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Which putting grip improves the average golfer’s alignments?

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I’ve found that the most damaging flaw within a golfer’s putting is the breakdown of the lead wrist through impact. This flaw causes many more problems than anything else for the average golfer’s putting such as adding loft to the putter through impact, poor impact points on the face, incorrect pace control, loss of feel, loss of confidence and faulty impact alignments and subsequent aim. If I had to point to one move that will cause your putting stroke, confidence and ability to hole putts consistently to implode it would be this move.

Within my putting academy, I use computer systems that can track motions of the body and putter. Advanced Motion Measurement’s 3D Motion Analysis System will track the motions of the wrists comparing them at address and impact, while the SAM Puttlab will track the motions of the putter head during impact.

Below, I have charted the performance characteristics in impact aim and the shaft angle at impact (which determines the impact alignments and the subsequent breakdown of the wrists) of 10 different grip. I’ve also tested players of each level and average their results within their handicap levels to give a general idea of what happens during the stroke. The handicap levels will be as follows: tour professional, scratch, 10, 18, 25 and 36.

The 10 Grips

  • A “normal” putting grip
  • The interlocking grip
  • The overlapping grip
  • The reverse-overlapping grip
  • The reverse-overlapping grip with index finger extended
  • The baseball grip
  • The split baseball grip
  • The left hand low grip
  • The claw grip
  • Bernhard Langer’s long left arm grip
  • Strong rear hand grip

Desired impact alignments and terminology

The Goal at Impact is as flat forward wrist, a bent rear wrist and a neutral to slightly forward-leaning club shaft.

The Goal of Dynamic Loft During Impact is to preserve the static loft of the putter at impact so that the shaft angle is “0.”

Impact Aim is the direction that the putter face is aiming at impact. This factor determines 83 percent of the ball’s direction and can either be either open (O) or closed (C). If you cannot control the putter’s alignments during impact, then you will never be able to begin the ball on your intended line consistently. That means you will have a hard time making putts.

Shaft Lean is the amount of positive or negative “lean” of the club shaft at impact. If the putter shaft is leaning forward at impact, it will deloft (D) the putter’s static loft. If it is leaning backward at impact, it will add (A) to the putter’s static loft. We would like the putter to be relatively neutral at impact or very close to it. When the wrists are too active, the lead wrist breaks down adding loft to the putter during impact. This causes the ball to hop and skip, making feel and distance control inconsistent.

The Test

CHART 01

PHOTO 04
There is little change from address aim to impact aim in the tour professional.

One can derive several observations from the tour professional data above. Tour professionals, as you can imagine, aim the putter very close to where they are trying to at address, but not perfectly. At impact, any aiming deficiencies are accounted for. Thus, the ball leaves the blade on the chosen target line and this is the reason why these players are so good at controlling the ball’s starting direction. The putter’s shaft lean is basically neutral, helping the ball to leave the blade with the perfect roll characteristics using the loft designed into the putter naturally.

An impact alignment breakdown for the professional player does not happen too often. If anything, they ensure that they are not delofting the putter too actively during impact and do their best to make sure the loft of their putter remains relatively constant at the impact position. If they consistently deloft the putter through impact to a great degree, then they must add loft to their putters accordingly.

CHART 02

In regards to impact aim at the scratch level, there are not too many difference between each grip, however, when the “claw and Langer” grips are used, the shoulder rotation at impact seems to increase. When the shoulders are overactive during impact, it tends to cause the putter to close too rapidly. These players tend to move the ball back in their stance to accommodate this shoulder action.

PHOTO 05
When the “claw or Langer” grips are used the shoulders can become too overactive rotationally as shown above shutting down the blade at impact; thus, the ball position should be moved slightly back in the stance to accommodate.

As we examine the impact alignments and their effect on the effective loft of the putter, you will see that the scratch players, just like the tour professionals, must make sure that they are not leaning the shaft too far forward during impact and driving the ball into the ground.

PHOTO 06
When the putter shaft leans too far forward (as shown above) it can lead to the ball being driven into the ground through impact. Skidding and bouncing can result.

