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Tagged "Short Game"


Hit a High, Soft Pitch Shot from Tight Grass

If you’ve ever played a golf course with tightly mown areas around the greens you know this shot. You’re ball is sitting a few feet below the level of the green, there isn’t any room to get the club under the ball, and you probably don’t have that much green to work with.

Most golfers are scared to death of this shot. So much that they grab the putter. This isn’t a bad play, as you’re chance of really screwing up is low. However, you’re just not going to be able to consistently get the ball as close as you would hitting in in the air.

Despite it being a tough shot, it’s not an impossible one. With a little practice and some know how, you can hit this shot more consistently. Here are a few pointers that will help you play the high, soft pitch from tight grass:

Use more Loft

As the name states, the goal of this shot is to hit it high and soft. In order to achieve this you must use a golf club that has a lot of loft. I would recommend using a 60 degree wedge. If you don’t have a 60 degree then use your 56. If you don’t have a club with at least 56 degrees of loft, get one ASAP. Otherwise this shot will be near impossible.

Open the Clubface

Opening the clubface is often thought of as something you do in the bunker or when trying to hit a high flop shot. Opening the clubface actually serves 2 important purposes. It adds loft to the club, which helps you hit it higher and it adds bounce to the club. Adding bounce is important because it keeps the club from digging, which helps you hit the shot more solid.

The important thing when opening the clubface is to open the face then grip the club. If you grip the first then open the face it will usually return to square at impact. This goes against the purpose in the first place.

Ball Position

Like the clubface, ball position is important because it affects how high and how solid you hit the shot. The further back you position the ball in your stance, the lower it go. Also, the further back you position the ball the more likely your club will dig. Neither of these are good for this shot.

For the best results with this shot, position the ball 2-4 inches ahead of the center of your body. Use a reference point such as the buttons on your shirt or belt buckle and get the ball slightly ahead of that. By doing this the club will have more loft when it hits the ball, and it will have more bounce which prevents the club from digging and makes solid contact easier.

Less Hinge, More Turn

The more you hinge your wrists on your backswing the steeper the club gets. The steeper the club gets the less loft it has and the less bounce it has. Both of these go against what we are trying to achieve on the shot.

Take a few practice swing and feel wrist action and more body turn. It will feel like a neutral swing where you hit down less. This allows you to maintain the loft on the golf club, which produces height, and maintain the bounce on the club, which keeps the club from digging.

Take no Divots

Good players don’t take divots around the greens. If you’re taking a divot it means you’re digging the leading edge of the club into the turf. This makes the margin for error low and solid contact very difficult.

If you’re using less hinge and more turn, you should start to see the divots go away. You’ll actually feel the bottom of the club thump the ground without digging. The great thing about this is that it increases your margin for error. You can actually hit behind the ball and hit a good shot (sounds weird but it works!).

Swing with Enough Speed

The thing to keep in mind playing this shot is that less force is being applied to the ball. You are hitting the shot with more loft and possibly even hitting slightly behind the ball. Both of these reduce how far the ball will travel, so to compensate you must hit the ball harder.

While you have to hit it harder, that doesn’t mean trying to swing the golf club faster. It means making a slightly bigger swing, keeping the same smooth tempo. The extra length of swing will produce enough extra power to move the ball the correct distance.

Don’t fear tight grass. Use these tips to change up your approach and with a little practice you’ll become more consistent with this shot.

Clay Hood is a PGA Golf Professional and Co-Founder/Marketing Director for Precision Pro Golf. Clay can be reached at clay@precisionprogolf.com.

