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Game of the Weekend: Chipping Median

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While much has been rightly made of the importance of distance off the tee, you still can’t get through a round of golf without your wedges. It’s inevitable that your short game is going to be put to test when you play. This Game of the Weekend will help you easily see how close you’re hitting your chips from the hole. Give it a go and see how low you can make your Chipping Median.

Game of the Weekend: Chipping Median

  • Gear needed: 15 golf balls and your chipping clubs.
  • Time needed: 5-7 minutes.

Rules: The closer you hit your chips to the hole, the greater your odds become of making the putt. That said, this game called Chipping Median will help you do a quick measure of the median distance you hit your chips from the hole.

From within 5 yards of the green, hit 15 shots to three different holes in the following manner: one ball to the closest hole, one ball to the hole in the middle, and one ball to the hole farthest away. Repeating this series a total of five times will give you 15 chip shots.

Once you have hit all 15 shots, walk up to the green and, taking all three holes into consideration, remove the seven closest shots you have hit to your targets. Find the next closest shot (which would have been the eighth), and step off how far away it is from the hole rounded to the nearest foot and record that number into our interactive practice website www.golfscrimmages.com.

The eighth closest shot is your median, and is significant because there are seven shots closer to the hole and seven shots that are farther away. Improving your median is a neat way to monitor your short game progress to help you improve the likelihood of making more putts. See the video below for more. 

Benefits: Here’s what this game helps you with.

  • Even the top players in the world don’t hit every green in regulation, so getting your chips as close to the hole as possible will obviously make for easier up-and-downs. This quick and easy way to measure the effectiveness of your short game shots creates a competitive environment in which you can easily chart your progress.
  • Remember to take note of your bad shots, too. You can have a fairly low median, say 4 feet, but if you hit several stray shots that roll 20 feet away from the hole they will end up costing you when you’re on the course.
  • Concentrate on every shot so that all 15 end up close!

Practice well to play well, and enjoy this Labor Day weekend!

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Trent Wearner is the No. 1-rated teacher in Colorado by Golf Digest Magazine, as well as a two-time Colorado PGA Teacher of the Year (2004, 2014). Along the way, he has been recognized as a Top 20 Teacher Under Age 40 by Golf Digest, a Top 50 Kids Teacher in America by U.S. Kids Golf and a Top Teacher in the Southwestern U.S. by GOLF Magazine. Trent is also the author of the book Golf Scrimmages and creator of the website GolfScrimmages.com

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. joshuaplaysgolf

    Sep 4, 2015 at 11:15 pm

    Agreed, but what I do think is that by progressing to each hole after one ball, you are forcing yourself to think through each shot and not just repeating the same 5 shots consecutively. Yes you would make adjustments after each shot, but it’s similar to having a 10 yard chip on the 2nd hole, and then having another on the 5th…you would take the information from the first chip and make an adjustment as necessary for the next one.

    They pretty much laid this out in last weeks, 18 holes of up and down…but to really simulate what you would come across in a round, I like to take 9 balls and put them all around the green. Different lies, different distances, different shots. You get one go at it as you would during your rounds, and adds a little pressure to your practice. After putting those 9 out, repeat and see what your score is. Obviously, you don’t want to be the jerk putting on the chipping green, so either find somewhere with a large chipping green or wait until no one else is chipping…usually in the evening/twilight. Personally, I don’t like chipping more than 10 balls onto the green at a time…I don’t feel that hitting balls into a pile of balls around a hole does anything for you, and is inconsiderate of other people who are practicing. There is value in muscle memory, but standing in one place hitting 100 balls is not very effective (see this ALL the time). You learn a lot more a lot quicker by forcing your brain to adapt to a wide variety of conditions and swings. For example, if you want to work on 20 yarders, hit a handful of balls from that spot, hit a few other types of shots, and come back. It’s the same principle of only hitting 3-5 balls on the range with one club and cycling back to it to keep your brain from going into autopilot.