The only grip type that tends to consistently deloft the putter to an exaggerated degree on average is the split grip. This, in my opinion, is due to the shaft being set more forward at the address position, and why goflers such as Natalie Gulbis must make sure that they have more loft to their putters than most golfers. This added loft will correct for the extra shaft lean at impact and give these players a better chance for the ball to react favorably at impact.

CHART 03

CHART 04

As the level of handicap goes up, you will find that impact aim and impact alignments begin to suffer. This is why higher-handicap golfers are generally less consistent on the greens than the scratch players. These two factors cause a number of short birdie and par putts to be missed, driving up the scores of these players. From tee to green, the 10 handicap and the 18 handicap golfers are not too far off from one another, except for a few more loose shots by the 18-handicap player. But the number of missed up-and-downs goes up dramatically as these short putts are missed.

The impact aim of both levels of players shows that the “claw and the cross-handed grip” are the most accurate. This, in my opinion, is due to the fact that with the “claw” the rear forearm is more on-plane. That contributes to better putter face control since the path is usually better with this type of grip. When the rear forearm rides “high” or above the club shaft — as seen in the graphic below — the impact aim and the path are negatively affected. The “claw and cross-handed” place the rear forearm in a much more consistent position than the other normal putting grips, and this is what the data above shows in a number of players.

PHOTO 07
When the rear forearm is too high as shown above the impact aim of the putter tends to be closed and the ball misses left as a result.

PHOTO 08

From an impact alignment standpoint, these higher-handicap players are the ones who are just beginning to show some added hand action through impact, adding effective loft to their putters. When this occurs, the ball will tend to hop into the air at the start of its movement toward the hole, causing inconsistencies. This “jumping” causes many reactions of the ball to occur.

It is just this little bit of hand action and “skipping” of the ball that causes golfers to miss a number of very makeable putts: ones that the lower handicap players would tend to make. As you can see from the data, the best grip for reducing hand action in these players would be the Langer grip, with the left arm on the shaft itself. Golfers will find that if they have issues on short putts, they can very easily keep the putter shaft in a consistent position through impact with the Langer grip, allowing the ball to react the same way on putts of a certain length. I would suggest trying this grip on putts inside 12 feet if you have trouble maintaining a solid “rolling” of the ball off the start. The Langer grip is also good for golfers with the “yips,” which seem to affect this player grouping more than any other.

CHART 05

In my studies, the only real difference between the putting abilities of 25-handicap and 36-handicap golfers is the former group’s ability to monitor and control their hand action. These players have a slightly better time controlling their hand action than the 36-handicappers, thus any type of grip that allows them to monitor their hand action will work more effectively.

The two grip styles that control their impact aim are the two that allow them to monitor their hands more than any other:

  1. The reverse overlap with the rear index finger down the shaft
  2. The split grip.

The rear index finger is the most used finger on the human body, and its ability to sense and control what it is doing is one of the keys to putting at this level. As golfers extend this finger, they will find that the motions of the putter head are easily controlled. This is why the 25-handicap golfer has better success with this type of grip when it comes to impact aim. However, this rear finger grip can also lead to overuse. This is shown above by grip’s inability to help reduce impact alignment breakdown.

The reverse overlap grip with the rear finger down the shaft is one of the worst grips when it comes to preserving the static loft of the putter during impact. When the rear index finger is allowed to over control the motions of the putter, golfers will find that it will cause their impact alignment breakdown and add shaft lean at impact. When this occurs, golfers will not be able to control their speed and therefore will have little feel on the greens.

This explains why 25-handicap golfers can three-putt from just about any distance and at just about any time during the round. That said, it is easier for the 25 handicapper to reduce his number of three-putts in order to reduce his score than to work on making more short putts, the exact opposite case for lower-handicap golfers.

PHOTO 09
The 25-handicap golfer is guilty of adding too much loft to his putter when the reverse overlap with the index finger is extended grip is used.

CHART 06

When you examine the data tendencies in the 36-handicap golfer, you will see one thing in both categories: random data. This shows that this level of player has virtually little feeling or consistency in making the same type of stroke. This explains the golfer’s inability to control his or her speed or line on any type of putt.

