Players experiencing trouble with their chips and pitches usually create their difficulty with improper movement of the hands and the clubhead through the ball. The clubhead must contact the ball crisply while moving down and through the ball. This is just the reverse of the ineffectual flip which results when the hands are allowed to slow down and stop, and the wrists break sharply up at impact.
The short chip shot from a few feet off the putting surface should be played with one of the less lofted clubs, such as the five-iron, held low on the grip. You should use a narrow, slightly open stance with the knees relaxed. The clubhead should be taken straight back away from the ball, with the length of the backswing controlling the distance the ball will travel. Since in the full backswing there should be no breaking of the wrists until the hands are hip-high, a chip shot (which requires less backswing) should have very little wrist break either going back or on the follow through.
To achieve the proper action of the hands and clubhead, one of the best methods of practice is to place one ball where you would ordinarily play it—off the left heel—and another ball about four or five inches in front of that ball. Practice until you can strike both balls cleanly with the same swing, and you will find that your execution as well as your confidence in the shot will improve.
MORGAN JONES, California Golf Course, Cincinnati
NEXT WEEK: Frank Stranahan on the finish of the backswing