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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 JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

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

Learn to play like the pros by mastering course management basics

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The line that is drawn between amateurs and professionals certainly covers more than one aspect. However, there are some things that anyone can do in order play like the pros and shoot better scores. Knowing how to plot your way around the course from tee to green is something that not many amateurs take into consideration, though it is something that professionals do so well. Learning how to play to your strengths and learning to take what the course gives you will ultimately lower your scores, no matter what your handicap.

From the tee

-Use sound judgment when setting up on the tee box by knowing what your miss is and playing for it. For example, for those that fade that ball, teeing the ball on the right side of the box allows you to play for your shot shape with more room for the ball to work. This is also the case for playing away from trouble, in being that lining up on the side of trouble allows you to play away from it.

-In some cases on short holes, make a note to hit your tee ball to where you leave yourself with a comfortable yardage for your approach. You don’t gain anything from hitting a driver if it leaves you with a feel shot from 30 yards when you could hit a wood or hybrid and leave yourself with a full club in. (This is also the case when hitting your second shot on a par 5)

Hitting into the green

-Know which pins you should attack and which ones you shouldn’t. The biggest mistake that many amateurs make is trying to hit the ball at a tucked pin. Even the professionals choose which flags to go at and which holes to play safe, making sure they leave themselves a putt rather than short siding themselves.

Chipping/Putting

-The biggest thing that gets us in trouble around the greens or on them is trying to make the ball go in the hole. It’s easy to get greedy with your shot and create the mindset that you have to make it when, in reality, it’s much more feasible to play for a three-foot circle around the hole. Leaving you an easy tap in. There is nothing more infuriating than a 3-putt.

I hope these tips will benefit your golf game by allowing you to manage your way around the golf course. The pros use these same approaches when they step on each hole, and it is imperative that you do also. We all may not have the ability that professionals do, but we can certainly learn things from them that will lower our scores.

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Instruction

Lesson of the Day: Improve right arm connection for a more consistent golf swing

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In our “Lesson of the Day” video series with V1 Sports, we match a different GolfWRX member with a different V1 Sports instructor. It’s extremely important to both V1 Sports and GolfWRX to help golfers improve their games and shoot lower scores, and there’s no better way to do that than getting lessons. While we not only want to provide free lessons to select GolfWRX members, we want to encourage and inspire golfers to seek professional instruction. For instructions on how to submit your own video for a chance at getting a free lesson from a V1 Sports instructor as part of our Lesson of the Day series, CLICK HERE.

About the pro

Clinton Whitelaw is the Head Teaching Professional at University Park Country Club in Sarasota, Florida. Clinton was a prolific junior player in South Africa before he attended UCLA on a full scholarship. He turned pro at age 21 and has recorded more than 55 top-10 finishes around the world, including winning the 1993 South African Open and the 1997 Moroccan Open on the European Tour.

Lesson synopsis

There are two main swing flaws identified in this GolfWRX member’s swing that can be improved. The first is a disconnected right arm in the body that causes the arms to be out of sync with the body. The second is a bent left arm in the follow through, which causes a loss in power. Two easy drills can be practiced to create a simple, repeatable, and consistent golf swing.

Student’s action plan

  1. Practice with a glove under the right right armpit to improve connection with the body
  2. Practice the “9 o’clock to 3 o’clock” drill demonstrated at the end of the video lesson

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Instruction

Should you strive for a flatter transition in your golf swing?

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A lot has been said recently regarding flattening the transition in the downswing. As a teacher for many years, I totally agree that this is clearly what highly skilled players do. Sasho Mackenzie, the great biomechanist from Canada, explains that when the center of mass of the golf club gets UNDER the hand path coming down, we get a much easier squaring of the club face.

There is, however, a difference in the players we see making this move and average amateur golfers. Nothing in the golf swing happens in a vacuum, so to speak. That is, every move has to complement the other moves and balance the equation. So when we see Sergio “laying the club down” (flatten) in transition, it complements or is in sync with the “delivery” he has into impact.

Sergio has Hogan-esque “lag” in his downswing. That is, his wrists stay cocked very late as he approaches impact. with a great deal of forward shaft lean. While this may be characteristic of all great ball strikers, his “flat” action is more pronounced than most. He lays the club down, downcocks his wrists and voila, strikes it solid.

The point here is when the shaft is laid off and flattened in transition, it cannot then be released early. Those who cast, or release early from a laid off transition are staring shanks right in the face, and feeling heel hits with the driver. The reason is the club is being cast out, not down when it is coming in on a more horizontal plane. When a professional flattens it, they then tighten the delivery with hands in and a narrowed arc into impact. This is a huge distinction, and one I feel is little understood. If you are working on laying it down, but are used to an early release, you may accomplish the former, but are asking for trouble on the latter. It has to be released later and tighter after the transition to work.

Another common error I see quite often is the hand path issue. Here I’m referring to to how far from the body the hands move on the down swing. If you are a player who transition steep (too vertical), your miss is very likely the toe of the club. As a result you develop a habit of sending your hands out and away from your center (the distal and proximal, in biomechanist terminology) to compensate for the toe hit and in an attempt to find the center of the face. That swing habit is common and will, at times, compensate for the steep transition.  So you can see why the club will be more likely to hit the heel if it is delivered on a more horizontal plane.

The point here is this: it’s the same theme that I have seen and written about for many years:  Golf swing corrections, if that be your goal, are rarely singular; the come in pairs.  And the reason it can be frustrating is because we have develop two new feelings, not one. Many golfers abandon the effort because the accomplish one without the other.

If, for example, you decide your transition is far too steep, and you flatten it but then cast the club (remember now OUT not DOWN) and hit the heel of the club or shank a wedge, you may say: “Hey, that’s just not for me; or that was WORSE, not better”. And you’d be right, the RESULT is likely to be worse- but maybe not the effort.  If you are committed to a swing change, it rarely comes with a singular correction.

Be sure you know what you’re in for when working on laying the club down ala Sergio, or Furyk, or Ryan Moore, when you are told you’re too steep starting down.  My advice would be to try and work on one thing at at time.  For this particular correction, I have my students ht balls on a sidehill, above the feet lie. This can orient you to a more horizontal swing feeling and then an only then can start to work on keeping the hands, arms and body connected (the “inside moving the outside”) for the completion of the swing change.

One final note on this: I want to repeat that any change is optional based on your current ball striking, not what your video looks like. Phil Mickelson is one of the best players EVER, and his swing starts down as steeply as any club golfer, and he swings his hand path out away from him as a result every time. Let me me ask this question: who among us would change the swing of a 44-time champion and five-major winner on the PGA Tour? Whatever works…

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