Are certain things more important than others when trying to improve our game? Using a simple example – is long driving distance more important than accuracy? Obviously this is going to depend on a good number of factors for any individual like existing skills, what type of course they play and even a strong opinion of what is important. The point here is not to discuss this at length but just to give an example in this article of how we may develop something by focusing on a certain part of an aspect to our game.
I think we all appreciate how effective good chipping is in our ability to score but perhaps we can consider what is one of the more important skills we should develop in general terms whilst appreciating individuals existing skills. I really believe that DISTANCE CONTROL is one of the major corner stones if not the main one to build your chipping game around.
I know a lot of people will think this is an obvious thing to say but it may help a few golfers if we look at some of the principle contributing factors to the skill of distance control and also a suggestion on how we can practice it effectively.
Once again if I can strip it down to a simple equation to start with:-
Distance = ball speed & ball elevation
There are of course a number of other factors that will impact on the distance the ball travels, reactive backspin (check spin) could be a big factor for some players. Speed of green & type of ball used, topographical considerations and weather will also play their part. But if we can start by stripping it down to just the two things that we can possibly influence the most.
A word on pressure – Pressure in this case could be defined as “a force applied through a given area”, so in golfing terms we are referring to the force applied to the ball with the clubhead. It is much easier to apply that pressure to a ball using a straighter face club (less loft) as the ball will effectively slide off the face more when we have a lot of loft. Understanding this can help us build our practice drills in a way that put us in the best position to hone the skill of distance control.
Start with a 7 or 8 iron (I prefer the 8) and a number of balls, but from the same position around ideally a flat green. With ball placed in the middle of a simple stance, swing the club in a rhythmically pendulum style getting the feeling the ball is just getting in the way of the club. You don’t necessarily need a target because after you have hit the first shot your objective is to try to repeat the same shot each time. In other words you are looking build on straightforward consistency. Once you are happy with the consistency you are getting, change the club to a 9 iron and repeat the process. Follow this procedure and then move to a PW and so on. You should start to become aware of a few things in the results – if you are consistent in your action the ball elevation should get higher when you change up clubs, but this elevation should be consistent with that particular club. If this is not the case then it indicates you have a technique that has quite a bit of variable at impact (usually the result of a handsy or scoopy action). However what you will still get out of this practice is an indication of your optimal club that you can control the distance the best with, along with the elevation that the club will put on the ball. If used wisely out on the course this can be a great tool to score well. Secondly this type of practice should indicate the slight changes you may need to make in your technique to get consistent distance control with lofted clubs – sometimes this may be a simple as a slight move of ball position or weight distribution. The other main point this type of practice highlights is the ability to be rhythmical with our stroke.
Being able to play a competent chip and run shots out on the course is going to be useful but this type of progressive practice in chipping offers us the chance to add more scope in our chipping whilst focusing on the main topic of distance control.