Practise without a club
It can be a difficult thing to coach chipping feel. The key to success, though, is arm speed. How fast do your arms need to move with the club you’ve chosen for the shot in hand?
When I’m chipping or pitching, I like to picture a man bowling a ball down the bowling green – his position, the length of his arm movement and how far his follow-through goes.
Many people who find it easy to gently lob a ball close to a flag struggle to do so with a golf club in hand, and I think that’s because they use a different train of thought and overcomplicate things. They forget that the body controls the club.
It’s all to do with the weight of the arms, and if I’m just lobbing a ball, all I’m trying to do is judge the speed my arms are travelling at.
Obviously, a golf club adds more weight to the equation, but if you can focus on getting your tempo and feeling from your arm speed, then everything else will start to fall into place.
Use your dominant arm
It’s really important that you use your dominant arm, whichever that may be, when experimenting with lobbing the ball.
My right side is dominant, so that’s where all my feel comes from. Throughout the course of your life, whether you’re writing a letter or painting a picture, all the pressure, all the speed, all the feel required to complete the task successfully comes from that side. So use your dominant arm when trying the lobbing drill.
Feel it in your palm
Try the same drill from your normal address position, and almost feel as though you’re pushing the ball away with your palm.
I find this helps me greatly when trying to ‘feel’ the distance. You’ll often see good players doing this as part of their pre-shot rehearsal on chips, and indeed putts – any shot where feel is critical. It might seem a little extreme, but it will actually simplify the whole process.
Imagine a clockface
Distance control is everything in the short game. If you’re struggling to get the right ball speed on your chips, this clockface drill will help.
Without altering your set-up in any way, practise taking the left arm back to the seven o’clock, eight o’clock and nine o’clock positions, then swinging through from there with the same tempo.
This will show you how far the ball goes with each length of swing, and how you can control everything by letting the weight of the arms and the club just drop back on to the ball from whatever position you’ve chosen.
You may initially think, “This is making things too mechanical,” but if you can get to the stage where you know how far, for example, a seven o’clock 8-iron, an eight o’clock 7-iron or a nine o’clock wedge goes, you’ll quickly develop a good feel for any straightforward chip you face around the green