This article appeared in the September edition of GolfTEC’s Momentum newsletter. To sign up for Momentum, click here!
GolfTEC VP of Instruction
PGA Master Professional
Closing each hole with a solid short game is what makes the difference between shooting a career round and needing a drink at the 19th hole. Many golfers choose to use one club for all of their shots around the green, usually a high-loft club like a lob wedge. But, the best short game play comes from first deciding on the type of shot needed (chip, pitch or flop) and then using the right club to execute that shot. Keep in mind that the lob wedge will require a larger swing due to having the most loft, which makes it the most difficult to control around the green.
The amount of green you have to work with is the first and most important factor that determines the type of shot you have to hit. The amount of green compared to rough or sand you have to carry will also influence club selection. As a general rule, you want to get the ball on the ground and rolling as soon as possible. The next section will provide guidelines for club selection based on the amount of carry and roll you’ll need to get the ball near the hole.
Pick your club: 8, PW, LW
25% Carry (air) – 75% Green (roll) = 8 Iron
50% Carry (air) – 50% Green (roll) = Pitching Wedge
75% Carry (air) – 25% Green (roll) = Lob Wedge
The percentages above are rough estimates that will help you determine the proper club and shot to use. First pick your landing point; preferably a flat spot only a couple feet onto the green. From that landing spot you can then determine how much total carry vs. roll you will need to execute the shot.
Pick your shot: Chip, Pitch, Flop
Keep in mind that Bigger Swings = Bigger Errors and the more lofted club you use the bigger the swing you will need to make. A chip shot will have the least amount of time in the air and the most amount of roll, while a flop is the complete opposite with most of the time in the air and very little roll on the green.
Chip: Place the ball back in your stance (closer to right foot for right handers), choke down on the club, use putting-type stroke with very little wrist action and take a longer swing for longer shots. A golf ball positioned back in your stance will lean the club shaft more forward and reduce the effective loft of the club. Less loft = less carry and more roll.
Pitch: The ball should be more centered in your stance to allow the loft of the club to not be too de-lofted (as in a chip) and you should have about 60% of the weight on your left foot if you’re a right-handed golfer. Take a longer swing for longer shots and have a small amount of wrist hinge as the distance required increases.
Flop: Open the clubface for more loft, open your stance to offset the open face, swing along the bodyline and move the ball position forward, lots of wrist hinge. ALWAYS REMEMBER TO BUMP THE GROUND! The bounce of the club must make firm contact with the dirt instead of just brushing the grass. Bumping the dirt with the bounce while you are contacting the ball will ensure you avoid blading the shot over the green. This is concept is especially important when the clubface is more open.
NO SCOOPING or flipping with the hands. Scooping is when you try to lift the ball into the air using your club as the scoop and it’s a killer in the short game as well as the full swing.
Remember to choose the least amount of loft required. The more loft the larger the swing you have to take and the greater your potential costly errors.
Lob or flop shots are MORE difficult because we begin to add loft to the clubface by opening the clubface. When the face opens up it adds loft, but it also directs the shot right of the target. To offset the face pointing right, aim your body left and swing along your bodyline. Only use a lob shot when you absolutely have to.