If you are like most weekend golfers, you probably need to practice a lot more than you do. Practice is a necessary evil for mastering any skill, and the more you practice the better you get. But the reality is that other than a few hurriedly hit putts before your ‘tee time’, you probably don’t get around to practicing much.
During the round, you have your share of mis-hits and duffs, but the shots that hurt the most are the flubbed chip shots when you are close to the green. It may have taken two or three decent shots to get near the green – and then everything is thrown away when you top your chip way past the pin, or hit the ground an inch behind the ball.
Most chips go awry because you either poke at the ball in a fast jerky motion, or, take a bigger backswing than necessary and then decelerate on the downswing. I know the horrible feeling. I’ve done it enough times! But I learned to cure the lack of chipping feel from a caddie, and I’ll let you in on this little secret.
The next time you have chipping problems, try this little drill. Go to the practice green. Stand just outside the green with both feet together and pointing towards a target hole on the green about 15-20 feet away. Bend forward slightly and toss golf balls with your right (or left) hand to get the balls close to the target hole.
After just a couple of tosses, you should be able to get the balls to stop within a couple of feet of the hole. Note your ball tossing motion. It is unlikely to be a fast, jerky motion. Nor will you be taking your hand back a whole lot before tossing the ball. The natural motion will be a slow, short backswing and then a slightly accelerated follow through.
Once you get the balls to roll close enough to the hole for an easy tap-in putt, pick up your favourite chipping club – the 8 or 9 or PW – and try to recreate the smooth ball-tossing motion with a few practice swings. Then start to hit a few chips with that same smooth motion.
A few chips may get mis-hit at first, but you will gradually get the idea that around the greens you need to have a feeling of ‘calm, easy and smooth’ motion with your chipping club. Please remember that smooth doesn’t mean soft. The ball needs to be hit crisply for it to hold its line and stop near the hole with backspin.
(More on hitting crisp chip shots in a future post.)