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14 short game shots to chip like a Tour pro

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Around the green, tour professionals have ALL the shots in their bag. This gives them options to choose from in a given situation when determining shot-selection and trajectory; picking the right combination then becomes the greatest challenge.  

As a handicap-player looking to improve, you must have the ability to hit several different shots of varying height in any one situation so you don’t get “stuck” with only one option. If you have a limited-number of shots around the green, you limit your ability to get up-and-down from various locations. A dependable short game is about having OPTIONS.

In the scoring guide below, I will teach you how to play 14 different shots of varying trajectories with various clubs to help expand your arsenal of short game shots.

  1. The Texas Wedge
  2. The Putter Back in Stance
  3. The Fairway Wood or Rescue Club
  4. The Bellied Wedge
  5. The “Y” Chipping Style
  6. The Bump and Run
  7. The Three Basic Pitch Shots
  8. The Toe Down Pitch Shot
  9. The Toe In Skipper
  10. The Super High Flop Shot
  11. The High Bunker Shot
  12. The Stab in the Bunker
  13. The Long Running Bunker Shot
  14. The Severe Downhill Pitch Shot

The Texas Wedge

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The Texas Wedge was made popular in the South during the summers when the ground would get hard and baked out, making chipping and pitching risky. This shot will help you nestle the ball close to the flag when you feel uneasy, and it eliminates the risk of a skull or chunk. If all else fails, use the putter!

  • Position the ball as you normally would with your putter
  • Set 60 percent of your weight forward to ensure a solid strike
  • Allow the putter to move and accelerate through the ball
  • Use no wrist action in this putt along with a “short-to-long” stroke to keep the putter head moving through the ball

The Putter Back in the Stance

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As stated earlier, the putter is the best choice if all else fails. But what happens if you have a bad lie, hardpan, a longer distance to go, or even long grass in front of you? This is when you need a touch more speed to get the ball through the stuff in front of you, but not take off when it hits the green. For this shot, you can position the ball back in your stance and still get all the benefits of using the Texas Wedge.

  • Position the ball just in front of your rear toe
  • 60 percent of your weight is on your forward foot
  • Lean the putter-shaft forward so that the butt of the club points at your front pocket
  • Allow the putter head to move “upwards” slightly on the backswing
  • Make your forward stroke as you normally would
  • This no-wrist stroke will cause the ball to “pop” up in the air slightly and have more overspin than the regular Texas Wedge

The Fairway Wood or Rescue Club

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As made popular by Tiger Woods, the fairway wood or rescue club from just off the green allows you an easier way to get up and down from good, bad, or tight lies with pins that are cut close to the edge of the green. As golf course architecture continues to evolve with “collection areas” around the green, you’ll continue to see this shot used more and more on Tour. 

  • Set up to your fairway wood or rescue club as you normally would
  • Choke all the way down to the end of the grip by the shaft
  • Assume your normal putting grip
  • Use your putting stroke with NO wrist action allowing for the extra mass and length of the wood or rescue club to propel the ball onto the green
  • The lower-lofted fairway woods are most often used from farther off the green while the rescue clubs are used very close to the green
  • Only use this shot to very tight pin placements next to the edge of the green
  • This shot will also work on very steep hills and medium rough when you just need to get the ball moving 

The Bellied Wedge

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The Bellied Wedge is a great shot for touchy situations from just off the green where a putter or a rescue club won’t work. It’s great from just about any lie, and can even be used from a bunker if the lip is low enough. By using the extra mass of the sand-wedge and the thick flange of the sole, you will find that the ball has a quick burst of overspin and then rolls true while on the green, with little chance of “getting away from you.”

  • Position the ball in the middle of your stance just like you are using your putter
  • Weight 50-50 between your right and left
  • Assume your normal putting grip

Keep your wrists firm and stroke and impact the ball in the “belly” or equator of the ball. This will cause the ball to roll on the top of the grass and hit the green with a true roll.

The “Y” Chipping Style

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The normal chipping procedure works wonders for all skill levels and it’s undoubtedly the most popular shot from just off the green. Sadly, this shot is too often used in the incorrect situations causing the ball to run too far past the pin. However, the mastery of this shot will allow you to save more strokes around the green for years to come.