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How to Chip From Thick Rough Around the Green

So you’ve hit a couple good shots a long par four and you’re just a few yards off the green. You’re thinking easy par until you get to the ball and realize there’s a problem: your ball is sitting at the bottom of five inches of lush bluegrass. With your spirits diminished you proceed to hack the shot 30 feet and past the hole and in your upset mental state, three putt for a double bogey. Welcome to the wonderful world of golf! There is good news; it doesn’t have to be this hard. Shots from thick rough around the greens are difficult but if you use the correct technique they can be manageable. Here are four things you can do to have more success when chipping from thick rough:

Judge the Lie

Not all thick lies are created equal. There are different types of grasses and levels of thicknesses. When judging a lie the things you are looking for are how thick is the grass, how far down in the grass is the ball sitting, and what’s behind the ball. The thicker the grass the more force will be required to extract the ball. A ball sitting at the bottom of the rough will require a steeper swing than a ball sitting up in the rough. If there is a thick clump of grass behind the ball, you’ll have to hit the ball harder than a cleaner lie. A great way to judge the lie is to place your club a few inches behind the ball (not close enough to move the ball). Feel how thick the grass behind the ball is, then take a few practice swings near the ball to feel the resistance of the grass. Once you have a good idea of the lie you can better judge the shot.

Use More Loft

Hitting good chip shots out of thick grass requires clubhead speed and loft. Because of this, using a lower lofted club such as an seven iron doesn’t work very well. A lower lofted club usually results in shots that come out left, too fast, or even don’t come out of the grass at all. If the lie is decent (ie: sitting up in the grass) an eight or nine iron will work. Otherwise stick to a sand wedge or something similar. We will make a few adjustments in the setup and swing that will allow you to hit the ball lower with this club.

Setup for Success

The goal of the swing when chipping from thick rough is to drive the clubhead down and through the grass. In order to do this successfully there a few changes we need to make with the setup. The first change is to open the face. The reason is that the thick rough will slow down the momentum of the clubhead. When that happens the clubface closes making it easy to hit easy to hit the ball low and left. Slightly opening the face accounts for the clubface closing at impact. After opening the clubface make your grip pressure firmer than normal. This will also help prevent the clubface from closing through impact. The last two setup adjustments are to position the golf ball 2-3 inches back of the center of your stance and to put more weight than normal on your front foot (ie: 70%). Both of these things aid in steepening the swing, which helps to drive to golf club down and through the thick grass.

Steepen the Swing

So you’ve judged the lie, picked the correct club, and adjusted your setup. Now it’s time to hit the shot. The thing to remember when chipping from thick rough is that the swing needs to be steep. It has has to come in at an angle so that it hits the least amount of grass possible before hitting the ball. If you “pick” or “scoop” your shots around the green, playing from long grass will be next to impossible without making adjustments. As you start the backswing feel your wrists hinging upwards so the golf club works up and away from you. If your club goes inside or behind you on the backswing, you’re going to catch too much grass on the downswing. Take a few practice swings and get the feel for the wrist hinge and the club working up. Once you’ve got a feel for the backswing you can start to work on the bottom of the swing. At impact you want to feel the clubhead get down in the grass. It’s like a chopping motion with the clubhead working up and then abruptly down. You should feel the bottom of the golf club contacting the ground. If you try to “scoop” this shot you won’t have much success. Lastly there is not much follow through with this shot. Between the golf club hitting the thick grass and the golf club contacting the ground, a lot of the club’s momentum will be lost. You should not try to slow the swing down to shorten the follow through. Just let it happen naturally. The motion of leading with the hands, the grass, and the ground will do this for you. To summarize, when chipping from thick rough you need to: judge the lie, use a club with more loft, setup for a steeper swing, and play the shot with a steep motion down into the grass. If you do this you will have more success and get more shots up and down.

Clay Hood is a PGA Golf Professional and Co-Founder/Marketing Director for Precision Pro Golf. Clay can be reached at clay@precisionprogolf.com.

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Play Better Golf by Hitting Better Chip Shots

  Tell me if this sounds familiar. You hit a great drive down the middle of the fairway and nice approach shot just off the edge of the green. You then proceed to mishit the chip and leave yourself a 10 footer for par that you miss. Meanwhile your buddy hits it in the trees off the tee, scrapes his second shot out, and then gets up and down from 40 yards for par beating you on the hole. Makes you want to pull your hair out right? The good news is that it doesn’t have to be like this. With a few simple adjustments you can start hitting more solid chip shots that end up closer to the hole and give you a better chance to save par. Here are 3 easy ways to improve your chip shots:

