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Possibly the worst swing shape in pitching

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There are so many ways to hit good pitch shots, however, there are a few that just don’t work.

I have seen just about every shape of golf swing in my career as an instructor, and most of the time I work with a golfer’s motion and try to make my students great at what they do naturally and what works for them from an efficiency standpoint. There are times, however, where the shape is such that a golfer needs a complete short game “make-over,” and I have to start over with them.

These situations tend to occur in golfers who were probably slicers and made inefficient and drastic changes to their golf swing to learn to hook or draw the ball. They ended up learning to hit shots with an enormous amount of spine tilt away from the target, and this made the club bottom-out before the golf ball and caused them to swing too much from in to out. This change would usually be considered a good overcorrection and a noticeably different ball flight would validate that statement, but it can lead to huge problems with these players’ short games.

Is this You?

Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 9.35.29 PM

This player (shown above) swings the golf club back too shallow and with a closed club face, and he also swings too much in-to-out on these shots. He creates a very shallow angle of attack into the golf ball, which happens because the club head doesn’t get up off of the ground enough in the backswing. It’s low, inside and around on the way back, creating too shallow of an angle of an attack into the ball.

What’s the problem?

This swing shape almost always shows up in the short game as a bit of a “yip.” These are the golfers who struggle more than normal with tight lies and soggy conditions. They become double hitters of chips, get the shanks somewhat frequently and tend to have one distance of shot out of the bunker. Normally, I would hear this type of golfer say: “The motion can’t be that bad, because I can hit pitches fine from the rough.”

Well, here is the problem. The golf ball can sit up in the rough, as in the image below, allowing the golf club to bottom out early and arc ever so slightly up into the golf ball at impact (just like a driver off the tee). This motion does not work when the ball is sitting on the ground, because when the club bottoms out before the ball it usually causes golfers to swing up into the middle of the ball with the leading edge of the club. That sends the ball scooting over the green into trouble.

Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 9.38.43 PM

So how does this player compensate from being too shallow, and learn put the clubface on the ball properly? This player gains a steep angle in the swing by hitting the ball with a closed club face. When the ball is struck solid using this motion and a closed, left-facing clubface (for a righty), the golf ball tends to go long and will end up left of a golfer’s aim at address. When the club comes in too shallow, as aforementioned, it tends to want to bottom out before the ball and then swing up into the ball, thus needing the clubface to be really closed so it can make contact with the ball. Sounds tough to be consistent from here? It is.

Let’s Fix This 

DL Pitch JJA

Here is the fix. We need to get the golf club swinging steeper going back, more outside your current path and with a downswing where the club swings aggressively to the left on the way through impact, getting out of the way of the golf ball.

The red arrow above shows the club head position and how it is clearly swinging away from the golf ball, which is tracked above with the yellow arrow. What this does is flip flop your current steep and shallow angles. Your clubface is now set more open relative to your setup. It is this shallow angle that allows you to use the bounce of the golf club, and the angle of attack now becomes the steep angle in the motion. This makes it easier to achieve solid hits off of all different types of surfaces.

photo (2)

If you would like to talk more about this, please feel free to comment below and I would be happy to go into this topic further with you. Remember, your game is only as strong the weakest link.

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Jeremy Anderson is the Golf Swing Guru. Jeremy specializes in full swing through utilization of all different forms of technology that he owns such as FlightScope, BodiTrak, Focusband. Jeremy recently won the 2018 PGA Teacher of the Year Award for the Southwest PGA Section. He is also considered by Golf Digest one of Americas Best Young Teachers for 2019-2019. A six time Nominee for Illinois PGA Teacher of the Year, Jeremy, has had students qualify for USGA events, get scholarships and win college tournaments, and win many national/international junior golf tournaments. Jeremy is also a featured writer for GOLFWRX.com and The Huffington Post. An accomplished player in his own right, Jeremy still loves to compete at the PGA Section level. His mantra to his students is that “If you outwork everyone your only opponent is the moment.”

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Eric

    Jun 2, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    Yes, these are my symptoms as well. I am a 0 who used to be a plus playing to a 5 due to poor chipping. They started when I was taught to swing with my right arm instead of my left, which led to me swinging inside back, and then outside and to the right forward. But I also “drop” my spine angle on the way back – now I understand that means I have to “lift” to get back to level – hence a chunk if I fail to lift, or a skull if I do.

    I really don’t want to have a different swing with my chipping motion than my regular swing. I DO notice that when my club goes left my strikes are better. This is very interesting and I would like to hear more about going left after impact. Can you elaborate on what causes the club to do that?

    • Jeremy Anderson

      Jun 5, 2014 at 8:47 pm

      Your strikes are better when the club swings left because the club is swinging down using the bounce of the golf club and your chest. The club face is stable (not rotating closed) and when you use the bounce the leading edge of the club doesn’t dig. If you’d like to chat more message me through my website jjagolf.com

  2. Jeff K

    Jun 2, 2014 at 11:02 am

    I too am prone to chunked, skulled and especially double hit chips. Even shanked 2 pitches last week. And one distance out of bunkers fit too! Yet I can have streaks of decent chipping but even then long runners tend to hook.

