wedge with 14 degree of bounce. If amateurs are firing the hands instead of the club head they will use the leading edge. A wedge with more bounce will help the club not dig into the ground.
So how do we swing the club head better? In a previous article I made reference to the full swing, “It’s all in the hips.” This articles title represent the importance of the wrists movement in having an effective short game. The wrists are the biggest representative of where the club head is located in the golf swing. To move the club head we need our wrists to be working. Get the club head moving by being “wristy”.
To get a feel for this motion try this drill. Take your normal grip with both hands on the club, and then take the left hand off the club. Bring the club head to waist high, and directly infront of your body. Without moving your body or arms swing the club head with your wrist only.After a few swings with the wrist let your body and arms follow the movement of the club head. In other words, do not resist the body and hands moving, but do not make them the engine in the movement. Let the club head be the leader. Feel the wrist/club head start the downswing. Many golfers tend to start the downswing by using the hands to bring the handle down or the student will turn the shoulders to start the downswing on a pitch shot or chip shot.
The club head has the farthest distance to travel in the golf swing, chip, pitch, and full swing. The hands have the second farthest distance to travel, and the body has the least amount of distance to travel. If a golfer moves his body or hands faster and/or a longer distance, the club head will get left behind. View the picture of Andrew Rice, well known golf instructor, chipping to see how much farther of a distance the club head moves compared to the hands. Further proof that the wrists need to work the club head during the swing.
We hear on TV, “the player was stuck on that swing.” The golfer has moved the body too fast on the downswing and the club head is stuck behind her. The amateur golfer comes over the top when the body rotates too fast. Same problem, different results. The wrists play a vital role in swinging the club head efficiently and with speed. As my students learn how to use their wrists to swing the club head more efficiently they realize the ball goes farther with less effort. This takes getting used to, but now that the student is hitting more solid shots it is much easier to dial in distance control. Controlling the speed of the body is a must to controlling distances in a facets of the game.
Next time you practice your chip and pitch shots make the club head go faster than the body and hands. Use the wrist and let the hands and body go along for the ride. I think you will feel this freeing up your body and hands to move better than before because they do not have to slow down after starting the downswing so fast.
To learn how to use the bounce by getting the shaft up and down at impact and how to use the wrist while chipping and pitching go see your local PGA Professional.
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 also a Coutour-certified putting fitter, a Titlteist-certified fitter and a Titliest staff member. Follow Todd on Twitter @elliottgolfpro or for any question or comments email firstname.lastname@example.org.