In his latest instruction series, GRANT HEPBURN highlights some of the most effective golfing drills ever devised and explains why they can help you become a better player.
One of the key differences between a medium handicapper and a low handicapper is their ability around the greens. A low-handicap golfer is someone who can knock it reasonably close from most places around the green, giving themselves a good chance of saving par or, at worst, making bogey.
For many high handicappers, these little chip shots around the green can be a major source of frustration, because they rely as much on feel as they do on technique. Yet a good basic technique will help you get better feel and will improve your confidence on these delicate shots.
This month’s tip is designed to teach amateurs that it is the loft on their clubface that will get the ball into the air and not the action of trying to scoop up, which I see so often. It may seem counter-intuitive that one needs to trap the ball with a descending blow to get the ball airborne and spinning, but that’s exactly what the tip will demonstrate.
Getting it wrong
In this sequence, I demonstrate the common amateur mistake of swinging the club low in the backswing and up in the throughswing, as I try to scoop the ball up into the air.
Unfortunately, the ball very often won’t pop up in the air as the tendency is to hit it thin or fat. If I am able to get it airborne, I will still struggle to impart spin on the ball, which is what a lot of amateurs are seeking as they look to control their shots around the greens.
Set up as you normally would for a chip shot, with your hands slightly ahead of the ball, your weight on your left side (for right-handed golfers) and the ball positioned slightly back in your stance. Now place a club (or an old shaft or stick) in line with your right foot, positioned a few inches behind the ball. The idea is to miss the shaft as you swing, which may mean you need to fight your instincts and create a steeper backswing, a descending blow into the back of the ball and a shallower followthrough.
When I take the club back, I allow for a small amount of wrist action, as it allows my wrists to uncock, so that I can accelerate into the ball. Any kind of deceleration on these shots can be an absolute killer.
At impact, I trap the ball and trust the loft of the club to get it into the air. There is no need to try to scoop the ball: instead I hit down on the ball and release the club through impact.
It is important to not worry too much about the results of the shot when you first try this drill, but rather to focus on the slightly steeper swing and hitting into the back of the ball cleanly, as this will help you learn this good habit.
– Hepburn has been a regular face in Compleat Golfer for more than a decade. His CV includes time coaching on the European and PGA Tours, and an impressive list of top amateurs and pros. He is the CEO of Golf RSA and the South African Golf Development Board. Follow him on Twitter @granthepburn.
– This article first appeared in the August 2022 issue of Compleat Golfer magazine. Subscribe here!