One thing of note from the data, however, is that the “overlapping” grip — the same one generally used in the full swing — produced slightly better numbers for 36-handicap golfers. This is because this type of player uses this grip most often on the course, and generally has developed more feel with the grip than any other. Whenever these players are asked to change to a different putting grip, their feel tends to implode. Any grip other than the one they use most often can cause more inconsistent results.

These golfers must understand that the forward hand controls the rotation of the putter face and its alignments, while the rear hand and the bending of the rear wrist controls the shaft lean at impact and their subsequent feel. Anything other than a flat forward wrist and a bent rear wrist at impact will cause impact alignments and impact aim to be compromised. This is the most important lesson for the beginning golfer to understand and learn. Putting drills that involve each hand individually will help these players better understand the role of each hand during the putting stroke in order to have the proper alignments.

Conclusion

As with the full swing, different problems arise in putting for each handicap level of golfer. The higher the handicap, the less ball control the player has and the more important the understanding of the necessary impact alignments is for success. The better the player, the more important the proper aim of the putter is at impact. This is where a proper putter fitting and and properly weighted putter can really make a difference.

Higher-handicap golfers seem to three-putt more often because a lack of consistent shaft lean, which leads to poor feel and pace control. Lower-handicap golfers tend to miss makeable putts for pars and birdies because of poor impact alignments and aiming. Tour professionals understand subconsciously how to hit the ball where they want, and are able to put the shaft in the correct position more than lesser-talented golfers. That’s the main reason why they are more consistent.

As the data shows, different putting grips will work best for golfers of different ability levels, and it is necessary for golfers and their instructors to analyze their misses so that they can choose the correct grip. Sometimes direction is a problem, while other times feel is a problem. There are some grips that are better for directional control while others are better in controlling a golfer’s impact alignments. It is up to you to determine your problems and pick the right grip style accordingly.

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: tom.stickney@puntamita.com

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Pingback: http://www.golfwrx.com/162633/which-putting-grip-improves-the-average-golfers-alignments/ | athletic golfer

  2. joe sixpack

    Mar 6, 2014 at 12:29 pm

    I second hebron1427’s comment. Without knowing your sample size or the standard deviations there’s no way to know if your data is statistically significant.

    For example, you advised Gabe to try a left hand low grip, presumably because that grip has the closest to neutral average impact aim (0.7 closed vs. 1.0-2.9 for other grips) for 18 handicap players. But what if that 0.7 figure were based on only 5 players who ranged from 3 degrees open to 5 degrees closed? If that were the case, this wouldn’t be meaningful at all.

    Statistics can look powerful but without sample size and standard deviation information there is no way to tell if something like this has any validity.

    • Tom Stickney

      Mar 6, 2014 at 9:03 pm

      Understand totally however I’d advise you have fun with this article and experiment to find your own best grip.

  3. paul

    Mar 4, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    I would love to see an article on how different grips for full swings makes a difference. I use a baseball style grip (smallerish hands). One plane swing and hit it with a pull. And always wondered if there was a connection. Approximately 14 handicap.

  4. Gabe

    Mar 4, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    I recently had a SAM putter fitting and the results were as follows:
    Face Aim: 0.7 open
    Shaft Lean: 2.0 add loft

    I’m around an 18 hcp but have only been playing for 2 years. I use a traditional grip, how do I apply your data to determine a possibly better putter grip?

  5. Sky

    Mar 3, 2014 at 9:20 pm

    In general, do you want to hit up or down on a putt?

  6. hebron1427

    Mar 3, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    while this is interesting, it’s not particularly helpful without statistical data. did you do any statistical analysis and come up with any standard deviations on impact aim for the various handicaps? for a 36 handicap, all of these could be within the standard error.

    • Tom Stickney

      Mar 3, 2014 at 10:54 pm

      Get what you’re asking mike but this is just a general analysis of what the “average” golfer needs to experiment with in order to fix their issues

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Instruction

Golf 101: How to chip (AKA “bump and run”)

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Although golf for a beginner can be an intimidating endeavor, and learning how to chip is part of that intimidation, this is one part of the game that if you can nail down the fundamentals, not only can you add some confidence to your experience but also you lay down a basic foundation you can build on.