    • Bo B. Jammin

      Sep 5, 2015 at 10:11 am

      You’ve got it right Joshua. I know several guys that always practice their chipping by unloading a shag bag and piling up balls around one hole. Half way through the bag of balls their shots are colliding into the previous balls that they have hit so they have absolutely no clue as to the quality of their ball striking and how much the ball checks up when it hits the green, but they just keep chipping away at the same spot like some zombie in a golf trance. What amazes me even more is that almost invariably, they will then collect up all of their balls and repeat the exact same thing from the exact same spot a few times before they finally come out of their clueless trance, collect up their balls and then walk away apparently content that they have somehow miraculously improved their game.

      The reason I know that this way of practicing doesn’t work is that I often play a round with several guys who practice like that and on the course, their short game is severely lacking. You can see the fear in their eyes because that have absolutely no idea how hard to even strike the ball much less what loft / backspin they want or can put on the ball based on they lie they are confronted with.

      They always give me compliments on my short game but on the practice green they seem to feel sorry for me when they see me practicing with only three balls. . . (Several of them have actually offered to give me one of their old shag bags.)

      I firmly believe that if you don’t practice with the intensity and at the tempo, pace and the randomness of lies, slopes and distances that occurs during an actual round of golf, you are, for the most part, wasting your time.

      In golf, every shot is a puzzle that must be solved, but nowhere is that more true than around the green. Personally, if I have to get up and down and my chip shot isn’t either in the hole, or within 18 inches of the hole and positioned where the putt will be a no-brainer, I feel as though I have failed the task at hand. I don’t get down on myself, it just makes me want to get better and fortunately I really enjoy practicing the short game. It is a whole lot of fun!

      • Joshuaplaysgolf

        Sep 5, 2015 at 12:14 pm

        Hahaha, zombie golfers is a wonderful analogy. I’m glad I’m not the only one who practices that way. I had to stop using the chopping green at my home course because they put 200 range balls out for people to use. Most people seem to like to hit as many as possible onto the green and just walk away as if they were the only one who wanted to practice there. I play golf, not billiards. And why in the world would you practice using range balls? Do you play with the anime practice ball? I also love the guys who stand literally 5 feet off the green to hit their 10 million identical shots. Really? How often do you miss the green by 5 feet, and in the fringe? It just isn’t practical, and I don’t understand where the perception that this is effective comes from. Fortunately I have found a close by course with easily the best short game facility I’ve ever seen…and they don’t put range balls out. I agree that the short game is a ton of fun to practice. There’s so much room for creativity and mental stimulus to figure out how to get yourself up and down…but you actually have to utilize that opportunity.

  2. btv

    Sep 4, 2015 at 8:54 pm

    I still don’t think this accurately represents your “median” ability when it comes to the course. Even with hitting 5 shots to 3 targets… once you hit one you will naturally compensate with the next one. I think this may be a viable activity for skills training but not measuring your ability to get up and down.

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Instruction

The Wedge Guy: Short game tempo

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One of my favorite things to do is observe golfers closely, watching how they go about things from well before the shot to the execution of the swing or stroke. Guess the golf course has become kind of like going to the lab, in a way.

One thing I notice much too often is how “quick” most golfers are around the greens. It starts with grabbing a club or two from the cart and quickly getting to their ball. Then a few short jabs at a practice swing and usually a less-than-stellar result at a recovery.

Why?

If you are going to spend a morning or afternoon on the course, why hurry around the greens? I tend to be a fast player and despise five-hour rounds, but don’t fault anyone for taking a few seconds extra to get “right” with their recovery shot. You can still play “ready golf” and not short yourself in the close attention to execution. But let me get back to the specific topic.

Maybe it’s aggravated by this rush, but most golfers I observe have a short game tempo that is too quick. Chips, pitches and recoveries are precision swings at less than full power, so they require a tempo that is slower than you might think to accommodate that precision. They are outside the “norm” of a golf swing, so give yourself several practice swings to get a feel for the tempo and power that needs to be applied to the shot at hand.

I also think this quick tempo is a result of the old adage “accelerate through the ball.” We’ve all had that pounded into our brains since we started playing, but my contention is that it is darn hard not to accelerate . . . it’s a natural order of the swing. But to mentally focus on that idea tends to produce a short, choppy swing, with no rhythm or precision. So, here’s a practice drill for you.

