|Odds are, you'll eventually find yourself faced with a little chip shot where you will skull the ball over the green. (Dio Dipasupil/Eclipse Sportswire)|
As I watch golfers try and master the game of golf, I am amazed how many of them waste eight to 10 shots a round by being poor chippers of the ball around the green.
Regardless of how good a player you are, you'll eventually find yourself faced with a little chip shot where you will skull the ball over the green. Do you remember Kenny Perry's easy chip shot, just off the back fringe, on the 17th hole at Augusta this year? That skulled chip shot cost him the tournament.
When interviewed afterward, Perry remarked how under pressure he has a tendency to grip the club too tightly with his right hand and "stab" at the ball, thus causing a skull. The good news is you can eliminate these shots from your game by using the proper technique.
First, start by choosing the proper club for the shot at hand. This decision is based on the type of lie you have, your distance from the hole and if there are any obstacles between your ball and the hole. If you are 20 feet or longer away from the hole and chipping to a flat green, it's best to use a lower lofted club, such a 7, 8, 9 or pitching wedge.
For the most consistent results, use your putting grip and stroke for this shot. Feel as though you are just putting the ball, as this will allow the loft on the club face to bump the ball onto the green and roll-out to the hole.
Most important, don't try to get the ball into the air, let the loft of the club face do it for you. Just use your putting stroke and it will happen!
If you are closer to the hole than 20 feet or you need to chip the ball over rough, sand or a hill on the green, you need to use one of your wedges - gap, sand or lob. This shot requires a different technique and a little more practice to perfect.
Start by having an upright posture, position the ball in the middle of your stance and place the majority of your weight on your front foot. Next, open your stance and push your hands slightly ahead of the ball. These set-up positions place you in position to use a more up-and-down swing, rather than the sweeping motion used in the first tip.
From this set-up position, simply lift your back shoulder up toward the sky, and let the hands bring the club up with the shoulder (keep your lower body still). On the down swing, just let the back shoulder drop down toward the ball, and let the club head follow through.
If executed properly, the ball should just "pop" into the air. As you practice this up-and-down motion, you will quickly learn how far back to take the club to hit these shots different distances.
The most important thing to remember on this shot is to just let your back shoulder go up and down, don't try to lift the ball into the air (that's what causes a skull).
Finally, if you need extra loft (height) on a shot around the green, use tip No. 2, and simply set your wrist as you take the club away from the ball. This will give you more hand action during the downswing causing the ball to "pop" higher into the air upon impact.
If you use these techniques, practice and, most of all, "always" let the loft of the club face get the ball into the air, you will eliminate the skull shot from your game forever.
August 6, 2009
Les Miller was a longtime Golf Writers of America member who covered golf instruction for several newspapers and golf publications. His many years of experience as a golf professional, director of product development and tour relations for several major golf companies gave him a unique background and ability to help golfers increase their enjoyment of the game.