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Three thoughts to start your downswing



Ah yes, the transition. It’s one of the most troublesome movements in the golf swing for everyone from beginners to professionals.

“What’s the best way to begin my downswing?” golfers ask me on the lesson tee. 

As I try to answer that question, I will break down the transitional feels into three areas for you to improve. These are not the only feels, obviously, they are just the most common. I have seen great players use each of these three feels, so if you’re struggling try one of more of these on and see if they suit your game.  

  1. Bump the hips
  2. Move the right shoulder back and down
  3. Shallow the shaft

These feelings are described on my YouTube Channel on a Playlist Called “Transitional Feels” that can be found on my website

Bump the hips

Every golfer in the world has heard the old adage, “Start the downswing from the ground up,” but what does this mean exactly? 

Basically, as the club moves into its last few milliseconds of the backswing, the hips begin to move weight back into the front foot, and your body leverages the ground as it completes the downswing into and through the ball. 

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 10.15.13 AM

The player’s club above is just about at the top of his backswing. In the next frame below, you will see that the hips will cross the vertical line I drew on his left hip before his club shaft passes the line I drew on the way back. This shows that the hips bumped forward first and the shoulders, arms and club followed, allowing his path to be from the inside at 1.5 degrees from in-to-out.

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 10.14.35 AM

His shaft is in nearly the same position it was before at the top, but look at how far the hips have bumped forward! When he does this, you will see that this player’s weight is moving from his right side into the ball of his left foot. This diagonal hip motion, or bump into right field, allows the right shoulder to drop downward during the transition setting up the proper delivery into the ball.

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 10.15.29 AM

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 10.15.47 AM

So to recap the hip bump:

  1. The hips bump into right field.
  2. The weight moves into the ball of the left foot.
  3. The right shoulder drops rearward to begin the downswing.
  4. The club follows into the delivery position (clubhead shown by green circle).
  5. The path is from in-to-out (shown by the blue line).

Move the right shoulder back and down

Another popular transitional motion is one where the player feels that he is keeping his back to the target longer in the downswing, holding the right shoulder back to start the downswing, and/or allowing the right shoulder to fall downward to begin the transition. The upper body dominates the feeling of this type of transition, which is led by the motion of the right shoulder. 

This is exactly the opposite of a transition that involves throwing the right shoulder outward, a common mistake that moves the path leftward — or “over the top.”

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 10.16.01 AM

Here you can see the right shoulder moving outward as shown by the yellow arrow, and the path (the blue line) is moving from out-to-in at -11.9 degrees. 

So what’s the secret move for this type of upper body dominated golfer? What “feel” will get them to stop throwing the right shoulder out and over?

It must be a downward-and-holding-back movement of the right shoulder for a golfer whose feel comes mostly from the upper body during the transition.

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 10.16.17 AM

In the frame above, you’ll now see that in the delivery phase of this downswing, the shoulders are still pointing into right field and the right shoulder has dropped more downward, rather than outward. Thus, this path is 5.9 degrees from in-to-out as shown by the blue line. When this occurs, the player will tell me that they felt like the shoulders were closed to the target line for a longer time in the downswing, or pointing into right field longer than normal. This would be the correct feeling for a right-shoulder transitional player.

Shallow the shaft

Nick Faldo and Nick Price made this transition popular. When you looked at their swings from a down-the-line view, you would see a noticeable shallowing of the club shaft into the downswing. 

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 10.16.34 AM

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 10.16.51 AM

When the shaft flattens, or shallows, in the downswing, the shoulders don’t rotate forward quite as quickly, allowing the arms and club shaft to fall to the inside as shown above. 

The yellow arrow drawn down the club shaft in the second photo above shows that the club has flattened so that the butt of the club points just outside the ball. If the shaft gets steeper into the delivery position, the shaft will point inside of the golf ball, which forces the path leftward. 

The key to using the shaft-flattening technique is to make sure you have a slower transition from the top. If you jerk it down, then you will throw your right shoulder forward and your path will shift leftward.

I hope by now you have identified the type of transitional feel you have and can use these thoughts to improve your transitional move.