  1. Go to your practice range, the local ball field, schoolyard or anywhere you can safely hit golf balls 20-30 yards or less.
  2. Pick a target only 30-50 feet away and hit your normal pitch, observing the trajectory.
  3. Then try to hit each successive ball no further, but using a longer, more flowing, fluid swing motion than the one before. That means you’ll make the downswing slower and slower each time, as you are moving the club further and further back each time.

My bet is that somewhere in there you will find a swing length and tempo where that short pitch shot becomes much easier to hit, with better loft and spin, than your normal method.

The key to this is to move the club with the back and through rotation of your body core, not just your arms and hands. This allows you to control tempo and applied power with the big muscles, for more consistency.

Try this and share with all of us if it doesn’t open your eyes to a different way of short game success.

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The Wedge Guy: The core cause of bad shots

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You are cruising through a round of golf, hitting it pretty good and then you somehow just hit an absolutely terrible shot? This isn’t a problem unique to recreational golfers trying to break 80, 90, or 100 — even the best tour professionals occasionally hit a shot that is just amazingly horrible, given their advanced skill levels.

It happens to all of us — some more frequently than others — but I’m convinced the cause is the same. I call it “getting sloppy.”

So, what do I mean by that?

Well, there was a USGA advertising campaign a while back feature Arnold Palmer, with the slogan “Swing Your Swing.” There’s a lot of truth to that advice, as we all have a swing that has — either frequently or occasionally – produced outstanding golf shots. While there is no substitute for solid mechanics and technique, I’ve always believed that if you have ever hit a truly nice golf shot, then your swing has the capacity to repeat that result more frequently than you experience.

The big question is: “Why can’t I do that more often?”

And the answer is: Because you don’t approach every shot with the same care and caution that you exhibit when your best shots are executed.

To strike a golf ball perfectly, the moon and stars have to be aligned, regardless of what your swing looks like. Your set-up position must be right. Your posture and alignment have to be spot-on. Ball position has to be precisely perfect. To get those things correct takes focused attention to each detail. But the good news is that doing so only takes a few seconds of your time before each shot.

But I know from my own experience, the big “disrupter” is not having your mind right before you begin your swing. And that affects all of these pre-shot fundamentals as well as the physical execution of your swing.
Did you begin your pre-shot approach with a vivid picture of the shot you are trying to hit? Is your mind cleared from what might have happened on the last shot or the last hole? Are you free from the stress of this crazy game, where previous bad shots cause us to tighten up and not have our mind free and ready for the next shot? All those things affect your ability to get things right before you start your swing . . . and get in the way of “swinging your swing.”

So, now that I’ve outlined the problem, what’s the solution?

Let me offer you some ideas that you might incorporate into your own routine for every shot, so that you can get more positive results from whatever golf swing skills you might have.

Clear your mind. Whatever has happened in the round of golf to this point is history. Forget it. This next shot is all that matters. So, clear that history of prior shots and sharpen your focus to the shot at hand.

Be precise in your fundamentals. Set-up, posture, alignment and ball position are crucial to delivering your best swing. Pay special attention to all of these basics for EVERY shot you hit, from drives to putts.

Take Dead Aim. That was maybe the most repeated and sage advice from Harvey Penick’s “Little Red Book”. And it may be the most valuable advice ever. Poor alignment and aim sets the stage for bad shots, as “your swing” cannot be executed if you are pointed incorrectly.

See it, feel it, trust it. Another piece of great advice from the book and movie, “Golf’s Sacred Journey: Seven Days In Utopia”, by Dr. David Cook. Your body has to have a clear picture of the shot you want to execute in order to produce the sequence of movements to do that.

Check your grip pressure and GO. The stress of golf too often causes us to grip the club too tightly. And that is a swing killer. Right before you begin your swing, focus your mind on your grip pressure to make sure it isn’t tighter than your normal pressure.

It’s highly advisable to make these five steps central to your pre-shot routine, but especially so if you get into a bad stretch of shots. You can change things when that happens, but it just takes a little work to get back to the basics.

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Stickney: To stack or not to stack at impact?

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As you look at the impact positions of the best players in the world, you will find many different “looks” with respect to their body and club positions. Some of these impact positions might even appear unique, but don’t be fooled. They all have one thing in common: preserving the players’ balance throughout the impact interval! In fact, if you are not in-balance, then you will lose power, consistency, and have trouble controlling your launch dynamics from shot to shot.

