I read The Art of the Short Game (Gotham Books – 2007) over the Christmas holiday and actually tried out the techniques at my local muni’s practice green, and wow! YOU NEED TO GET THIS BOOK! Those who follow this blog know I’m a big proponent of short game and continuously look for and share valid methods for improvement. The infusion of life this book had on my chipping and pitching technique was remarkable.
Stan Utley is a journeyman pro turned short game/putting guru, and has put together a system that simplifies the approach to playing chips, pitches and bunker shots that’s easy to implement and is tremendously effective. In two hours of practice I found my distance control and consistency of contact and direction significantly improved. For chipping and pitching, Utley’s main premise is to keep everything square to the target line (club face, hands, feet, knees, shoulders) and make a mini-golf swing that includes a pivot. This is counter to a lot of conventional chipping advice whereby you play from an open stance, keep the ball back and the lower body still and essentially make a arm swing with a short iron. He also advocates using your sand wedge for all shots around the green rather than switching clubs based on the distance required for carry and roll. This was a significant paradigm shift for me but after practicing with the altered technique, I was easily able to control the distance on longer chips with my 56 degree wedge.
The pitch is simply a longer extension of the chip, with a bit more pivot supplying the power. Admittedly, the 30-40 yard sand wedge shot is the weakest part of my game but I was able to dial in amazingly well with the technique. I was not able to practice the bunker play recommendations and they are significantly different from conventional advice. I would advise to first spend some time on the chipping technique and convince yourself the method works before moving to pitching and bunker play. So get the book, you will not regret it. Here are my practice notes for the chipping techniques just to get you started. Good luck! Now go wear out your carpet.
- Setup with a neutral grip with the Vs in both hands pointing towards your right collarbone.
- Square the club face at the target
- Play from a square stance; it’s okay to flare out your left toe for comfort
- Position the ball in the middle of your stance, not in the back
- Shade 2/3 of your weight on your forward foot and keep it there throughout the shot
- Forward press your hands so they are even with your front thigh
- Allow for a small hip turn away from the ball on the back swing
- Initiate the downswing with your hips turning slightly toward the target
- Your hands will naturally be pulled toward the target and lead the club face towards solid contact.