Bio: Mike has been a PGA professional for 17 years and is starting his fifth season as the Head Golf Professional at Bellingham G&CC. Before heading north, he worked at Tacoma C&GC then Rainier CC in Seattle. A member of the University of Washington golf team from 1989 to 1993, Mike remains competitive by entering PGA sectional events, but enjoys teaching his members every bit as much as he does playing.
Contact: (360) 733-3450
Basic Rate: $45 / ½hr
High Percentage Chip Shot
I knew heading into the PGA Professional National Championship at Hershey CC in June that I was going to miss a green or two, and that, standing over my chip shots, I'd be feeling pretty nervous. I knew the green surrounds would be cut very tight, meaning I'd need to execute the chipping motion perfectly in order to make pure contact and avoid stubbing the shot or hitting it a little thin and sending the ball past the hole. I needed an easily-repeatable chipping method that would ensure a tap-in if I made perfect contact, but still leave me with a short-range par putt if I didn't catch it quite right. This is the swing I took with me; a swing that has been part of my game for several years, and one which I'd recommend you develop, especially now as the ground surrounding Bellingham greens gets ever firmer and the turf tighter.
The first change to make is to swap the 7-iron or 8-iron for a 56 degree sand wedge. Normally, the lower-lofted club would enable me to get the ball running on the green, a shot I find preferable to lofting chip shots. But that would require an almost perfect strike to get the desired result. And what with me feeling more nervous on a golf course than I have in several years, I couldn't rely totally on this shot for either a chip-in birdie or a safe up-and-down. With the sand wedge's extra bounce, I could be sure that, if I did contact the ground a fraction before the intended spot, the club wouldn't dig into the ground, but have sufficient momentum as it struck the ball to get it moving toward the hole.
Start by addressing the ball towards the heel of the club, and make a slightly out-to-in swing. There is minimal wrist action in this swing because I want the movement to come from a simple rocking of the shouders. The small muscles of the wrists and fingers aren't dependable under tournament conditions, especially national tournament conditions.
Next thing to notice is that because of the lack of wrist action the clubface does not turn over. In fact it's still pointing to the sky long after contact has been made. Rather than pitching the ball on the putting surface as soon as possible, the balls has some air time and lands fairly softly about three-quarters of the way to the hole. Perfect contact may see the ball come up a few inches short or hopefully topple in, while less than perfect contact will impart a little more topspin and cause the ball to run a little further, maybe a foot or two beyond the hole. Either way, I'm not leaving the green with worse than a Par.
This picture really shows how little wrist action there is. There's certainly no attempt to loft the ball into the air, nor have I rolled the wrists in an effort to get the ball running.
It is not a lob shot by any means, but if the grooves on your sand wedge are clean and the ball you are using relatively responsive, the ball should land on the green fairly softly, grab a little. and cozy up to the hole.