  • Place the ball just in front of your rear toe
  • All the weight is positioned on your forward foot
  • The shaft and hands are pushed forward so that the butt of the club points at your forward pocket
  • Notice the lowercase “Y” formed between your arms, hands, and clubshaft
  • Lock in your wrists and put weight forward, then make your putting stroke, NOT a hit
  • At the finish, you should still see your weight forward and the “Y” intact
  • Use the higher-lofted clubs (LW, SW, PW etc.) for close shots and the lower-lofted clubs (9, 8, 7, 6 irons etc.) for your longer shots
  • Never change the length or tempo of this shot, just change your club

The Bump and Run

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The close cousin of the “Y” Chipping Style is the Bump and Run where you have a closely mown area to hit over/through, yet it is too far for the putter, rescue, or a chip shot.  Becoming proficient at this shot will help you to better negotiate the longer shots when you’re in trouble, under the trees and need to “run” the ball onto the green.

  • Place the ball back in your stance between your sternum and your rear toe depending on the length of the shot at hand
  • All the weight will be positioned on your forward foot
  • The clubshaft and hands will be pushed forward so that the butt of the club points almost to your forward pocket
  • Notice the lowercase “Y” formed between your arms, hands, and clubshaft
  • Lock in your wrists, put your weight forward and make your putting stroke, NOT a hit
  • You can use any club for this shot, usually something around a nine to seven-iron is the most popular
  • At the finish you should still see your weight forward and the “Y” intact

The Three Basic Pitch Shots

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When you have to loft the ball over something, you should use some type of pitching motion. Pitch shots are smaller versions of your full swing.

  • The spine is vertical, not tilted to the rear of center and the weight is 60 percent forward
  • The butt of the club points at the belt loop, just forward of your belt buckle
  • The stance can be square or slightly open depending on your preference
  • The stroke is short to long with a slight body pivot
  • The weight stays forward all the way to the finish with a flat forward wrist
  • Go “down and through” the ball, “thumping” the grass on the way through

The Toe Down Pitch Shot

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In this day and age of super-fast greens, it seems like every time you miss the green by only five or 10 feet, you’re faced with a near impossible shot. It’s here when the toe down pitch shot will come out super soft and stop like you have never seen before.

  • Set the club down on its toe (the heel is off the ground slightly)
  • The clubshaft is perpendicular to the ground
  • Use your putting grip with the ball in the middle of your stance
  • Make your normal putting motion, with no wrists, allowing the club to go down and through the ball during impact
  • You can open the blade, close the blade, and use it in all lies for different results

The Toe-In Skipper

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Sometimes you’re faced with an uphill shot, or over a closely mown area; if you hit the ball short it will roll back to your feet and if you go long then the ball will skip right by the hole. This is the shot you see at No. 14 at Augusta when the professionals leave it short of the green and want to make sure the ball does not run away from them past the hole.

  • Take your sand wedge or lob wedge for this shot and place the ball back in your stance 
  • Hood the club head so that the blade is de-lofted at address
  • Make an exaggerated in-to-out swing feeling like you are trying to “hook” the ball into the green, landing the ball short like the basic bump and run shot
  • This action will cause the ball to come off the face low, skip once or twice, check up and then gently roll out
  • This action will cause the ball to have just enough pace to move up the hill or through the mown area, but not too much as to run away from you past the pin

The Super High Flop Shot

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There are times when your back is against the wall and the only option you have is to hit the Super High Flop Shot next to the pin. Thankfully, this shot condition doesn’t happen too often, but when it does you’ll be prepared. The only things you need to pull off this shot will be some luck, a little skill, and an accelerated swing through the ball into the finish.

  • Place the ball forward in your stance and open the club up, like you are going to balance a wine glass on the face
  • Aim your body slightly open to your target
  • The hands are even with the belt buckle, or slightly behind the ball at address and the weight is distributed 50-50
  • Set the club up quickly with your wrist hinge and allow your swing shape to be more of a “V”
  • Accelerate down and through the ball holding the club face open into a full finish; the harder you swing the higher the ball will go

Note: for an even higher shot allow your wrists to release “under” on the way through.  This is not advisable, but it will give you slightly more height.

