Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Team Clinic - Chipping

A quick review of the basics is a great way to remember what is important for your game, whether you are a beginner or a touring pro.  At SMU, we do weekly clinics that touch on a subject, review the important points and move into individual variances so the players can constantly expand the shots they can play on the golf course.  This week's clinic was chipping.

When you approach the green, your first goal is to find a place to land your chip shot.  The area should allow you to predict how the ball will react.  It is great if you can land your chip on a flat spot that is the same consistency as the rest of the green.  In other words, not a wet spot or a hard spot.

After you choose a landing point, you then visualize the shot.  What club do you need to land the ball on that spot and have it roll out to the hole?  After visualizing, it is time to choose a club.

You are now in the pre shot routine stage.  Go back to your visualization (SEE IT), step into the shot and take a practice swing (FEEL IT) and now address the ball and hit it.  This is not the time for thinking about HOW.

To support our clinic today, we did some practice challenges that honed our skill of landing the ball on the spot we chose.  That skill is often lacking, even with accomplished players and it must be developed with any club you use when you chip.

Here are the challenges:
Challenge 1:  Put a towel or a circle on the ground 2 steps onto the green.  Now put 10 balls down 2 steps off the green, another 10 balls 5 steps off the green and a third pile of 10 balls 10 steps off the green.  Choose 2 clubs for each shot and land the ball in the circle. Watch how far it rolls out.  This is a drill to control trajectory and landing point, which are the first two things you consider when choosing a chip shot.
Challenge 2: Lay 4 clubs on the ground in a ladder with 3 feet in between each club.  Use your LW, SW, and PW.  With each club, land one ball in each section of the ladder.  You must control how long the ball will be in the air, so adjust your ball position. You must make 3 in a row with each club prior to moving on.  

The next things we talked about are the variables you adjust to control how high or low the ball flies, how to control spin and we also touched on tempo with individuals on the team.  The first important variable to understand is shaft lean.  Shaft lean is controlled with set up or where in your stance you place the ball.  It is also controlled with technique or how well you return your hands to the ball and keep control of the shaft of the club from handle to head.  If you want a lot of shaft lean, you will place the ball far back in your stance.  This will create a low shot that will land quickly.  If you want less shaft lean, you place the ball more forward in your stance and the ball will fly higher and spend more time in the air.  This is an important theory to understand and practice if you want to land the ball on the spot you choose when chipping.  Your technique is also important to controlling your shaft lean.  Your arms must swing through the shot, creating a 50/50 swing with nice tempo to help you control your shaft lean.  Many players stop swinging the club and deliver their hands to deliver the club head.  This adds loft to the club by taking away shaft lean.  

An obvious way to change how high the ball flies is to choose different lofted clubs.  My advice to the team is start with getting great at three ratios; 50:50, 30:70 and 70:30.  Find a club that creates a chip that flies 1/2 way to the hole and rolls the next half.  That is your 50:50 ratio.  Now, figure out which club flies about 1/3 of the way to the hole and rolls out 2/3's of the way.  That is your 30:70 ratio.  Most players favorite chip is the third, using a lob wedge to fly it 2/3's of the way to the hole and letting it release the final 1/3.  That is your 70:30 ratio.  If you can begin by mastering three clubs and these three ratios, you will soon be making small adjustments with ball position and length of back swing that covers any shot you face around the green. 

The final subject we touched on was spin.  Learning to roll a ball is powerful, because it gives you the best opportunity to predict the landing and roll out of the shot.  Many players seem to want to spin their chips, but now you are introducing an extra variable to control.  Spin is added to a chip with speed and firm hands at impact.  Spin is taken off chips by smoothing your chips with a soft and subtle release of the hands.  Allowing the toe of the club to close slightly as you are chipping will allow the ball to roll out without spin.  When you need a ball to check, you want to tighten your hands at impact and create the feeling of keeping the toe of the club behind the face at impact.  It would be great if you practice both shots and understand how to control your spin instead of having it randomly show up at times.  

Chipping is fun to practice.  I hope you enjoy your chipping challenges today and focus on being the best at landing the ball on the spot you choose.   

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