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Golf tips: Chipping and pitching techniques
You have heard the saying "drive for show, putt for dough." I personally think you can include chipping and pitching into that mentality as well.
For professional golfers 50 percent of their shots are on or around the green. For mid-handicappers the number is much higher—50-60 percent of the shots a 15 handicapper, like me, take is inside 50 yards.
When I started playing 20 years ago I hit the driving range with a full bucket of balls and used the driver for half the bucket. The other half was divided between various other clubs. I would then go to the putting green with three balls and practice putting for about 10 minutes. I rarely ever chipped and I never practiced hitting shots inside 50 yards on the range. Those were the shots I really needed the most work on.
However, when Big Dan is in the space next to you bombing his driver 300+ yards it is hard to pull out the sand wedge and work on distance control from 25-50 yards.
To truly improve your game you have to work on the less glamorous things like chipping, pitching and putting. Today I want to focus on just the chipping and pitching. If you can get it close then it will make putting much easier.
A chip is played when you are no more than 2 or 3 yards off the green and the grass is too high to putt. The absolute best way to play a chip is just like a putt. The difference being the club you use. The key is less air and to get the ball on the green quickly and rolling like a putt. You can use anything from a 3-wood to hybrid to sand wedge. It all depends on the length of grass and the lie. A common club is the 7-iron.
Use the same motion as you would putting. You target landing spot is the fringe or just on the green and let the ball run to the hole. Again, the club you use depends on lie and also how far away you are from the green. If you are 5 yards from the hole with 4 yards of green then a PW or SW would be the best option. If you are 40 feet away with 35 feet of green then use a 7-iron or hybrid. The ball position should be toward the rear foot. Keep your hands slightly in front of the club. Use a smooth stroke and hit through the ball, do not decelerate.
Now if you are playing a course with high, thick grass around the green then you will play a SW and play a flop shot or bunker shot. These shots are very hard and are definitely an advanced skill level shot. So practice, practice, practice.
Just as with putting, your desired result is to put the ball in the hole but if you miss try to be within 18 inches to give you an easy putt.
Pitching is something that takes a lot of practice but all the time and effort you put into pitching will pay off in big ways. Pitches are a shot played from 50 yards and in. The goal is to get the ball within 3 feet of the cup. One of the biggest mistakes players make is they are aiming at the flag and going for it. The proper way to play the pitch is to pitch the ball onto the first third of the green and let the ball roll the other two thirds.
So you first identify the first third of the green, then you read the roll to the hole. Pick your landing spot and fire away. Pitches are almost always played with a sand wedge. The exception would be a lob wedge. This ensures you get enough loft and spin to control the shot. Next time you go to the range try hitting the first third of your bucket with the driver and irons and the other 2/3 of the balls pitching. Then go to the putting green and practice chipping with various irons to get a feel for the chipping game.
I promise you that if you spend 60 percent of your practice time hitting the shots you are going to hit 60 percent of the time on the course you will lower your score and have much more fun.
See you on the course!
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