How to chip

The chip shot, for all intents and purposes, is a mini-golf swing. To the beginner, it may seem like a nothing burger but if you look closely, it’s your first real way to understand contact, launch, spin, compression, and most importantly the fundamentals of impact.

What is a chip shot? A pitch shot?

Chip: A shot that is hit typically with anything from a 3-iron to a lob wedge that launches low, gets on the ground quickly, and rolls along the surface (like a putt) to the desired location.

Pitch: A shot that is hit typically with anything from a PW to a lob wedge that launches low- to mid-trajectory that carries a good portion of the way to your desired location and relies on spin to regulate distance.

Now that we have separated the two, the question is: How do I chip?

Since we are trying to keep this as simple as possible, let’s just do this as a quick checklist and leave it at that. Dealing with different lies, grass types, etc? Not the purpose here. We’re just concerned with how to make the motion and chip a ball on your carpet or at the golf course.

Think “rock the triangle”

  1. Pick a spot you want the ball to land. This is for visualization, direction and like any game you play, billiards, Darts, pin the tail on the donkey, having a target is helpful
  2. For today, use an 8-iron. It’s got just enough loft and bounce to make this endeavor fun.
  3. Grip the club in your palms and into the lifelines of your hands. This will lift the heel of the club of the ground for better contact and will take your wrists out of the shot.
  4. Open your stance
  5. Put most of your weight into your lead leg. 80/20 is a good ratio
  6. Ball is positioned off your right heel
  7. Lean the shaft handle to your left thigh
  8. Rock the shoulders like a putt
  9. ENJOY!

Check out this vid from @jakehuttgolf to give you some visuals.

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Clement: Best drill for weight shift and clearing hips (bonus on direction too)

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This is, by far, one of the most essential drills for your golf swing development. To throw the club well is a liberating experience! Here we catch Munashe up with how important the exercise is not only in the movement pattern but also in the realization that the side vision is viciously trying to get you to make sure you don’t throw the golf club in the wrong direction. Which, in essence, is the wrong direction to start with!

This drill is also a cure for your weight shift problems and clearing your body issues during the swing which makes this an awesome all-around golf swing drill beauty! Stay with us as we take you through, step by step, how this excellent drill of discovery will set you straight; pardon the pun!

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Confessions of a hacker: Chipping yips and equipment fixes

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There’s a saying in golf that, paraphrasing here, it’s the person holding the weapon, not the weapon. Basically, if you hit a bad shot, it’s almost certain that it was your fault, not the fault of the golf club. It has a better design than your swing. And while that truism is often correct, it ain’t necessarily so.

For example, if I were to try to hit one of those long drive drivers, I’d probably mis-hit it so badly that the ball might not be findable. That stick is way too long, stiff, and heavy for me. Similarly, if I were to use one of those senior flex drivers, I’d probably hit it badly, because it would be too floppy for my swing. It’s clear that there are arrows that this Indian can’t shoot well. Maybe a pro could adapt to whatever club you put in his hand, but there’s no reason he would accept less than a perfect fit. And there’s little reason why any amateur ought to accept less than a good fit.

I was never a competitive athlete, although I’m a competitive person. My path led a different direction, and as my medical career reached its mature years, I was introduced to our wonderful and frustrating game.

Being one who hates playing poorly, I immediately sought instruction. After fifteen years, multiple instructors, a wallet full of videos, and a wall full of clubs, I am finally learning how to do one particularly vexing part of the game reasonable well. I can chip! But as you may have guessed, the largest part of this journey has to do with the arrow, not the Indian.

We may immediately dismiss the golf shaft as a significant issue since chipping generally involves a low-speed movement. And as long as the grip is a reasonable fit for the hands, it’s not a big deal either. The rubber meets the road at the clubhead.

