Chipping it Close

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The pros are good at all phases of golf. But they usually depend heavily on one phase to help them make the cut. That's their "go to" phase. Take Brad Faxon. He putts as well as anyone. In fact, he led the tour in putting average three times from 1996 to 2000. But his long game and iron play aren't quite as good, explaining why he hasn't won more on the Tour.

Tiger Woods is good at all phases of the game. He drives the ball well and he hits clutch putts with regularity. But they're not necessarily the "go to" phase of his game. That might actually be his ability to get the ball close from difficult lies. Yet many sportswriters and spectators seldom notice this ability. If we chipped half as well Tiger does, we'd cut our golf handicaps dramatically.

Everyone Misses Greens

Tiger is at his best whenever he can save strokes, whether chipping or putting. For him, a 10-yard chip that saves par is as satisfying as a 40-foot snake for a birdie. The key for any golfer is getting it close enough to have a good chance of dropping the putt. Often, these kinds of shots help him maintain momentum and boost his chance of winning a tournament.

Because chipping is a scoring shot, accuracy and control are critical. Getting his swing on the right plane is one of the essentials to Tiger's ability to obtain both. He let's his big muscles and shoulders control his swing. He maintains a nice smooth rhythm that allows him to catch the right plane. And he starts his back swing with his shoulders. That allows his arms and hands to follow, creating a little wrist hinge.

Chipping Uphill And Downhill

Whether Tiger is chipping uphill or downhill, he always levels the playing field by setting his shoulders parallel to the slope at address. If he's chipping uphill, he plays the ball toward the middle of his stance. And he lets the club follow the slope on the upswing. Weekend golfers, including those with low handicaps, often try to hit down on this shot, sticking the club in the ground. Or, they try to scoop the ball off the ground.

If Tiger's chip is downhill, he takes a different tact. He uses a more lofted club to control the roll. He positions the ball well back in his stance. He sets his weight on his front forward foot. And he places his hands ahead of the ball promoting first ball contact.

Four Chips Revealed

Where Tiger differs from many golfers is in his grips. He uses four grips, depending on the circumstances. He uses an interlocking grip for the basic chip shots, which he feels encourages his hands to work in unison. He uses an overlapping grip for those delicate shots around the green. With this grip, he can get a little looser grip pressure, which is important for these types of shots.

He uses the reverse overlap grip for soft shots-the kind of shots that do not release but go up nice and soft and stop right where he wants it. And he uses a baseball grip for a shot where he needs more roll on a chip. This grip allows him to get the toe of the clubface over a little better, putting some hook-spin on the ball.

The Takeaway

The four-grip approach is something Tiger developed through experimentation. Experimenting is something he loves to do. It stretches his creativity when it comes to shotmaking-a great ability to have on the Tour. Tiger is among the most creative shot- makers when it comes to the short game, if not the most creative.

If you're serious about reducing your golf handicap and you're not happy with how you chip, try Tiger's four-grip approach. It will take practice to ingrain, but it can help you get close more often. You can also improve your chipping by taking golf lessons. If there's one area in golf where you can quickly chops strokes off your handicap, chipping is it.

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Jack Moorehouse has 1 articles online

Jack Moorehouse is the author of the best-selling book How To Break 80 And Shoot Like The Pros. He is NOT a golf pro, rather a working man that has helped thousands of golfers from all seven continents lower their handicap immediately. Free weekly newsletter available with the latest golf tips, lessons and instructions.

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This article was published on 2010/03/31