The High Bunker Shot

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Every bunker shot nowadays seems like it’s 10 feet deep with a high lip to negotiate, hitting to a green that runs away from you! In this situation, you need a high, soft shot that comes out of the bunker and has no chance of hitting the lip on the way out. This shot involves a few simple set up changes and you must have a good lie and a lob wedge in your bag for sure.

  • Place the ball forward in your stance and open the club up, like you are going to balance a wine glass on the face
  • Aim your body slightly open to your target
  • The hands are even with the belt buckle, or slightly behind the ball at address and the weight is slightly rear of center
  • Set the club up quickly with your wrist hinge and allow your swing shape to be more of a “V”
  • Accelerate down and through the impact zone holding the club face open into a full finish; the harder you swing the higher the ball will go

Note: For an even higher shot allow your wrists to release “under” on  the way through.  This is not advisable, but it will give you slightly more height.

The Stab in the Bunker

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Whenever you try to attack a tucked pin, the ball seems to plug in the bunker. This shot is not very hard when you have green to work with, but when the pin is cut close to the bunker face you need another, softer shot.

  • Set up as you would for your normal bunker shot
  • Face and body open, hands slightly ahead of the ball, with your weight forward, and the spine leaning slightly forward of center
  • Set the club upwards with the wrists in the “V” type of swinging motion and “stab” down behind the ball with NO finish whatsoever
  • This action will cause you to dig a huge hole where the ball sat originally
  • With no follow-through there won’t be much heat on the ball when it comes out of the bunker
  • By varying your follow-through you will find that you can actually begin to control the ball’s release once it hits the green, with some practice

The Long Running Bunker Shot

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What do you do when you have a perfect lie in the bunker but a huge uphill slope to negotiate on the green? Do you carry it back to the pin or do you elect to try a long running bunker shot? Whatever you do when you choose the long running bunker shot, you better make sure you get the ball back to the pin, and here’s how to do it.

  • Set up as you normally would for a bunker shot
  • Face and body open, hands slightly ahead of the ball, with the weight forward slightly, and the spine leaning slightly forward of center
  • The simple adjustment to be made here is to take the club back “low and away” making your swing’s shape look more like a “U” than a “V”
  • Finally you will release fully through the shot allowing your club face to close through the ball, giving it more hook-spin
  • This hooking action through the ball will cause it to hit the green and run like a rabbit

Note: You can also take a lower-lofted club and hit the type of shot described above for the super-long runners like you see in the Open Championship.

The Severe Downhill Pitch Shot

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What do you do when you have a severe downhill pitch shot to a green that runs away from you? How do you keep it on the green? My goal here is to put the ball on the green anywhere within 20 feet and get to the next hole without making a big number. Sometimes you have to take your licks and this is definitely one of those times!

  • Align your body facing the pin
  • Place the ball in line with the outside of your ankles
  • Lean down the slope slightly with your shoulders
  • Set the club with your wrists and finish LOW
  • This will allow the ball to come off the club solid and reduce the roll-out
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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) 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: [email protected]

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Anon A Mouse

    Jun 11, 2015 at 9:22 am

    Best article on WRX in a while. Well done!

  2. Brutus

    Jun 10, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    Been using that toe down chip shot a lot the last several years. Great for shot chips especially out of nasty lies as the face kind of knives thru the grass and pops the ball out. Practiced with a variety of iron for different amounts of loft and run. Very effective and reliable. Great article looking at most basic shots “non-standard” chip/pitch shots!

  3. lee

    Jun 10, 2015 at 10:32 am

    Great list!

  4. Jeez Utz

    Jun 9, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    I’m not seeing enough knee bend on the super high flop….
    And you know I’m right Tom

  5. BustyMagoo

    Jun 9, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    Good collection of techniques indeed.

  6. Me Nunya

    Jun 8, 2015 at 11:15 pm

    Good little catalog; not complete though.
    That’s the magic of the game. So much to practice and master (or not master).
    Tom, question: As a foundation, do you teach hinge and hold or Stricker style and why?

  7. Nolanski

    Jun 8, 2015 at 10:27 pm

    Good stuff. I just learned the flop shot this year and it’s been a great addition. I’m gonna try a few of these for sure.