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico ( 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:



  1. Yuni Triasih

    Oct 5, 2017 at 12:43 am

    i am always following this website to get perfect idea about golfing knowledge. thanks a lot for this necessary knowledge

  2. NuckandCup

    Mar 11, 2015 at 9:12 am

    The entire golf swing takes 1.5 seconds on average….and you have 3 thoughts on the downswing?

    One swing thought per swing……Free. Your. Mind.

  3. Barry S.

    Feb 24, 2015 at 7:19 pm

    Good article! If you are using natural forces similar to twirling a rock on a string the hip slide puts the COG ahead of the SCC (swing circle center) setting up a holding force that resists the pulling force of the club head.

  4. Tanner

    Feb 21, 2015 at 7:36 am


    Thanks, for sharing and trying to clarify of the mysteries of the golf swing.

    Can one of these move save a bad backswing or if you have a bad badswing you are doomed?


  5. Aiden

    Feb 18, 2015 at 4:06 pm

    Great article Tom, quick question… Will feeling the shoulder going back and down cause the shallowing of the shaft anyway or is it just a swing thought that works for some players and others have to think about a different swing thought to make it work for them.

    Enjoying reading your articles. Keep it up!

  6. tom stickney

    Feb 17, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    Steve– try hitting balls off an uphill sidehill lie (ball above your feet) this might help your arms shallow out a touch

  7. tom stickney

    Feb 17, 2015 at 6:00 pm

    Philip– love it

  8. tom stickney

    Feb 17, 2015 at 6:00 pm

    Gub– go troll somewhere else

  9. tom stickney

    Feb 17, 2015 at 5:59 pm

    Alvin– Sounds like you are spinning out a touch early in the downswing. Make sure when you bump you stay on your left side. Thanks!

    • Alvin

      Feb 17, 2015 at 8:03 pm

      Thanks! I’ll make note of that tip the next time out.

  10. Gubment Cheez

    Feb 17, 2015 at 1:29 pm

    Don’t post anything about the swing or ask a question unless you can shoot mid 80s some of the time. Trust me, you got bigger problems than the start of your downswing

    • Alvin

      Feb 17, 2015 at 3:38 pm

      Notwithstanding your narrow-sighted and condescending recommendation, the writer is welcome to answer or not answer as he pleases.

  11. Alvin

    Feb 17, 2015 at 12:44 pm

    Thanks for the article! I’ve been struggling recently with being inconsistent in my swing, often coming over the top. I’ve been coached and have read about how I should feel, but it’s been difficult for me to put into motion. However, having Feel #2 as a conscious thought in my mind before every swing significantly increased my consistent during my last practice session. Moreover, where I tend to overdraw with my irons, I tend to slice with my driver (presumably due to the exaggerated motion of a driver swing). But applying that thought resulted in a drastic improvement in consistency and distance. Only time will tell if I can maintain the consistency. My main issue with Feel #2 is that when I’m driving, I tend to hit off my back foot or slightly lose my balance backwards through impact. I played around with widening my stance but came to the same results. I’m wondering if this is just a deficiency in my hip/core strength, where I’m unable to physically shift my weight forward when I’m dropping my shoulder back. Any suggestions on other things to try?


  12. Philip

    Feb 17, 2015 at 12:10 pm

    Nothing ever worked for me until I learned to apply the motion of walking and turning to the swing – which is similar to what we are trying to do. We are turning towards the target. If you place a your right foot forward and then turn counter-clockwise to the left you realize you turn by turning your right foot clockwise (equal and opposite actions). I apply that same turning of my right foot (I play right-handed) to trigger the downswing and let my body handle the rest.

    My grip controls the rest from setup, swing plane to follow-through. I don’t think I can get it any simpler. If my grip feels correct and I feel my swing trigger – all falls into place.

  13. Steve

    Feb 17, 2015 at 11:54 am

    Hi Tom, interesting article, I am really struggling to get enough arm swing in the downswing, on video my right arm stays locked to my chin for way too long. The obvious swing thought is to let my arms to drop, but I am really struggling to do this when it counts. Any thoughts on other transition thoughts I could use.

