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Technique for a low, checking wedge shot

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There’s two simple ways that golfers can get their ball to stop quickly around the green. One is through loft, the other is through spin. Both types of shots have their pros and cons, but the sexier of the two options, and arguably the option that takes the least amount of timing and athleticism (due to the smaller range of motion) is the shot that checks up with backspin.

The challenge to this shot is to be able to contact the golf ball with enough of a descending strike to create friction, but to do so without exposing too much of the club’s leading edge, which leads to golfers sticking it in the ground. There aren’t many more embarrassing escapades in a golfer’s life than hitting the turf farther than the golf ball, right? To eliminate that recurring embarrassment, let’s try to understand how the golf club needs to be used to execute this shot. We’ll then add the dynamics of the movement to make this shot an added weapon to your short game arsenal.

The first step in executing this shot is understanding how to use the bounce of your sand wedge. Let’s discuss how the bounce of your sand wedge works statically, or without motion. To start, address a golf ball with your club face in a completely square position. For a simple reference point, let’s say the leading edge of your club face is square at 12 o’clock.

Note the Square Club Face and Slightly Open Stance.

Note the square club face and slightly open stance.

To pronounce or add bounce to your sand wedge, the club face needs to be more open, or pointing to the right (all directional characteristics in this article will be for a right handed golfer). It’s important for us to create more bounce, because bounce will encourage the club to skip through the turf instead of digging too much and causing golfers to take huge divots. For the purpose of this exercise, I want you to open the club face without changing your grip. We’ll make our goal 1 o’clock.

To add/pronounce bounce, note how the club face is now pointing to 1pm.  Also note the forward shaft lean.

To add/pronounce bounce, note how the club face is now pointing to 1 o’clock. Also note the forward shaft lean.

To attain the 1 o’clock position, take note of how the shaft of your golf club has to lean more left, or towards the target. This is a good thing! The more the shaft leans left, the more the golf club is still descending, or traveling down when we add motion. That variable equates to one of the big dynamic keys to achieve the necessary friction needed to execute this low, spinning shot.

Because the club face is pointing well right of the target now, an important problem for us to solve is: How do we hit the golf ball straight? It’s simple, just aim left… either statically (with your setup) or dynamically, by swinging more left on the downswing.

OK, so now we understand how the golf club needs to be used to accommodate the more descending strike required to execute this shot. The second step is to maximize the setup to help us execute this golf shot. Let’s start off with our ball being positioned slightly back of center, and our “target foot” pulled one ball back of square compared to our “backswing foot.” The club face should be square, or be perpendicular to the target. Favor more weight to your target foot. Keep your head even with the golf ball (never behind like the driver) throughout the entire motion.

Note the open stance, square club face, and head position forward of the golf ball.

Note the open stance, square club face, and head position forward of the golf ball.

Note the Square Club Face, but Open Stance.

Note the square club face, but open stance.

Finally! We’re ready for the third step. We need to tie in all the static elements of this golf shot with dynamic motion. There are two keys to the backswing. We want to keep the motion short and hinged. Do not allow the handle of your golf club to travel farther than a couple of hands widths outside of your backswing leg. You can hinge the golf club (the club head should be closer to the sky compared to the handle) as much as you want. The more the golf club is hinged, the better chance you have of delivering the golf club on a descending blow during the downswing.

Note the Short Arm Swing, as well as the higher club head/ lower handle relationship.

Note the short arm swing, as well as the higher club head/lower handle relationship.

Note how the hands and handle are at thigh level while the golf club is at shoulder level.

Note how the hands and handle are at thigh level while the golf club is at shoulder level.

On the downswing, there are two important elements that need to be achieved simultaneously.

  1. You must rotate the club face into an open faced position, so that by the time that your club face reaches impact, the club face is at the 1 o’clock position that you trained statically. The more you rotate the face open, the easier it is to have the golf club travel on the proper path to execute this shot.
  2. You will also need to turn your body more left on the down swing. Two important elements will be achieved with this body turn. The handle should be well forward of the club head at impact when you turn your body more left, which encourages the descending strike that is so important to achieve the shaft lean and friction needed to create added backspin. Also, the more you turn left the straighter your shots should travel. Remember, you are striking the golf ball with an open club face. The more your club face is open at impact, the more you must match up your golf club by traveling left with static alignment and body turn to hit the golf ball straight.
Note the forward handle, open club face and open shoulders parallel to the feet line.

Note the forward handle, open club face and open shoulders parallel to the feet line.

Note how much the body is turning left to help match up the path of the club to an open club face.

Note how much the body is turning left to help match up the path of the club to an open club face.

So give this shot a go! Experiment with all the variables to find the right combinations that work for you. The more you experiment with these variables, the more you should be able to execute a larger array of spinning shots on the golf course. Finally, always use the ball flight and ball contact to help you problem solve your misses. Good luck!

Note the lack of divot. The bounce was used correctly!

Note the lack of divot. The bounce was used correctly!

Note how much the Body has turned, as well as how open the club face still is!

Note how much the body has turned, as well as how open the club face still is!

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Certified Teaching Professional at the Pelican Hill Golf Club, Newport Coast, CA. Ranked as one of the best teachers in California & Hawaii by Golf Digest Titleist Performance Institute Certified www.youtube.com/uranser

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Chunker

    Apr 11, 2014 at 10:47 pm

    Gotta try this because I chilli dip too many chips for my handicap.

  2. tinytim

    Feb 13, 2014 at 9:46 am

    no way thats a highspinner with that deep attackangle!

  3. Abman

    Feb 13, 2014 at 9:15 am

    The descending strike you prescribe is the opposite of the Trackman pitching research that Andrew Rice has done where he has found that a shallow angle of attack is better for a low, checking wedge shot.

    • Tim

      Mar 13, 2014 at 6:15 pm

      Abman…that’s great feedback. I would respond by saying ANYTHING with your technique can be overdone. Tiger has spent most of his career playing from too shallow of a down swing path, something 90% of all golfers would love more of. While I do recommend a descending strike, I also recommend not taking a divot. My research shows that the ideal amount of shaft lean towards the target at impact for this shot is approximately 10 degrees…enough to create the friction, but not so much to expose the leading edge and take big divots. I’m using different verbiage to communicate similar technical needs for this shot. Thanks for your comment.

  4. Evan

    Feb 7, 2014 at 8:47 am

    Good technique and shot to have for a low handicap. Not the easiest and most repeatable stroke for a mid- high handicap.

  5. antonio

    Feb 6, 2014 at 5:39 am

    Excellent article! Thanks.
    I am only missing one thing, acceleration through impact. I think that provided that your technique is correct you need speed (amount relative to the swing or shot you are triying to make of course) through impact to maximize ball spin.

    • Tyler

      Feb 6, 2014 at 10:43 pm

      Accelerating through all your shots is crucial.

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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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