By Paul Phillips
Do you struggle around the greens with consistent contact?
Nothing is more frustrating than hitting what looks like a very simple pitch shot behind the ball and coming up short of the hole. Skulling it over the green into a water hazard or sand trap is worse. To be more consistent around the greens, it's important to determine whether you want to hit a higher shot or a lower shot and then from that choice adjust ball position and lie angle of the clubface.
The safest shot around the greens, but not always an option, is a low running chip shot. Play this shot back in your stance off of your right foot. This will create a forward lean in your shaft and your weight should be on your left side at address. To help hit the ball, first I like to play this shot with the heel of the club a little bit off the ground. Get those hands up higher and then rock your shoulders like a putt with a less-lofted club and this shot will come off every time.
The degree of difficulty around the greens increases as you add loft to your pitch shots. If you don’t carry a 60-degree wedge, this is a club you should add to your game. When adding loft around the greens, you want to move the ball forward in your stance. Anywhere from middle of the stance to all the way forward off the left foot can work, depending on how soft you want to hit it.
Now this is the big key: You want to maintain the bounce on your wedge on these shots. If you play a lob wedge too far back in your stance and get the hands forward at address, you expose the leading edge. Unless contact is absolutely perfect, the club will dig which results in fat shots. Instead, you want your hands even with the ball and the shaft more vertical when playing lofted wedges. This will allow the club to use its bounce as you go through the ball and whether you hit it cleanly or a little behind, it won’t dig. Obviously, a precise hit is what you want but a little fat using the bounce of the club will get you pretty close, too.
When playing shots around the green, it's critical that the club doesn’t lose speed at impact. A big backswing with deceleration is a short-game killer. The other short- game killer is letting the right-hand scoop (palm goes skyward at impact).
Keep these tips in mind the next time you’re practicing around the green and you will definitely see improvement.
Paul Phillips has been a PGA professional since 1999 at Stonebridge Golf Club in Salt Lake City. Before that he worked at Nibley Park, Wingpointe and Willow Creek Country Club and played collegiately at the University of Utah.