Manufacturers have worked hard to get the best ball spin out of the grooves. Their shape is precisely milled, and then smaller grooves and roughness are added to the exact maximum allowed under the rules. Various weighting schemes have been tried, with some success in tailoring wedges to players. And some manufacturers market the “newest” designs to make it impossible to screw up wedge shots. And yet, nothing seemed to solve my yips.

So I went on a mission. I studied all sorts of chipping techniques. Some advocate placing the ball far back to strike a descending blow. Others place it near the center of the stance. The swing must have no wrist hinge. The swing must have a hinge that is held. It should be a short swing. It should be a long swing. The face should be square. The face should be open. There should be a “pop.” There should be no power added.

If you are confused, join my club. So I went on a different mission. I started looking at sole construction. Ever since Gene Sarazen popularized a sole with bounce for use in the sand, manufacturers have been creating massive numbers of “different” sand wedges. They have one thing in common. They are generally all built to 55 or 56-degrees of loft.

The basic design feature of the sand wedge is that the sole extends down and aft from the leading edge at some angle. This generally ranges from 6 to 18-degrees. Its purpose is to allow the wedge to dig into the sand, but not too far. As the club goes down into the sand, the “bounce” pushes it back up.

 

One problem with having a lot of bounce on the wedge is that it can’t be opened up to allow certain specialty shots or have a higher effective loft. When the player does that, the leading edge lifts, resulting in thin shots. So manufacturers do various things to make the wedge more versatile, typically by removing bounce in the heel area.

At my last count, I have eight 56-degree wedges in my collection. Each one was thought to be a solution to my yips. Yet, until I listened to an interview with Dave Edel, I had almost no real understanding of why I was laying sod over a lot of my chips. Since gardening did not reduce my scores, I had to find another solution.

My first step was to look at the effective loft of a wedge in various ball positions. (Pictures were shot with the butt of the club at the left hip, in a recommended forward lean position. Since the protractor is not exactly lined up with the face, the angles are approximate.)

I had no idea that there was so much forward lean with a simple chip. If I were to use the most extreme rearward position, I would have to have 21-degrees of bounce just to keep the leading edge from digging in at impact. If there were the slightest error in my swing, I would be auditioning for greenskeeper.

My appreciation for the pros who can chip from this position suddenly became immense. For an amateur like me, the complete lack of forgiveness in this technique suddenly removed it from my alleged repertoire.

My next step was to look at bounce. As I commented before, bounce on sand wedges ranges between 6 and 18-degrees. As the drawing above shows, that’s a simple angle measurement. If I were to chip from the forward position, a 6-degree bounce sand wedge would have an effective bounce of 1-degree. That’s only fractionally better than the impossible chip behind my right foot. So I went to my local PGA Superstore to look at wedges with my Maltby Triangle Gauge in hand.

As you can see from the photos, there is a wide variation in wedges. What’s most curious, however, is that this variation is between two designs that are within one degree of the same nominal bounce. Could it be that “bounce is not bounce is not bounce?” Or should I say that “12-degrees is not 12-degrees is not 12-degrees?” If one looks below the name on the gauge, a curious bit of text appears. “Measuring effective bounce on wedges.” Hmmm… What is “effective bounce?”

The Maltby Triangle Gauge allows you to measure three things: leading-edge height, sole tangent point, and leading-edge sharpness. The last is the most obvious. If I’m chipping at the hairy edge of an adequate bounce, a sharp leading edge will dig in more easily than a blunt one. So if I’m using that far back ball position, I’ll need the 1OutPlus for safety, since its leading edge is the bluntest of the blunt. Even in that position, its 11-degree bounce keeps the leading edge an eighth of an inch up.

Wait a minute! How can that be? In the back position, the wedge is at 35-degrees effective loft, and 11-degrees of bounce ought to be 10-degrees less than we need. The difference here is found in combining all three parameters measured by the gauge, and not just the angle of the bounce.

The 1OutPlus is a very wide sole wedge. Its tangent point is a massive 1.7″ back. The leading edge rises .36″ off the ground and is very blunt. In other words, it has every possible design feature to create safety in case the chip from back in the stance isn’t as perfect as it might be. Since a golf ball is 1.68″ in diameter, that’s still less than halfway up to the center of the ball. But if you play the ball forward, this may not be the wedge for you.