Forward at Setup

  To hit a chip shot solid you need to hit the golf ball, then the ground. In order to achieve this you must strike the ball at or before the bottom of the swing. Getting your weight and golf club leaning slightly forward at the setup are excellent ways to improve contact. At the setup feel 60% of your weight on the forward foot. It will feel as though back shoulder is higher than your front shoulder. This sets your swing into a steeper position allowing for a solid hit. Now the key is to keep the weight there during the swing. Next get the shaft leaning slightly toward the target. A good reference point is to have the grip of the club even with the middle of your forward thigh. This along with leaning forward add just enough steepness to allow for a solid hit on the golf ball.

Balance and Tempo

  If you watch a good chipper you’ll see that their backswing and follow through are similar sizes. You see a lot of golfers who struggle with chipping making big backswings with little follow through or the opposite, making a small backswing and over accelerating into the ball. A balanced chip shot swing leads to good tempo and makes it easier to deliver the clubface solidly on the back of the ball. It also reduces the desire to “hit” the ball when chipping. Good chippers make a smooth balanced swing and let the ball get in the way. Make some practice strokes with your chipping club and feel the club moving back and forth in nice balanced and smooth motion. Do this without a ball until you get the feeling then add the golf ball. The goal with the ball is the maintain that same balance and tempo. This will lead to solid shots and better distance control.

Better Cub Selection

  Many golfers struggle to pick the correct club for chip shots. They use too much loft which makes it tougher to make solid contact, brings backspin into play, and makes judging the roll difficult. Or they use too little loft which makes it difficult to land the ball on the green and easy to hit the shot too hard. The goal of a chip shot should be to land the ball just on the green and let it roll to the hole. Rolling a ball provides better distance control than carrying it in the air. The ball should be landed on the green though as it provides the best surface and most consistent bounce. Focus your club selection on the PW, 9, and 8 irons (keep the sand and lob wedges in the bag for shots that require more loft to land the shot on the edge of the green). Using a combination of these 3 clubs for chipping will provide a good balance of height and roll. It will also reduce your choices simplifying the club selection process. So stop throwing away shots around the green. Use the 3 chipping tips the next time you practice or play and you’ll see more up and downs and less frustration with your chip shots.  

Clay Hood is a PGA Golf Professional and Co-Founder/Marketing Director for Precision Pro Golf. Clay can be reached at clay@precisionprogolf.com.

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Improve Your Practice for Golf Chip Shots

  You’ve probably seen this guy on the practice green. He’s practicing his chipping and has 10-20 balls around the same hole. The more balls he hits the more the balls keep piling up. Now on the one hand, it’s good that he is practicing his short game. But on the other, more practical hand, he is not getting as much out of his practice as he should be. Here are 3 things you should be doing when practicing your short game that will make a difference on the golf course:

Pay Attention to Aim

  This should be a given, however most golfers don’t think twice about it when practicing. Aim is important in chipping for this reason: the ball will tend to go where your clubface is aimed. If the clubface is aimed left or right you'll have to make some kind of manipulating move in the swing. When practicing chipping put a club or alignment stick down on the ground. You can then place the ball next to the stick and get a good idea of what square is. Be sure to take the time to align the stick correctly to the target or this will be counterproductive. Hit 3-4 shots with the stick and then move to another shot. By practicing like this you will train your eyes to aim correctly and will find it much easier to take it to the course.

Rotate Around the Green for Different Shots

  On any given golf course you are going to face uphill, downhill, and side hill chip shots from a variety of different lies. A lot of golfers struggle with awkward shots because they’ve never quite seen or practiced a shot like the one they have. Better players have practiced almost all the shots. When you practice chipping think of the practice green as a clock and hit shots from at least 4 different spots on the clock. The more time you have the more locations you should chip from. Grad 4-5 balls and hit shots to different hole locations from the different spots. This way you’ll never hit the same shot twice. Another good thing about moving around the clock are the different grass conditions you may encounter. Hopefully you’re practice green has a few different lengths of grass as this will help you on the golf course.

