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Use the bounce for chipping, too

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Golfers hear a lot about using the bounce when pitching the golf ball. It makes sense, because bounce plays an important role in pitching.

Bounce is the amount of “cushion” between the leading edge of the club and the ground, and it helps golfers avoid the inconsistencies that can result from having the leading edge “stick” into the ground on pitch shots. Different wedges have different amounts of bounce, but they’re all designed to work the same way. To use the bounce properly, golfers should aim to slide the flange or sole of their wedge under the ball, which allows the bounce to contact the ground and glide the club along the turf smoothly.

My question is this, however. With all the talk about bounce in pitching, how come golfers and golf instructions don’t consider it more with chipping?

When a chip shot is hit fat, the cause is often the same as it is in pitching — the leading edge got stuck in the ground and the bounce wasn’t engaged. If that’s been a problematic shot for you, it might not be your fault, because the way chipping has been taught to most golfers actually contributes to the problem.

The standard lesson in chipping has traditionally been:

  • Square the club face and open the stance.
  • Move the ball back in the stance
  • Move the hands in front.
  • Keep the weight left.
  • Use very little wrists while hitting down on the ball.

With this method, I see far too many golfers sticking the leading edge in the ground behind the golf ball. And I’d venture to guess that the majority of golfers I’ve taught over the years have been TOO STEEP when chipping.

Yes, it’s true that with the ball back in the stance, golfers are more likely to contact the ball first — but that’s dependent on the hands remaining well in front of the club head. Unfortunately, most golfers don’t do this, and as a result they hit a lot of fat chip shots.

That’s why if you’re struggling with your chipping, I’m going to suggest another method:

  • Open the club face a little.
  • Open the stance a little.
  • Keep the ball slightly back.
  • DO NOT de-loft the golf club.
  • Keep a little weight forward, perhaps a 60-40 distribution.
  • Use the same firm-wrist stroke you use with the de-lofted method.

Here’s the idea: If you are sticking the club in the turf — often called “stubbing your chips” — and you de-loft and drag the handle even more, you’re just going to get steeper and most likely catch the leading edge in the ground more often. If you are a player who can keep the hands in front and come into the golf ball shallow enough, the de-lofted method may very well be effective for you. Try both ways.

Finally, from a technical standpoint, the more you have the club de-lofted, the more spin you are actually creating do to an increase in friction from the ball being on the face longer. You DO NOT want to spin chip shots. By the very definition of the shot, it’s supposed to run. Ever hit a clean, crisp chip and it checks? Steep and de-lofted with higher spin is likely the case. When the top edge “smothers” the golf ball, yes, we get a low shot, but we also add spin — and the shot often comes off too hot.

In short, I see no real advantage to the de-lofted setup other than personal success and an attempt to stay the yips. And if you’re going to yip anyway, the loft and open face will help that too.

As always, if you would like to advantage to my online analysis program send swing to my Facebook page or dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com.

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the Marco Island Marriott in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. J

    Nov 16, 2015 at 10:12 pm

    Dennis, what path do you prefer for chipping?? Some say inside out, others outside in. Confusing. What’s your take on path and face for that matter?

    Thank you.

    • Dennis Clark

      Nov 24, 2015 at 3:24 pm

      J sorry I just saw this…NEVER inside-out, slightly inside to inside is desired. Outside in is WAY better than inside out in terms of lesser-of-two-evils

  2. JPurtell

    Nov 12, 2015 at 2:30 am

    Awesome Advice.

  3. Dennis clark

    Nov 10, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    As instructional authors we simply offer suggestions. If they help great. If not don’t use them. You’ll know right away.

  4. alexdub

    Nov 10, 2015 at 10:30 am

    +1

    Of all the areas of the game, I think that chipping is the one area where you should just hit the ball. Bounce might come into play, but I think the more you focus on mechanics, the worse the chips get.

    (cue Tiger from early this year)

    • J

      Nov 10, 2015 at 12:42 pm

      Using the bounce effectively gives you such a late margin of error that you can get away with less than perfect contact and still have a good result. It’s virtually impossible to dig the leading edge if you use the bounce correctly, so it’s a worthwhile endeavor to learn how to do so. Much better to get up and down on the first try vs. blading and chunking chips, a common malady of the mid to high handicap golfer. Once you get the technique down (it doesn’t take long), you can become more target focused because of the built in margin of error, resulting in better shots in the long run.

