Golf tips: Practice grip, aim, set-up and posture for chips, pitches

By: Shawn Kelly
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There are many shots in golf that are made with less than full swings. They’re known as chips and pitches. A chipping swing is a swing that doesn’t move past your hips and I call it my “pocket to pocket swing.” A pitch shot is made with any swing past your hips but less than full. To shoot low numbers, the one skill you must have is the ability to control the distance of the ball within 100 yards to the hole. I utilize three swing lengths — a quarter swing, a half swing and a full swing. Also, I carry three wedges, with lofts of 49, 54 and 59 degrees. These three clubs in combination with three different swing lengths give me many options to control distances of shots anywhere within 125 yards of the green. You’ll need to figure out what length swings you need with which lofts of your wedges to control the ball at various distances for your game. From past tips we’ve said that the length of the back swing is controlled by the width of your stance; the narrower the stance, the shorter distance and the wider the stance, the longer the distance. Whatever your distance combinations are, you’ll need to ingrain them and practice these shots. If you need help determining what combination of lofts and swing lengths to use your favorite, good looking PGA pro can quickly guide you through the process. The fundamentals that will help you conquer these shots are: • Grip – As with any other golf shot, allowing the wrist to hinge and feeling the balance of a square clubface. Grip pressure is a big key, so keep it light at the start. • Aim – Clubface is square the target line, and body is slightly open to that line. This allows the body to help turn through since you are not making a full back swing. • Set-up – The ball position should be at the bottom of the swing arc and is determined by taking a couple of practice swings. Where the club head hits the ground is where the ball had better be. • Posture is tall, with the chin and chest up and the head is never down. Your body weight should be slightly towards the forward foot at the start of the back swing to help with your angle of attack. How to practice: Practice is an absolute must to be able to get a feel for your distances. I like to practice shots at 10, 25, 50, 75 and 100 yards. Learning to control your incremental distances will allow you to be more consistent with your short game. If you would rather use 10, 20, 40, 60 and 80 as your distances, that’s great. It usually depends what lofts your wedges are set to, to realize what distances you get. Pace off those distances or use the distances given at the range or course to practice. I always use the first half of every bucket that I hit to work on these distances. Keep hitting shots to these distances until you can land the ball where you want by controlling how far back to swing and which club to use. The more you practice these shots the lower your scores will go!