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.
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Short Game University: How to hit wedges 301
In golf, there is nothing harder than judging a flop shot over a bunker to a tight pin out of long grass. Why? Because there are so many variables to account for — in addition to what you can and cannot do with a wedge. In fact, up until very recently in the world of wedge design, we were limited to only increasing the landing angle to stop the ball, because relying on spin from this lie and this close to the green was next to impossible.
Now with the advent of things like raw faces, different CG locations, new groove design, and micro-ribs between the grooves, we can now spin the ball out of lies that we never could have done so before. This is not to say that you can now zip the ball back from these types of lies, but we are seeing spin rates that have skyrocketed, and this allows us to not open the face as much as we needed to do before in order to stop the ball.
Before we get into the shot around the green itself, let’s talk a bit about wedge design. For that, I called a great friend of mine, Greg Cesario, TaylorMade’s Staff Manager to help us understand a bit more about wedges. Greg was a former PGA Tour Player and had a big hand in designing the new Milled Grind 3 Wedges.
Cesario said: “Wedge technology centers on two key areas- the first is optimizing its overall launch/spin (just like drivers) on all shots and the second is optimum ground interaction through the geometry of the sole (bounce, sole width, and sole shape).”
“Two key things impact spin: Groove design and face texture. Spin is the secondary effect of friction. This friction essentially helps the ball stick to the face a little longer and reduces slippage. We define slippage as how much the ball slides up the face at impact. That happens more when it’s wet outside during those early morning tee times, out of thicker lies, or after a bit of weather hits. Our Raised Micro-Ribs increase friction and reduce slippage on short partial shots around the round – that’s particularly true in wet conditions.”
“We’ve been experimenting with ways to find optimal CG (center of gravity) placement and how new geometries can influence that. We know that CG locations can influence launch, trajectory and spin. Everyone is chasing the ability to produce lower launching and higher spinning wedge shots to help players increase precision distance control. In that space, moving CG just a few millimeters can have big results. Beyond that, we’re continuing to advance our spin and friction capabilities – aiming to reduce the decay of spin from dry to fluffy, or wet conditions.”
Basically, what Greg is saying is that without improvements in design, we would never be able to spin the ball like we would normally when it’s dry and the lie is perfect. So, with this new design in a wedge like the Milled Grind 3 (and others!), how can we make sure we have the optimal opportunity to hit these faster-stopping pitch shots?
- Make sure the face is clean and dry
- Open the blade slightly, but not too much
- Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the AoA
- Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going
Make sure the face is clean and dry
If your thought is to use spin to stop the ball quicker under any situation, then you must give the club a chance to do its job. When the grooves are full of dirt and grass and the remaining exposed face is wet, then you are basically eliminating any opportunity to create spin. In fact, if you decide to hit the shot under these conditions, you might as well hit a flop shot as this would be the only opportunity to create a successful outcome. Don’t put yourself behind the eight-ball automatically, keep your club in a clean and dry condition so you have the best chance to do what you are capable of doing.
Open the blade slightly, but not too much
Without going into too much extra detail, spinloft is the difference between your angle of attack and your dynamic loft. And this difference is one of the main areas where you can maximize your spin output.
Too little or too much spinloft and you will not be able to get the maximum spin out of the shot at hand. With wedges, people equate an open clubface to spinning the ball, and this can be a problem due to excessive spinloft. Whenever you have too much dynamic loft, the ball will slide up the face (reduced friction equals reduced spin) and the ball will float out higher than expected and roll out upon landing.
My thought around the green is to open the face slightly, but not all the way, in efforts to reduce the probability of having too much spinloft during impact. Don’t forget under this scenario we are relying on additional spin to stop the ball. If you are using increased landing angle to stop the ball, then you would obviously not worry about increasing spinloft! Make sure you have these clear in your mind before you decide how much to open the blade.
Opened too much
One final note: Please make sure you understand what bounce option you need for the type of conditions you normally play. Your professional can help you but I would say that more bounce is better than less bounce for the average player. You can find the bounce listed on the wedge itself. It will range between 4-14, with the mid-range bounce being around 10 degrees.
Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the angle of attack
As we know, when debris gets in between the clubface and the ball (such as dirt/grass), you will have two problems. One, you will not be able to control the ball as much. Secondly, you will not be able to spin the ball as much due to the loss of friction.
So, what is the key to counteract this problem? Increasing the angle of attack by setting the wrists quicker on the backswing. Making your downswing look more like a V rather than a U allows less junk to get between the club and the ball. We are not using the bounce on this type of shot, we are using the leading edge to slice through the rough en route to the ball. Coming in too shallow is a huge problem with this shot, because you will tend to hit it high on the face reducing control.
Use your increased AoA on all of your crappy lies, and you will have a much better chance to get up and down more often!
Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going
The final piece of the puzzle through the ball is speed through the pivot. You cannot hit shots around the green out of tall grass without keeping the club moving and having speed. A reduction of speed is obvious as the club enters into the tall grass, but you don’t want to exacerbate this problem by cutting off your pivot and letting the arms do all the work.
Sure, there are times when you want to cut off the body rotation through the ball, but not on the shot I am discussing here. When we are using spin, you must have speed to generate the spin itself. So, what is the key to maintaining your speed? Keeping the rear shoulder rotating long into the forward swing. If you do this, you will find that your arms, hands, and club will be pulled through the impact zone. If your pivot stalls, then your speed will decrease and your shots will suffer.
Hopefully, by now you understand how to create better shots around the green using the new wedge technology to create more spin with lies that we had no chance to do so before. Remembering these simple tips — coupled with your clean and dry wedge — will give you the best opportunity to be Tiger-like around the greens!
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