Do you want to shoot lower scores? Of course you do, everybody does. A better short game is probably one of the easiest ways to lower your scores. Proper technique with the short game includes keeping a quiet lower body and using it as a pivot point to rotate your upper body.
Here is a quick recap of the 2 basic shot types: the chip and the pitch from Tiger Woods “How I play Golf” as well as my experience mixed in:
- Chip is good for getting the ball on the green and rolling when you have green to work with.
- The chip is played with a ball position from back of center all the way to the back foot (depending on preference) with a narrow stance pointed slightly open. Back foot for right handed golfer is the right foot.
- Grip the club lightly, like a putter and you can choke down slightly for control.
- Hands are set slightly ahead of ball with your body leaning towards the target to promote a downward blow.
- The swing is mainly with the shoulders and not so much wrist action. You want the left wrist to be flat at impact and not cupped or flipped over. The lower body is still.
- I like to use a more popping stroke but not a stabbing stroke but this is preference.
- You can vary the height and amount of roll by club selection. 56 degree wedge is the highest loft you want and you can use all the way down to a 7 or 6 iron. I even use the same technique with a hybrid or 3-wood if I have to go through some fringe but want the ball very close to the ground.
- Pitch is not necessarily for a longer shot than the chip, but requires more hand and arm action and more speed to get the ball in the air.
- The pitch is played with a more lofted club-56 or 60 degree with an open stance wider than the chip.
- You can open the club face as well with the ball position around the center of your stance.
- At set-up the club should be perpendicular to the ground instead of bent forward like the chip. At impact you want to feel the club should return to the same starting position.
- The swing should be more controlled and more fluid than the chip, the goal is to slide the club under the ball.
- More wrist and arms can be used than the chip. The lower body can be used a little too.
For more information on the differences between the 2 shots, search Youtube for chipping and pitching instruction or ask your local teaching professional. Here is a basic article from Todd Anderson from Sea Island Georgia.
From observation of many amateurs I see a lack of the fundamentals. Many amateurs do not know what shot to play around the greens and end up playing the same shot for every situation. The shot looks like a combination of the chip and pitch. Two common examples I see are a chipping technique with lob wedge or a pitching technique with a PW or 9-iron. Another common mistake I see is using the long game sequencing for the short game. In the long game, the hips should lead the downswing followed by the torso, arms and lastly hands and club. This is what is called the 3-D kinematic sequence. However for the short game, this sequencing is not recommended.
With many golfers, I see too much use of the lower body when chipping. This can lead to inconsistencies with contact, aim and judgment of speed. When reading this you are thinking to yourself, I have no idea the difference between a chip and a pitch, or are unsure which one to use in certain situations, you need some advice from a teaching professional, which I am not!
However, if you understand the fundamentals, I can help give your body the best chance to have a consistent short game. Most amateurs I have seen and have screened with the TPI screen have 2 basic flaws in their body which may be preventing them from keeping a still lower body. One being a lack of thoracic spine mobility and the other is a lack of separation between the upper and lower body.
1. Amateurs lack thoracic spine mobility. Even if most golfers could keep their lower body still, they lack the thoracic spine mobility needed to execute a sound chip or pitch. According to TPI’s research over 60% of amateurs have poor movement in their thoracic spine. For golfers I believe 50 degrees of T-spine rotation is adequate with 45 degrees being the minimum.
- How to test yourself
- My favorite exercises to improve thoracic spine mobility
- Once you’ve mastered those try these more advanced. Start these without resistance and once you have practiced the pattern, you can add resistance bands or tubing
On a side note, two problems with having poor T-spine mobility is shoulder injuries and low back pain. If you are unable to turn properly to the right on the backswing and to the left on the downswing, this places in necessary stress on the shoulder joint. You may not notice the effects immediately as well, shoulder pain might take years to develop. This applies to real life as well as golf too. If you turn to reach for something day after day and are unable to move through your thoracic spine, this will place excess stress on your shoulder. For low back pain, if you are swinging around 300 times per round, trying to get a full shoulder turn every time, and you do not possess enough T-spine mobility, something has to give. That something is your low back.
2. Most golfers are unable to create a separation between their upper and lower body. Considered probably the 2nd most important part in the swing-body relationship to playing good golf. (Number 1 is control of the pelvis or being able to pelvic tilt properly. See my other blog on pelvic tilt). In the full golf swing, creating a separation between the upper and lower body is very important on the back swing in order to store potential energy and then being able to transfer it on the downswing to kinetic energy. In the short game, creating separation is the definition of proper technique for chipping. The goal is to create a stable base with freely swinging arms and shoulders.
- How to assess whether you can separate your upper from your lower body
- Exercises to improve upper/lower separation
- More advanced exercises
If you do these exercises a few times a week, you will see a difference in no time!
Visit www.mytpi.com to find a TPI teaching professional, medical or fitness professional near you for more information.
Practice does not make perfect, but perfect practice makes perfect!