      • J

        Nov 10, 2015 at 12:43 pm

        Using the bounce effectively gives you such a large margin of error that you can get away with less than perfect contact and still have a good result. It’s virtually impossible to dig the leading edge if you use the bounce correctly, so it’s a worthwhile endeavor to learn how to do so. Much better to get up and down on the first try vs. blading and chunking chips, a common malady of the mid to high handicap golfer. Once you get the technique down (it doesn’t take long), you can become more target focused because of the built in margin of error, resulting in better shots in the long run.

    • Dennis clark

      Nov 10, 2015 at 3:45 pm

      No question, however as teachers we see poor mechanics all day. There has to be some”how to” to get any feel at all.

  5. KK

    Nov 9, 2015 at 8:46 pm

    I have started to play higher bounce wedges and placing the ball more forward to help my chipping game. Need more practice and course time to really own them but I already love the feel.

  6. Dennis Clark

    Nov 9, 2015 at 6:49 pm

    Other factors include lie, type of grass, slope club design and lie angle. NOTHING is for everybody.

  7. JoeJoe

    Nov 9, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    I would highly recommend looking at Pat Goss video on chipping. Same method but he describes it much better. This Article only touches up on the method. This is the method how Luke Donald chips. There are other minor details such as, opening the club face on the back and not hinging. Also your club needs to stay on the outside path of your hand path!… Either way a great chipping method.

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Instruction

A Jedi Mind Trick For Improved Target Awareness

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I think all golfers, at some point in their life playing the game of golf, has gotten stuck, or become frozen over the golf ball. Why?  They’re trying to remember which of the 23 different swing thoughts they used for the day performed the best.

The disheartening reality: none of us are going to perform well on a consistent basis with our thoughts being so internally driven. Swing thoughts force our awareness inward. Is the shaft in the correct position? Am I making a proper pressure shift? Was that a reverse pivot? Close that club face! Regardless of the technique you are trying to manage or modify, these kinds of questions make you acquire sensations internally.

To complicate things further, we are taught to look at the golf ball, not the target, while hitting our golf shot. And yet instinctively, in almost all other skills of making a ball or object finish towards a target (throwing a ball or frisbee, kicking a soccer ball, skipping a rock across water, shooting a basket ball) our awareness is not on the ball or the motion itself, but rather the ultimate target.

So, can we develop a skill that allows us to still keep our eye on the ball, like the game of golf encourages, but have awareness of our target, like so many other target sports demand?  Yes, the answer is (third rate Yoda Speak), and the skill can easily be yours.

Here’s where this gets fun. You already have learned this skill set, but under different conditions. Perhaps this example resonates with you. Did you ever play hide-and-seek as a child? Remember how you used to close your eyes and count to 10? During those 10 seconds of having your eyes closed, weren’t you using all of your senses externally, trying to track where your friends were going to hide? Weren’t you, just like a bloodhound, able to go directly to a few of the less skillful hiders’ hiding places and locate them?

Or how about this example. When you are driving down your own local multilane highway, aren’t you aware of all the cars around you while keeping your eyes firmly on the road in front of you? Reconnecting, recognizing and/or developing these skills that all of us already use is the first step in knowing you’re not too far away from doing this with your golf game.

Here’s what I want you to do. Grab a putter and place your golf ball 3 feet away from the hole on a straight putt. Aim your putter, and then look at the hole. As you bring your eyes back to the golf ball, maintain part of your awareness back at the hole. Each successive time your eyes leave your golf ball and head back to the hole, your eyes will be able to confirm your target. It hasn’t moved; it’s still in the same location; your confidence builds.

When you know for certain that your external awareness of the target is locked in while still looking at your golf ball, step up and execute your putt.

The wonderful beauty of this skill set is that you now have the best of both worlds. You are still looking at the golf ball, which gives you a better chance of striking the golf ball solidly… AND you are now target aware just like you are when you are throwing an object at a target.

As always, acquire this skill set from a close target with a slower, smaller motion. If you don’t execute properly, you have a better chance of making the proper corrective assessment from a slower, smaller motion and closer target. As you become more proficient with this skill, allow the target to get farther away and try to add more speed with a larger range of motion.

So give learning this skill set a go. I don’t think there is anything more valuable in playing the game of golf than keeping your “athlete” attached to the target. Become proficient at developing this awareness and you can tell all your friends that the primary reason your scores are getting lower and you’re getting deeper into their wallets is because of Jedi Mind tricks. Good luck!

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Instruction

6 things to consider before aiming at the flagstick

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One of the most impactful improvements you can make for your game is to hit more greens; you’ll have more birdie opportunities and will avoid bogeys more often. In fact, hitting more greens is the key to golfing success, in my opinion… more so than anything else.