Focus on Where the Ball Lands

  This is one of the biggest things medium handicap golfers overlook when chipping and pitching. They only focus on the ball and the hole and aren’t as concerned with how it gets there. Good chippers are always focused on where the ball lands. A good way to practice this is by laying a small towel on the green or picking a spot of visible grass. You can then hit shots without aiming for a hole. Your only focus should be flying the ball on the spot. You’ll quickly learn how hard you need to hit a shot to fly it certain distance. Once you become better at this on the practice green it will become easier to do on the golf course. You’ll find yourself picking and hitting your spots more regularly which will result in more up and downs.

It’s Not a Race

  Tiger Woods didn’t become the best player in the world because he hit the most balls. He did it because he practiced more efficient. There are no awards for the player who hits the most shots during a practice session. Basically this means take your time when you practice. Setup to each shot, watch where the balls ends up, pick up your balls, move around the green, and take a few breaks to keep your back fresh. Use these tips when you practice and you’ll see much better results on the golf course.  

Clay Hood is a PGA Golf Professional and Co-Founder/Marketing Director for Precision Pro Golf. Clay can be reached at clay@precisionprogolf.com.

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Want to Stop Chunking Chip Shots? Here’s How

  Does this sound familiar? After 2 good shots a par 5 you’re next to the green and looking good to make birdie. You then proceed to chunk your next shot and make bogey. So frustrating! It’s easy to have your golf game undone by poor shots around the green and in my opinion there is nothing worse than hitting a shot fat. In an effort to eliminate this let’s look at a few reasons you hit behind the ball and how to correct them.

Ball is too far back in your stance

  This is a common issue with middle handicap golfers and it usually arises from a misconception. Watching golf on TV we often hear commentators say that a player is playing a chip shot off their back foot. We then watch the player and it looks like the ball is off their back foot. It seems straightforward but is misleading for 2 reasons: The first is that the camera angle is not always good on TV. If the camera is not positioned directly facing the golfer, you’ll get a skewed perspective of where the ball is positioned. The second and most important reason is this. Imagine a player setup to a chip shot with a square stance and the ball positioned in the middle of his feet. Now imagine that player slightly opening his stance by turning his feet to the left (95% of good players do this). Without moving his body or ball (just the alignment of his feet) the golf ball now appears to be positioned even with his back foot. What happens now is middle handicap golfers take this “back foot” info and play their ball way back in their stance. This results in a very steep swing, the player chopping down on the ball, very low shots, and often times the leading edge hitting the ground before the ball. Even if you do make solid contact you will feel the club dig into the ground. A better way to think about ball position is in relation to your body. Use a reference point such as the zipper or belt buckle. This provides a center point of the body that will not move when you change your foot position. When you setup for a chip shot position the ball even with the zipper or belt buckle. By positioning the golf ball in the center of the body you will make contact slightly on the downswing and the club will be less inclined to dig. This leads to more consistent contact and better control.

Trying to hit down too much

  As golfers we’ve heard it over and over again: you have to hit down on the ball. This phrase on its own is not a bad thing as good chippers and pitchers do hit down on the golf ball. The place where this causes trouble for most golfers is they don’t know exactly what it means or they overdo it. When good golfers hit a chip or pitch shot they feel the bottom of their golf club scrape or thump the ground. You will rarely see a good player take a divot or dig their club into the ground on short shots. However, many middle handicap golfers, in an effort to “hit down” on the ball, dig their club into the ground. When this happens the margin for error is very low. Contact has to be almost perfect. If the leading edge of the club hits just behind the ball it will dig and shot will be chucked. A better way is to feel the bottom of the club thumping the ground. The goal is avoid taking a divot. If you do this and start feeling the ground your margin for error will be much higher. If fact, if you keep the club from digging you can hit slightly behind the ball and still hit a good shot. To recap, if you want to put an end to chunked short shots you have to put an end to digging. Make sure your ball position is centered and stop trying to hit down so much. You’ll see better results around the greens.  

Clay Hood is a PGA Golf Professional and Co-Founder/Marketing Director for Precision Pro Golf. Clay can be reached at clay@precisionprogolf.com.

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