    I find the more I “hinge” my wrists on the backswing,the worse it gets. I’m trying the Stricker style dead arm chips with varied success. What should I do with my wrists – hinge and hold, or just focus on what the clubhead is doing? Same with body turn – turn back and through, or just swing down and left with the arms? Thanks!!

    • Jeremy Anderson

      Jun 5, 2014 at 8:50 pm

      Try using less hinge if that helps, but swing the club more outside to gain that as a steep angle. If you don’t hinge and you swing inside… problems will only mount. If you’d like to chat more message me through my website jjagolf.com

  3. Larry

    May 31, 2014 at 11:38 pm

    I find what I watched John Daly doing about 20 years ago to work just fine. I watched Daly pitching shot after shot on prctice green next to the hole by pulling the club inside and comming back on the same line…it works perfect to this day. (Daly does not do this anymore, same as his drive went from a killer draw to fade).

    • Jeremy Anderson

      Jun 5, 2014 at 8:54 pm

      John is or maybe was what I call a .1%er. Meaning he’s in the .1% of the people that get away with anything their so gifted.

  4. Brad Zimmer

    May 30, 2014 at 8:06 am

    Thanks for the insight. I’m a low handicapper (2), and as part of becoming one, I worked for years groove a down the line to inside out path in my full swing. Occasionally I go to far with it and get trapped inside, or get flat with my overall arc and have to refocus on taking the club away either straight back or slightly outside the line. To the short game, before I made the wholesale changes in swing path, I never worried about contact on chips and pitches. These days I use course management to stay out of the tricky ranges (if I can’t easily get pin high in two on a par five,I won’t hit a layup within 90 yards.) In order to make solid contact, I find I have to stand open to the target line (foot line pointing left) and almost feel as though I’m opening the club through impact. For some reason, I fond that moving the ball slight forward helps as well, but it’s quite a “rig.” The flaw in my pitching/chipping motion may be subtle, but I think you’ve hit on it, and your piece has been very helpful. Thanks.

    • Jeremy Anderson

      May 30, 2014 at 10:02 pm

      Brad,

      I’m glad you find the article helpful. As far as getting your feet left of target it’s good to drop the left foot back but it’s important that you keep your right foot perpendicular to your target line. As far as finding it helpful to play the ball forward —- think of your body as the protractor and the clubhead is the pencil as the ball moves forward in your stance the club wants to arc left. All great things! Message me if you have anymore questions or comments.

      JA

  5. Dave

    May 29, 2014 at 10:53 pm

    You have perfectly described my pitching. Yips, double hits, skulls, and fat chugged shots. My good shots are rare. I am turning pars and bogeys into doubles, triples , and worse. If I miss the green, I’m dead. So I am really interested in getting this fixed. How do I make this change? Align left? Path on backswing outside going back? I really need a full makeover. Please help!!

    • Jeremy Anderson

      May 30, 2014 at 7:11 am

      Yes, you need to change the direction of your golf swing. Your angle of attack into ball is too shallow and you try to balance it with the steep angle being a closed club face. Read what I wrote for Todd.

      All my best,

      JA

  6. Owen

    May 29, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    So, how would you compare the original photo to a person who is trying to hit a chip shot? David Leadbetter often talked in his early videos (like early 90’s, so things have changed) about how a chip shot has a closed face going back, and utilizes a lot of turn. I know there’s huge differences between chips and pitches. Lately I’ve been chunking some chips, and I wonder if it’s because I’m combining chip and pitch motion- going back closed and turning, but then letting my wrist break like a pitch at impact.

    • Jeremy Anderson

      May 29, 2014 at 7:02 pm

      Without seeing your action… I would say you chunk your chips because you swing the golf club back too shallow (low to the ground. I see this often where the club goes back too low and bottoms out too early. The golf club must strike down on the ball if it is sitting on the ground and for the club to swing down it must first be up. As far as the Leadbetter technique you speak of I’m not so sure that I would hood/close the face during a pitch shot unless I were trying to use a lot of loft and put hook spin on the chip. Sounds like a disaster for the average golfer. If you would like to talk more send me an email through my website JJAgolf.com

      Regards,

      JA

  7. Todd

    May 29, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    Wow the symptoms you describe are exactly what I am experiencing this year, I mean all of them. Anymore information you could provide would be great. Things like weight, body turn vs arms, wrist c*ck etc or am I complicating things. I will definitely try the steeper, outside path, swing left

    What possibly could go wrong 🙂

    Thanks

    • Jeremy Anderson

      May 29, 2014 at 7:09 pm

      Try getting your weight mostly on your lead heel (75% +/-) and get your hands in front of the middle of your lead leg (It will probably feel like the hands and ball are awkwardly forward). Play the ball more forward in your stance… almost driver position but with a narrow stance. Hinge your right elbow to get the club up in the air quicker and just concentrate on the golf club swinging down and left into the ball. Keep me posted on your results! If you would like to talk more send me an email through my website JJAgolf.com

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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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Instruction

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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