Thursday, December 20, 2012

Can You Earn a PhD in Chipping?

SMU Women's Golf

What do you need to do to be a great chipper?
  1. Choose your shot
    • Find a flat spot to land the ball on if possible
    • Keep the landing spot as close to you as possible
  2. Visualize your shot
    • Imagine your shot from impact into the hole
    • Imagine the speed of the rolling ball
  3. Land your shot on the spot chosen
    • You need solid, consistent contact
    • A rhythmic swing produces the speed you want
  4. Control trajectory
    • Your ball position can be changed
    • The speed of your swing needs to be adjusted based on trajectory
  5. Control spin/roll
    • Your club choice will dictate roll out
    • Your contact will effect spin and roll
How can you practice each skill?  These challenges will help you understand how to control your chips.  These are assuming that you have good technique that is repeatable and produces solid contact.  If you don't, schedule a lesson with your local PGA or LPGA pro or at the very least, check out some youtube videos offering chipping technique.  Conversely, many times, good players believe they need a technique lesson when their chipping goes south.  Often, they need to understand what they are trying to do with the shot and how to practice.  That is what this blog is about.

Tom Watson


Challenge #1
  • Start from 5 yards off the green.  Choose 3 clubs you would normally use around the green.  Without a target, use a repeatable, rhythmic swing and hit 2 shots with the ball back in your stance.  Hit 2 shots with the ball in the middle of your stance.  Hit 2 shots with the ball forward in your stance.  Notice how your ball position creates different landing points and different amounts of roll and possibly spin also.  Do this with all three clubs and pay attention.  You can repeat this from further off the green or change the swing you use.  Don't work with a target, instead, get a feel for speed needed, spin produced and roll out of the ball.
  • Now, place 3 tees on the green.  Start with them at 2, 4 and 6 yards on the green. You can choose any distances after the first go round.  Chip until you land your ball on the first tee with your most lofted club.  Be as precise as possible.  When you do it, move to the second tee.  What can you adjust to make the shot?  
    • Length of swing
    • Speed of swing
    • Ball position 
  • Your focus in this challenge is to understand how the different factors come together to create the shot you want.  If you keep your ball position consistent, you will need more speed as you move to the longer shots.  If instead, you move the ball slightly forward, you can go to the second tee with roughly the same swing speed you used on the first tee.  That ball position will effect the amount of roll out, so pay attention to that, too. 
  • Do this with all three clubs.  Hit to a tee until you get the distance needed, then move to the next tee.  
  • When you achieve that, use the first club and hit one shot to each tee.  When you become great at landing the ball where you want to, you are well on your way to your chipping PhD.
  • As you improve at hitting the targets 2, 4, and 6 yards away, begin to introduce different distances, such as 5, 10 and 15 yards.  Learn which clubs to use for different yardages and how much roll out occurs.  
  •  When you are great at 5 yards off the green, begin to move further away.  

Challenge #2
  • Start at 5 yards off the green once again.  Lay 2 irons on the green approximately 5 paces and 6 paces away.  Choose 3 clubs once again.  Land chip shots in between the two clubs with the ball back in your stance.  Watch the roll out.  Step it off.  The first challenge was focused on being precise where you land the ball and this challenge is about understanding roll out. 
    • I used to believe in a ratio system for chipping, but the more golf I watch, the more I now understand that that is a flawed approach.  If you are chipping with a lob wedge, you will get consistent roll out no matter how far the ball flies.  This is usually between 2-3 yards.  So a 1:1 ratio would only be true for a shot that flew 3 yards in the air.  If you fly a ball 9 yards in the air with a 60 degree wedge, it will probably roll out about 3 yards, which changes the ratio to 1:3.
    • Now do the same thing with the ball in the middle of your stance.  How did this change your roll out?
  • Your roll out will be effected by spin.  Your spin is effected by where you put the ball in your stance and your loft at contact.  Most tour players hit their chip shots with a shallow approach, which allows a better chance to put spin on the ball.  Most amateurs have been taught to chip using a damage control theory.  In order to offset their instinct to lift the ball in the air, they are told to put the ball back in their stance, which creates a very steep approach. This doesn't allow them the time or space needed to lift the ball.  Tour players will also put the ball back in their stance when they don't want a lot of spin or when the want the ball to launch low.  When your technique is rock solid, as most tour player's, you can adjust ball position.  That allows you to adjust the height of your chip's launch and the spin. 
  • Here are the components that effect spin:
    • The ball you use.
    • The cleanness of contact (lack of dirt or grass between the club face and ball)
    • The speed of your swing
    • The angle of attack's relationship with your dynamic loft at impact
If you use a low cost golf ball, you probably won't get much spin.  If you are in deep rough or have a dirty club face, you won't get much spin.  Most chip shots are at slow speeds, so that means they don't produce much spin, just a little.  The final factor is a little tougher to explain so simply.
The relationship of dynamic loft with the angle of attack of your swing is what creates spin. To keep things very simple here, the more loft and the shallower the approach = the most spin.  Less loft and the steeper the approach = the least spin.  If you want to hit a shot that doesn't spin, use less loft or move it back in your stance.  If you have a 60 degree wedge back in your stance, it will probably still impart spin on the ball due to the effective loft it will have at impact. 

As you move the ball up and back in your stance, you will start to notice the effect that this has.  When the ball is back in your stance, you will hit down on the ball.  The more you hit down on the ball, the lower the ball will launch.  When you do so, you will need more speed to get the ball to land at the first tee than if you hit it with a more shallow approach and launched it higher.  When you practice by isolating each factor, such as club choice, ball position, length and speed of swing, you will begin to get a clearer idea of what factors cause differences in ball flight.
Angela Stanford



Challenge #3
  • Use what you learned and set up some shots.  You will need 1 club, 2 balls and 1 tee.  Work close to the green to start.  As you improve, you can work from further away from the green.  
    • Choose your shot.  Find a flat spot to land your ball and put a tee in the spot.  
    • Visualize your shot from impact to the hole.  Better yet, verbalize it.  
    • Hit the shot.  
      • Did you hit your spot?
      • Did the ball hit and roll or hit and spin?
      • Did it react how you visualized?
      • If not, drop the 2nd ball and make the adjustment needed.  
        • You can move the tee or
        • Change ball position or
        • Change clubs or
        • Change your length/speed of swing



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