This balance is a necessary key to playing well and one area that can be easily understood with a few graphics shown on GEARS 3D. As you examine the photo in the featured image, you can see a few things:

  • The player on the left has “fallen” backwards through impact slightly moving his head out of the circle established at address
  • The player on the right is more stacked at impact — meaning that his chest, zipper and hands are all in the same place at the same time (within reason)
  • The player on the left has reached this same position in the swing with different segments of the body reaching the ball at different times
  • There will be a difference of impact shaft lean between the two players due to one player reaching impact “together” and the other shoving his hands more forward as he falls back
  • The player on the right is more “connected” through impact…won’t be the longest hitter but will be able to find the ball in the fairway more often
  • The player on the left is putting more pressure on the rear portion of the lower back which could have a potential for injury if he’s not careful

Now, obviously there are pro and cons to both positions. Overall, if you want to be consistent and in-balance more often that not, I would suggest you try your best to focus on being “stacked” when you hit the ball.

Let’s dive in a touch deeper to show you what happens physiologically on 3D when you fall back through impact and I think it will really drive the point home.

  • At address notice the Vertical Spine Number 96.2, this is showing us where the spine is positioned at address
  • You can see the head is in the center of the bubble

  • On the way to the top of the swing you can see that the spine has moved “away” from the target laterally a slight bit to 98 degrees
  • The head has dropped downward and has also moved laterally as well- more lean over the right leg to the top

Now here is where the problem comes in…as you work your way to the top, it’s ok of your head moves a touch laterally but in transition if it stays “back” while your hips run out from under you then you will begin to fall backwards on the way to your belt-high delivery position.

  • We can see at the delivery position that the spine has continued to fall backwards as the hips rotate out from under the upperbody
  • When this happens the hands will begin to push forward- dragging the handle into the impact zone
  • Whenever you have too much spin out and fall back the hands move forward to accommodate this motion and this reduces your Angle of Attack and decreases your dynamic loft at impact
  • This will cause balls to be hit on the decent of the club’s arc and reduce loft making shots come out lower than normal with a higher spin rate and that means shorter drives

Now let’s examine impact…

  • The player on the left has reached impact in a more disconnected fashion versus the player on the right as you compare the two
  • The player on the right has a shaft lean at impact that is less than a degree (.75) while the player on the left has a much more noticeable forward lean of the shaft thereby reducing dynamic loft at impact

  • The player on the left’s spine has moved from 96.2 to 112.9, a difference of 16.7 degrees while the player on the right has only moved back a few degrees. We know this because his head has stayed in the bubble we charted at address
  • The hips have run out from under the player on the left in the downswing and this causes the head to fall back more, the hands to push forward more, and the impact alignments of the club to be too much down with very little dynamic loft (as also shown in the photo below)

Whenever the hips turn out from under the upper body then you will tend to have a “falling back effect of the spine and a pushing forward of the hands” through impact.  Notice how the hips are radically more open on the player on the right versus the left- 27.91 versus 42.42 degrees.

So, now that we can see what happens when the hips spin out, you fall back, and you fail to be “stacked” at impact let’s show you a simple way you can do this at home to alleviate this issue.

  

  • A great drill to focus on being more stacked at impact is to make slow motion swings with the feeling that the upper portion of your arms stay glued to your chest
  • These shots will be full swings but only 20% of your total power because the goal here is connection which allows everything to reach impact together and in-balance
  • The second thought as you make these swings is to pay attention to your head, if you can focus on allowing it to stay “over the top of the ball” at impact you will find that it will stay put a touch more so than normal. Now this is not exactly how it works but it’s a good feeling nonetheless
  • Once you get the feeling at 20% speed work your way up to 50% speed and repeat the process. If you can do it here then you are ready to move up to full swings at top speed

Finally, don’t forget that every golfer’s hips will be open at impact and everyone’s head will fall back a touch — this is fine. Just don’t over-do it! Fix this and enjoy finding the ball in the fairway more often than not.

Questions or comments? [email protected]

 

 

 

 

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