  8. Sean

    Jun 8, 2015 at 9:05 pm

    Nicely done!

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Instruction

Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 2)

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Golf is very much a monkey-see-monkey-do sport. If you ever go to the local range, you are sure to see golfers trying to copy the moves of their favorite player. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it does not. While I understand the logic of trying to mimic the “secret move” of the most recent winner on tour, I always balk when the person trying to create their best impression fails to realize the physical differences between them and the best golfing athletes in the world.

Read part 1 here. 

In addition to most golfers not being at the same fitness levels as the best players in the world, they also do not have bodies that are identical to their favorite player. This single statement proves why there is not one golf swing; we all are different sizes and are going to swing the club differently due to these physical differences.

You have to understand your swing

The biggest reason I believe that golfers are better than they think is most golfers I meet do not understand what their swings should look like. Armed with video after video of their golf swing, I will always hear about the one thing that the golfer wishes they could change. However, that one thing is generally the “glue” or athleticism of the athlete on display and is also the thing that allows them to make decent contact with the ball.

We are just coming out of the “video age” of golf instruction, and while I think that recording your golf swing can be extremely helpful, I think that it is important to understand what you are looking for in your swing. As a young coach, I fell victim to trying to create “pretty swings”, but quickly learned that there is not a trophy for prettiest swing.

It comes down to form or function, and I choose function

The greatest gift I have ever received as an instructor was the recommendation to investigate Mike Adams and BioSwing Dynamics. Mike, E.A. Tischler, and Terry Rowles have done extensive research both with tour-level players as well as club golfers and have developed a way to test or screen each athlete to determine not only how their golf swing will look, but also how they will use the ground to create their maximum speed. This screen can be completed with a tape measure and takes about five minutes, and I have never seen results like I have since I began measuring.

For example, a golfer with a greater wingspan than height will have a golf swing that tracks more to the outside during the backswing and intersects the body more towards the trail shoulder plane during the backswing. A golfer with a shorter wingspan than height will have a swing that tracks more to the inside and intersects the body closer to the trail hip plane. Also, a golfer with a greater wingspan than height will have a more upright dynamic posture than a golfer with a shorter wingspan than height who will be more “bent over” at the address position.

Sport coats and golf swings

Have you ever bought a sport coat or suit for a special occasion? If so, pay attention to whether it is a short, regular, or long. If you buy a long, then it means that your arms are longer than your torso and you can now understand why you produce a “steeper” backswing. Also, if you stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your middle-finger tips touching the top of your kneecaps, you will have perfect dynamic posture that matches your anatomy. If it appears that you are in a taller posture, then you have your second clue that your wingspan is greater than your height.

Translation to improvement

Using this and five other screens, we can help the athletes understand a complete blueprint of their golf swing based off their anatomy. It is due to the work of Mike, E.A., and Terry that we can now matchup the player to their swing and help them play their best. The reason that I believe that most golfers are better than they think is that most golfers have most of the correct puzzle pieces already. By screening each athlete, we can make the one or two adjustments to get the player back to trusting their swing and feeling in control. More importantly, the athlete can revisit their screen sheet when things misfire and focus on what they need to do, instead of what not to do.

We are all different and all have different swings. There is no one way to swing a golf club because there is no one kind of golfer. I encourage every golfer to make their swing because it is the only one that fits.

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How golf should be learned

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With the COVID-19 pandemic, golf is more popular than ever. Beginners being introduced to the game often find that golf is very hard, much harder than other sports they have played. To simplify the golf swing and make the game easier, it needs to start with a concept.

Golf should first be learned from a horizontal position. If the ball was placed four feet above the ground on a large tee, players would naturally turn in an efficient direction with the proper sequence to strike the ball on the tee.

Take for example, a person throwing a ball towards a target. With their eyes out in front of them? having an awareness to the target, their body would naturally turn in a direction to go forward and around towards the target. In golf, we are bent over from the hips, and we are playing from the side of the golf ball, so players tend to tilt their body or over-rotate, causing an inefficient backswing.

This is why the golf swing should be looked at as a throwing motion. The trail arm folds up as the body coils around. To throw a ball further, the motion doesn’t require more body turn or a tilt of the body.