However, there is a misconception among players when it comes to hitting approach shots. When people think “greens,” they tend to only think about the flagstick, when the pin may be the last thing you should be looking at. Obviously, we’d like to stick it on every shot, but shooting at the pin at the wrong time can cost you more pain than gain.

So I’d like to give you a few rules for hitting greens and aiming at the flagstick.

1) Avoid Sucker Pins

I want you to think about Hole No. 12 at Augusta and when the pin is on the far right side of the green… you know, the Sunday pin. Where do the pros try and aim? The center of the green! That’s because the right pin is by all means a sucker pin. If they miss the shot just a touch, they’re in the water, in the bunker, or left with an impossible up-and-down.

Sucker pins are the ones at the extreme sides of the green complex, and especially the ones that go against your normal shot pattern.

So go back to No. 12 with a far right pin, and say your natural shot shape is right-to-left. Would you really aim out over the water and move it towards the pin? That would be a terrible idea! It’s a center of the green shot all day, even for those who work it left-to-right. Learn to recognize sucker pins, and you won’t short side yourself ever again.

2) Are You a Good Bunker Player?

A “sucker pin,” or just a difficult hole location, is often tucked behind a bunker. Therefore, you should ask yourself, “am I a good bunker player?” Because if you are not, then you should never aim at a pin stuck behind one. If I wanted to shoot at pins all day, I’d make sure I was the best lob wedge player around. If you are not a short-game wizard, then you will have a serious problem attacking pins all round.

For those who lack confidence in their short game, or simply are not skilled on all the shots, it’s a good idea to hit to the fat part of the green most of the time. You must find ways to work around your weaknesses, and hitting “away” from the pin isn’t a bad thing, it’s a smart thing for your game.

3) Hitting the Correct Shelf

I want you to imagine a pin placed on top of a shelf. What things would you consider in order to attack this type of pin? You should answer: shot trajectory, type of golf ball, your landing angle with the club you’re hitting, the green conditions, and the consequences of your miss. This is where people really struggle as they forget to take into account these factors.

If you don’t consider what you can and cannot do with the shot at hand, you will miss greens, especially when aiming at a pin on a shelf. Sometimes, you will simply have to aim at the wrong level of the green in order to not bring the big number into play. Remember, if you aim for a top shelf and miss, you will leave yourself with an even more difficult pitch shot back onto that same shelf you just missed.

4) Know your Carry Distances

In my opinion, there is no excuse these days to not know your carry distances down to the last yard. Back when I was growing up, I had to go to a flat hole and chart these distances as best I could by the ball marks on the green. Now, I just spend an hour on Trackman.

My question to you is if you don’t know how far you carry the ball, how could you possibly shoot at a pin with any type of confidence? If you cannot determine what specific number you carry the ball, and how the ball will react on the green, then you should hit the ball in the center of the green. However, if the conditions are soft and you know your yardages, then the green becomes a dart board. My advice: spend some time this off-season getting to know your distances, and you’ll have more “green lights” come Spring.

5) When do you have the Green Light?

Do you really know when it’s OK to aim at the pin? Here are some questions to ask yourself that will help:

  • How are you hitting the ball that day?
  • How is your yardage control?
  • What is the slope of the green doing to help or hinder your ball on the green?
  • Do you have a backstop behind the pin?

It’s thoughts such as these that will help you to determine if you should hit at the pin or not. Remember, hitting at the pin (for amateurs) does not happen too often per nine holes of golf. You must leave your ego in the car and make the best decisions based on what information you have at that time. Simple mistakes on your approach shot can easily lead to bogeys and doubles.

6) When is Any Part of the Green Considered a Success?

There are some times when you have a terrible angle, or you’re in the rough/a fairway bunker. These are times when you must accept “anywhere on the green.”

Left in these situations, some players immediatly think to try and pull off the “miracle” shot, and wonder why they compound mistakes during a round. Learn to recognize if you should be happy with anywhere on the green, or the best place to miss the ball for the easiest up and down.

Think of Ben Hogan at Augusta on No. 11; he said that if you see him on that green in regulation then you know he missed the shot. He decided that short right was better than even trying to hit the green… sometimes you must do this too. But for now analyze your situation and make the best choice possible. When in doubt, eliminate the big numbers!

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Instruction

Is There An Ideal Backswing?

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In this video, I talk about the backswing and look into optimal positions. I also discuss the positives and negatives of different backswing positions.

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19th Hole

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