  14. tom stickney

    Feb 17, 2015 at 11:43 am

    SR- I would say that most students describe a feeling of the center of gravity moving from their rear foot into the front portion of the left foot…this helps to allow the rear shoulder to drop downward during the transition

  15. tom stickney

    Feb 17, 2015 at 11:41 am

    Simon- the range is the only place for mechanical thoughts. It’s there that you will produce a feel that you will then take with you to the course

    • simon

      Feb 18, 2015 at 2:35 am

      so how many balls do you think I need to hit to bring this ‘feel’ to the course?
      VIjay SIngh once said 1000 to know it 5000 to own it.

      How does the average hack do this? Well he/she cant thats why most cant take it to the course.

      1 thought to begin the downswing is more practical.

  16. tom stickney

    Feb 17, 2015 at 11:39 am

    SD- I would suggest slow motion swings until you have some “feel” and work your way back up to full speed

    • SteelyDan

      Feb 17, 2015 at 12:05 pm

      Thanks! Funny I never tried that before. I did try to pause on top, but the problem appeared again afterwards.

  17. SteelyDan

    Feb 17, 2015 at 5:43 am

    Hi Tom, once again, great article! I personally have the problem that I can’t feel the club in the transition at all. Everything looks fine on top in the practice swing, but when the ball sits down there, my left wrist will bow on top, shutting the clubface and the club will cross the line. I think all this actually happens while I’m already busy with the transition/downswing, so I am kind of “losing it” up there. Any idea how to control the club better on top? Thanks, SD

  18. simon

    Feb 17, 2015 at 1:27 am

    Too many thoughts for a split second

    paralysis by analysis

    good luck with that

  19. Tom Stickney

    Feb 17, 2015 at 12:56 am

    Billy– sounds like you could be too deep from the inside when you bump. Try one of the other ways.

  20. Billy

    Feb 17, 2015 at 12:07 am

    Tom, I tried the “Bump the hips” technique. I shank it when I try it since it’s new to me. I also still cast it, I still have same yardage’s on the simulator? Is it more of a right wrist issue for a RH player?

  21. Tom Stickney

    Feb 16, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    M– it should happen naturally if your pivot is correct for sure.

  22. tom stickney

    Feb 16, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    Alan– Great thought as well

  23. tom stickney

    Feb 16, 2015 at 5:53 pm

    G– Hard for me to tell people what they will “feel” as we’re all different…that’s why I gave you three options to test

  24. gerald

    Feb 16, 2015 at 5:45 pm

    Describing a physical action has been done many times by many authors.The reason this action is still evasive to many is, it is a ‘feel’, that people describe as a physical action and is never described as a feel. i.e. It ‘feels’ like you are skipping a stone with the thumb and forefinger of the left hand in a backhanded motion. Bumping the hips, dropping the right shoulder, shallowing the plane, relate to physical actions that have no reference to previous activity. Hard to develop “feels’.

  25. alan

    Feb 16, 2015 at 3:55 pm

    nice article. im sure i do some variation something mentioned but ive found what works pretty well for me is to keep my back to the target longer. i used to use my core to turn the club and would outrace my club and flip at at. now the club is more more in front of my body.

    • SRSLY

      Feb 17, 2015 at 6:43 am

      I agree. Tom, would you be willing to quickly describe physically what is happening in the first two ‘feels’? The third feel is more of a by product of the physical action.

  26. tom stickney

    Feb 16, 2015 at 3:00 pm

    T– Whatever thought works best for you is always better in my opinion! 🙂

  27. Trevor

    Feb 16, 2015 at 2:12 pm

    Hi Tom,
    I have always been a major offender when it comes to over the top move. Recently one thing that i have done that has helped is to make sure my at the top of the swing my left shoulder is lower than my right shoulder, then my thought process is to bring the right shoulder down to revert the process. This has helped in avoiding having the right shoulder move straight to the target (and the resulting pulling of the ball into the woods). Do this sound reasonable?

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



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)



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



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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