Fringe benefits: Five questions to ask when you're on the apron
Whether it's through the common error of under clubbing or simply a sight mishit, the club golfer often ends up short of the putting surface. Typically that means a chip up the green from the apron.
It always seems like a simple shot, but without some strategy in place and a clear picture of how you need the shot to work, you can still come a cropper. Instead, base your approach on these five questions in order to give yourself a makeable putt more often than not.
Fault: Failure to get up and down when coming up short
Fix: Plan and visualise the shot through five key questions
This tip comes from TG Top 50 coach Chris Ryan, who also is our main golf club reviewer for Top Gear
Can I putt it?
As we see every year at the Open, even the best players putt the ball when they can. It gives far more predictability than using a lofted face that applies spin. If the fringe is short and dry the putt may be on, but greener areas and longer grass indicate soft wet areas, created by sprinkler heads. If in any doubt, use the least loft possible that carries the ball to the green without it going too far.
'How is the ball lying?'
The ball usually sits up nicely on the apron, but these are high traffic areas and you can get a poor lie. Bad lies need a more downward angle of attack, meaning the ball comes out lower and hotter. You can allow for that either by taking a more lofted club, or by changing your picture of the shot – bringing the ball's landing point closer to you and allowing for more run.
'Where do I want the ball's first bounce'
The first bounce of the ball massively influences where it ends up, so if you can't putt it, plan the shot around pitching the ball onto a firm and level area that gives predictability to the shot. Nine times out of 10 that means carrying the ball to the green. It's tempting to land it in the fringe, but these areas aren't prepared like modern greens and can give erratic bounces.
What slopes should I take in to account?
The ideal chip and run sees a low trajectory, the ball landing on the front portion of the green before rolling out like a putt. Because of this, you should read the breaks almost as if it was a putt. Start by identifying the high point around the green; it'll give you a feel for the slopes; then, as part of your visualisation, picture how the ball would need to run down those slopes to get close.
How will conditions affect the shot?
It's tempting to think wind won't affect a chip-and-run, but it can have more influence than you expect. Take special care to allow for crosswinds, as they can set the ball running up the wrong track almost off the club face. Wet conditions tend to mean less friction between the face and ball, limiting spin. The ball will typically run out further, although of course a wet green is likely to be slower.