Strike pure chip shots with Darren Clarke

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Learn to use your shoulders correctly and you will add quality and consistency to your longer chip shots.

Before the groove rule change at the start of 2010, you would often see us pros playing the so-called hop-and-stop from 30 or 40 yards; the ball would take one big bounce before settling rapidly on the second – in theory, by the pin. But with the new, V-shaped grooves, this shot is slightly different.

The ball still checks on the second bounce, but then releases a little and runs out. This is actually no bad thing. Like most pros, I only spin the ball when I have to; most of the time it’s actually easier to get the ball consistently close when it is rolling out.

The new grooves allow us to play a longer chip shot where the ball settles quickly, but still gets back to the pin – and this is the shot I’m going to show you now.

SET UP TO HIT DOWN

The tour pro plays all pitch shots from high to low. That’s because a slight downward angle of attack allows us to get as much contact between the ball and the grooves as we can; if you can get the ball right into the grooves of the clubface, you will create better contact and more control.

I play the ball a little bit further back in my stance, just behind the shirt buttons. This naturally creates a slight forward shaft lean, which promotes that downward strike. Note that this address position relationship between hands, club and ball presets that descending angle of attack; all you have to do during the swing is preserve it.

BACKSWING

With the club in my hands, I am simply looking to repeat the turning feeling I had with the club across my shoulders on the previous page. My forearms rotate naturally with the turning motion, in turn rotating the clubface so its toe points skywards.

This keeps the loft on the face and allows us to make use of the wedge’s bounce. Many amateurs are afraid of loft, but if you get your set-up angles right and hit down through the ball, there’s no need to be.

THROUGHSWING

The shot I’m playing here is relatively short, about 30 yards, yet my shoulders have kept turning to the point where my chest is facing the target.

The fact my hands and arms are still in front of my body shows there has been little or no independent arm action; I’ve hit the ball not just with my hands and arms, but also with a turn of the shoulders and chest. This gives me consistency of rhythm, and of angle of attack.

AVOID THIS AT ALL COSTS

On chip shots, you never want to see the clubhead rising through the ball. It’s disaster, leading to both duffs and thins.

Unfortunately, many amateurs do exactly this in trying to help the ball up; it’s an action that goes hand-in-hand with the up-and-down shoulder action we’ve already looked at.

Instead, make the set-up changes we talked about, try to take a divot after the ball and trust the loft on the clubface; after all, your wedges have the most loft of any clubs in the bag.

TWO WAYS TO MAKE YOUR CHIPPING MORE EFFECTIVE

Gain a feel for how rhythm affects spin

 

On any short game shot where I want to apply more backspin, I’ll hit the ball just a little bit more crisply with a shorter, more compact action.

A brisk rhythm helps add spin. Conversely, if I want the ball to run out more I will hit it softer, perhaps with a slightly longer swing.

The angles and technique stay the same, though. Find a practice green and experiment with adding or removing spin through rhythm alone; it’s good fun, and great for your game.

Add a soft cut

 

I like to feel I am playing chip shots with an element of cutspin, to help keep control of the ball and stop it getting away from me.

The spin does not come from hitting across the ball from out to in – the turnturn nature of this chipping technique sets up an in-toin swing path – but from standing slightly open. I’m lined up a little left, with the clubface aiming at the hole.

From here it’s a simple matter of making my normal action and just holding the wrist angle through impact to keep the clubface a hair open to the club’s slightly left path.