There are many different techniques that produce success in golf.
When hitting a chip or pitch shot the sequence of body movements should be different compared to a shot that needs power. The chip or pitch shot is considered a finesse shot. In contrast, the power sequence is from the ground up: feet, hips, torso, arms, and then the club head. The power sequence starts with the feet shifting pressure into the earth, and pushing off the earth to generate maximum club head speed. The finesse shot does not need this explosive sequence. A golfer should use the ground for stability when hitting a finesse shot. This gives the golfer more control over the club handle, and club head.
We are going to talk about two techniques that breed success when hitting a chip and pitch shot. Both techniques have the golfer using their legs for a stable base.
One technique Phil Mickelson famously named the “hinge and hold.” This is a technique where the golfer hinges or sets the club head with the wrist, and has little body movement on the back swing. The downswing starts with a rotation of the torso, as the golfer tries to hold the angle in the shaft as they come through impact. After the torso starts to rotate, the lead arm keeps the movement of the club handle moving. It is impossible to hold the angle, but this is the feel. The hinge and hold produces less dynamic loft at impact than the loft at set up. Many have great success with this method, which keeps the ball low and running. In my opinion, for the average golfer this method is very useful out of the rough, but tight lies become a problem. Don’t get me wrong, I teach this method to those I think it will help. Again,there is no one way to play golf, only success and/or improvement determines right and wrong in this game.
The second method I find most helpful to those who have a “flip” in their chipping and pitching motion (See Exhibit A). In my experience, those who have the flip are the easiest students to help. I prefer the club to pass the hands on the short shots. The golfer with a flip is creating a motion with the club head passing the hands already, but usually they have other elements that do not match the flip motion.
Keep the flip, but to get results, make a few adjustments. First, you need to make sure that your set up position of the torso is slightly open to the target line, and you tilt the torso towards the target without moving your lower body. Second, your lead arm and shoulder must keep momentum through the whole downswing. Third, your torso does not move until after your lead arm has engaged in the downswing. There are more elements that might be needed depending on the student, but if a golfer already has a flip motion, these three elements are the key to success. Often a student has two of the three necessary elements, and we may only work on one element for the whole lesson.
In Exhibit B, James Sieckmann, short game guru and teacher to many tour professionals, is showing us the correct flip method finished position. As you can see, the club head has moved passed the hands, but the left arm has moved well past impact. In Exhibit C, Sieckmann is also showing us a great drill. These three pictures shows a drill in which he only uses his trail arm.
The flip method will sometimes have a lower launch than the first method. Even though the hinge andhold delofts the club more at impact, the flip method will expose the bottom of the club head to the ball much more. When a golfer makes contact with a chip or pitch on the bottom of the clubface, the golf ball will launch lower with more spin.
I am sure on TV you have seen players hit these amazing 40-yard shots that fly low, skip once or twice on the green, and then stop on a dime. The flip method makes it much easier to make this happen. Yes, I am telling you they are mishitting those 40-yard shots on TV to make the golf ball perform like that. For amateurs, there is a fine line between hitting a low spinner, and blading the ball over the green. Many who have a flip motion blade the ball a lot, because their lead arm does not keep momentum through the shot, as shown in Exhibit A. The arms stop, the player has the flip, the club head bottoms out behind the ball, and as the club head is coming upward, contact is made above the equator.
No method is right, no method is wrong. However, if you have a flip…keep it. Just make the proper adjustments that help the flip work. Trying to go from a flip to a hinge and hold could be disastrous. Go see your local PGA professional to see what method is right for you.
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 Titleist staff member. Follow Todd on Twitter @elliottgolfpro or for any question or comments email firstname.lastname@example.org.