‘Building your feel and trusting your instincts will help you chip it closer’ 1 The lie often dictates the shot you can play 2 Keep it simple to get it close every time 3 Play with bounce, loft and ball position 4 It’s ok to look silly when you practise 5
The grass is very important because certain shots are easier in certain grass. For example, you need to have some clubhead speed from fluffy rough, so you also need loft to prevent the ball going too far. You’ll have to swing relatively hard and it will produce a soft flight and landing. On the other hand, if you’re playing off fairways and tight lies you can play the ball more forward in your stance and with less loft because you don’t have to worry about the grass slowing the clubhead or getting trapped between the ball and face. You can swing softer, land it shorter with a lower trajectory and let it release more. I’m always trying to hit the percentage shot. It doesn’t have to be flashy or fancy – it has to be efficient. I’m looking for the easiest shot to hit well – that’s generally the lower shot. There’s no right or wrong way. You might have a unique style or grip but have fun with it. The most important thing is how close you get the ball to the hole – not how you look doing it. Amateurs should practise getting a feel for the bounce on the sole of the club on the ground. If you start getting that feel of the bounce hitting the ground and getting out of it without digging, then you can start experimenting with a higher trajectory and develop different shots. I learned it by playing around and trying different things. What happens if I lean the shaft different ways? If I lean it too far forwards the club starts to dig, but if I get the handle a little bit back I feel the bounce is more exposed. Play around with the ball position too as this will change your attack angle – the further back it is the steeper the clubhead will be into the ball. You need time playing around the chipping green. It’s important not to be embarrassed when you practise. People tend to practise what they’re good at because they look good and it makes them feel good. Out on tour, you see people practise what they’re struggling with and it doesn’t matter if you look stupid while you practise as long as it’s getting better on the course. Some guys like Shane Lowry only use one club but I tend to use three – my 60° and 56° wedges and an 8-iron if I want to get it rolling. It’s important to practise with them all so you have a feel for the ball speed and trajectory for each club because it can change a lot, especially if you chip with irons too. Amateurs really want to get the elevation so instinctively they try to create it by leaning back. This makes you hit the ground before the ball so you either hit it fat if the club digs or thin if the club bounces into the back of the ball. The club has to move down to get the ball up. The harder you hit down into it, the higher it’s going to launch upwards. I’m not so much into picking one spot to land the ball because I feel a kind of restriction when I do that. I take the whole shot in, rather than focusing on one spot. I like it when Ben Crenshaw and Brad Faxon talk about putting and they see it like a motorway that bends to the hole. That’s the approach I take to chipping. It gives me more freedom knowing that if I hit it firm I can go straighter or if I go a little softer it will bend more. I’m very instinctive with distance control. Once I’ve selected the shot and I stand over the ball I try to go unconscious and let my natural feel and instincts take over. You have to practise a lot to be able to do this so it can be difficult for amateurs. I know if I have a long break from golf that my chipping feels a lot different when I play again. My eyes see something but it’s not translated into my body – like I’m not calibrated. But I still think a lot of amateurs would benefit from trusting their eyes more.