To get the feeling of this horizontal hitting position or throwing motion, start by taking your golf posture. Make sure your trail elbow is bent and tucked with your trail shoulder below your lead shoulder.

From here, simply lift your arms in front of you while you maintain the bend from your hips. Look over your lead shoulder looking at the target. Get the clubhead traveling first and swing your arms around you. Note how your body coils. Return the club back to its original position.

After a few repetitions, simply lower your arms back to the ball position, swing your arms around you like you did from the horizontal position. Allow your shoulders, chest and hips to be slightly pulled around. This is now your “throwing position” in the golf swing. From here, you are ready to make a downswing with less movement needed to make a proper strike.

Note: Another great drill to get the feel for this motion is practicing Hitting driver off your knees.

Twitter: @KKelley_golf

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Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 1)

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Golf is hard. I spend my career helping people learn that truth, but golfers are better than they give themselves credit for.

As a golf performance specialist, I give a lot of “first time working together” lessons, and most of them start the same way. I hear about all the ways the golfer is cursed and how s/he is never going to “get it” and how s/he should take up another sport. Granted, the last statement generally applies to an 18-plus handicap player, but I hear lots of negatives from better players as well.

Even though the golfers make convincing arguments for why they are cursed, I know the truth. It’s my job to help them realize the fates aren’t conspiring against them.

All golfers can play well consistently

I know this is a bold statement, but I believe this because I know that “well” does not equate to trophies and personal bests. Playing “well” equates to understanding your margin of error and learning to live within it.

With this said, I have arrived at my first point of proving why golfers are not cursed or bad golfers: They typically do not know what “good” looks like.

What does “good” look like from 150 yards out to a center pin?

Depending on your skill level, the answer can change a lot. I frequently ask golfers this same question when selecting a shot on the golf course during a coaching session and am always surprised at the response. I find that most golfers tend to either have a target that is way too vague or a target that is much too small.

The PGA Tour average proximity to the hole from 150 yards is roughly 30 feet. The reason I mention this statistic is that it gives us a frame of reference. The best players in the world are equivalent to a +4 or better handicap. With that said, a 15-handicap player hitting it to 30 feet from the pin from 150 yards out sounds like a good shot to me.

I always encourage golfers to understand the statistics from the PGA Tour not because that should be our benchmark, but because we need to realize that often our expectations are way out of line with our current skill level. I have found that golfers attempting to hold themselves to unrealistic standards tend to perform worse due to the constant feeling of “failing” they create when they do not hit every fairway and green.

Jim Furyk, while playing a limited PGA Tour schedule, was the most accurate driver of the golf ball during the 2020 season on the PGA Tour hitting 73.96 percent of his fairways (roughly 10/14 per round) and ranked T-136 in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee. Bryson Dechambeau hit the fairway 58.45 percent (roughly 8/14 per round) of the time and ranked first in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee.

There are two key takeaways in this comparison

Sometimes the fairway is not the best place to play an approach shot from. Even the best drivers of the golf ball miss fairways.

By using statistics to help athletes gain a better understanding of what “good” looks like, I am able to help them play better golf by being aware that “good” is not always in the middle of the fairway or finishing next to the hole.

Golf is hard. Setting yourself up for failure by having unrealistic expectations is only going to stunt your development as a player. We all know the guy who plays the “tips” or purchases a set of forged blades applying the logic that it will make them better in the long run—how does that story normally end?

Take action

If you are interested in applying some statistics to your golf game, there are a ton of great apps that you can download and use. Also, if you are like me and were unable to pass Math 104 in four attempts and would like to do some reading up on the math behind these statistics, I highly recommend the book by Mark Broadie Every Shot Counts. If you begin to keep statistics and would like how to put them into action and design better strategies for the golf course, then I highly recommend the Decade system designed by Scott Fawcett.

You may not be living up to your expectations on the golf course, but that does not make you a bad or cursed golfer. Human beings are very inconsistent by design, which makes a sport that requires absolute precision exceedingly difficult.

It has been said before: “Golf is not a game of perfect.” It’s time we finally accept that fact and learn to live within our variance.

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