By WEBB HEINTZELMAN
Golf is a game of skill and experience. The more we play and practice, the better we become. This is especially true around the green. Having the correct approach when you find your ball on the fringe or in the greenside rough is critical to success.
CHIPPING: a low-running shot played with a lob wedge through 7 iron or hybrid; no wrist action; 1/3 carry and 2/3 roll; contact with the ball first, then the ground; ball position is back in the stance; weight’s on the front foot.
PITCHING: a higher-and softer-landing-shot played with a lob wedge through pw; wrist action; 2/3 carry and 1/3 roll; contact with the ball first, then the ground; ball position is in the center; weight’s on the front foot.
IN THE ROUGH, THINGS TO CONSIDER:
- How is the ball sitting in the grass? If it’s sitting up, you can chip or pitch. If the ball’s sitting halfway down, pitch. If the ball is buried, pitch.
- If the rough is wet or thick, the ball will come out slow.
- If the rough is dry or thin, the ball will come out normal.
- If the grass is growing toward you, the ball will come out slow. If the grass is growing away from you, the ball will come out fast.
ON THE FRINGE OR CLOSELY-MOWED FAIRWAY WITHIN 5 YARDS OF THE GREEN, THINGS TO CONSIDER:
- What is the intended path like?
- If the intended path includes debris, divot or sprinkler heads, you can either chip or pitch.
- If the ground is wet or dewy, the ball will travel slowly if played on the ground; you can either chip or pitch.
- If the grass is growing toward you, the ball will hop if played on the ground; you can either chip or pitch.
- Always choose the lowest-risk shot: first choice, putter; second choice, chip; third choice, pitch.
WHEN YOU APPROACH THE BALL GO THROUGH THIS CHECKLIST:
- Can I land it on the green and stop it near the hole?
- Is the proper shot a chip, pitch or putt?
- What club should I use?
- Where should I land the ball?
- How fast is the ball going to roll?
- How much break do I need to play?
DEVELOPING A GOOD PRACTICE ROUTINE
Bring your golf bag and six balls to the short-game area at your course. If there isn’t such an area, visit the course at a slow time.
Next, drop the balls in the rough (play the ball as it lies) and choose a target pin on the green. Now go through the above checklist for each of the six balls. Keep a record of how close to the pin each ball finishes. Repeat this routine until you’ve hit 30 shots, changing the target pin for each round of six balls. (You can place a tee in the ground as your target.)
OK, now do the same from the fringe to 5 yards off the green. Again, keep a record of how close each ball comes to the pin. Repeat, until you’ve hit 30 shots, changing the target pin for each round of six balls.
PRE-SHOT ROUTINE ON THE COURSE:
As you go through your checklist in evaluating the shot at hand, consider the following:
- Taking a few practice swings is very beneficial, as it will help you determine the thickness and moisture of the grass, any slopes that may alter your stance, and help you gain a feel for the shot.
- Next, walk onto the green to determine the firmness and confirm any slope. With all the information calculated, choose your club, visualize your shot and stay committed.
RECIPE FOR SUCCESS:
When practicing your short game, spend 50 percent of your time around the green and 50 percent of your time on the green.
When practicing putting, spend 80 percent of your time inside 6 feet and 20 percent of your time outside 20 feet. This will help you become a great short putter and a great lag putter.
Everyone is capable of improving and becoming a better golfer. A good short game will allow you to enjoy the game more and lower your scores. See you around the green.
Webb Heintzelman is a former member of the PGA Tour and a PGA professional since 1988. He is the Director of Instruction at The Golf Club at Turner Hill in Ipswich. He teaches both private and semi-private lessons for members and nonmembers. His customized golf schools focus on the short game. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 978-821-9168 or check out the videos and tips on his Facebook page at Webb Heintzelman Golf Instructor PGA.