Here are the measurements for the eight sand wedges that happen to be in my garage. All are either 56-degrees from the factory or bent to 56-degrees.

A couple of things jump out from this table. The Callaway PM Grind at 13-degrees has a lower leading edge (.26 inches) than the 11-degree Bazooka 1OutPlus (.36 inches). How can a lower bounce have a higher leading edge? Simple geometry suggests that if you want a higher leading edge, you will need a higher bounce angle. But it gets worse. The Wishon WS (wide sole) at 6-degrees (55-degree wedge bent to 56-degrees) has a leading-edge height of .28 inches, higher than the Callaway which has over twice the nominal bounce angle!

One thing is missing from this simple discussion of angles.

If I place one line at 34-degrees above the horizontal (loft is measured from the vertical), and then extend another at some angle below horizontal, the height above ground where the two join depends on how long the lower line is. This means that an 18-degree bounce with a narrow “C” grind will raise the leading edge a little bit. A 6-degree bounce on a wide sole may raise it more because the end of the bounce on the first wedge is so close to the leading edge.

 

Let’s look at this in the picture. If the red line of the bounce is very short, it doesn’t get far below the black ground line. But if it goes further, it gets lower. This is the difference between narrow and wide soles.

This diagram describes the mathematical description of these relationships.

Our first task is to realize that the angle 0 in this diagram is the complement of the 56-degree loft of the wedge, or 90 – 56 = 34-degrees since loft is measured from vertical, not horizontal. But the angle 0 in the bounce equation is just that, the bounce value. These two angles will now allow us to calculate the theoretical values of various parts of the wedge, and then compare them to our real-world examples.

My PM Grind Callaway wedge has its 3rd groove, the supposed “perfect” impact point, 0.54 inches above the leading edge. This should put it 0.8 inches back from the leading edge, roughly matching the measured 0.82 inches. So far, so good. (I’m using the gauge correctly!)

The 13-degree bounce at 1.14″ calculates out to 0.284″ of leading-edge rise. I measured 0.26″, so Callaway seems to be doing the numbers properly, until I realize that the leading edge is already .45″ back, given a real tangent of .69″. Something is out of whack. Re-doing the math suggests that the real bounce is 20-degrees, 40 min. Hmmm…

Maybe that bounce angle measurement isn’t such a good number to look at. Without digging through all the different wedges (which would make you cross-eyed), we should go back to basics. What is it that we really need?

Most instructors will suggest that striking the ball on about the third groove will give the best results. It will put the ball close to the center of mass (sweet spot) of the wedge and give the best spin action. If my wedge is at an effective 45-degree angle (about my right big toe), it will strike the ball about half-way up to its equator. It will also be close to the third groove. But to make that strike with minimal risk of gardening, I have to enough protection to keep the edge out of the turf if I mis-hit the ball by a little bit. That can be determined by the leading edge height! The higher the edge, the more forgiveness there is on a mis-hit.

Now this is an incomplete answer. If the bounce is short, with a sharp back side, it will tend to dig into the turf a bit. It may not do it a lot, but it will have more resistance than a wider, smoother bounce. In the extreme case, the 1OutPlus will simply glide over the ground on anything less than a ridiculous angle.

The amount of leading-edge height you need will depend on your style. If you play the ball forward, you may not need much. But as you move the ball back, you’ll need to increase it. And if you are still inconsistent, a wider sole with a smooth contour will help you avoid episodes of extreme gardening. A blunt leading edge will also help. It may slow your club in the sand, but it will protect your chips.

There is no substitute for practice, but if you’re practicing chips from behind your right foot using a wedge with a sharp, low leading edge, you’re asking for frustration. If you’re chipping from a forward position with a blunt, wide sole wedge, you’ll be blading a lot of balls. So look at your chipping style and find a leading-edge height and profile that match your technique. Forget about the “high bounce” and “low bounce” wedges. That language doesn’t answer the right question.

Get a wedge that presents the club to the ball with the leading edge far enough off the ground to provide you with some forgiveness. Then knock ’em stiff!

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