Ian Hardie Golfer Pacific NZ Column May 2020

Ian Hardie Golfer Pacific NZ Columns
Ian Hardie Golfer Pacific NZ Columns


The ultimate chipping question – up or along?


Many times, over the years I have been asked the question by golfers “Should I use a wedge and get the ball up in the air or should I run the ball along the ground when chipping?”

The first part of my answer is always, ‘It depends’.

Which is not the most definitive answer, I guess but it’s the truth as the first things to consider are whether there is anything between the golf ball and the hole like a sand trap, a reasonable patch of rough, a ridge running through the green that will potentially influence the path of the golf ball or whether the hole is on an upper tier of the green and tricky to get to.

Not to mention how the golf ball is lying in or on the grass and what the weather is doing that could possibly reduce your options of the shots you can play.

So, the rule of thumb I use to decide in most situations.

Is that I generally look to play a shot along the ground when there is no trouble between the ball and the hole, which leaves me looking to a shot up in the air when there is something between the ball and the hole, something that would be beneficial to play over as opposed to trying to run over or through it.

If you are not sure of the difference between the two types of shot, here it is.

With a shot along the ground you are trying to strike the ball with a club that will get the golf ball briefly into the air, having it come down on the green as soon as possible, then the golf ball rolls the rest of the way to the hole.

As you will have guessed by now, that sort of shot has a low trajectory because it is not intended to be used to hit the ball over any trouble.

When playing it you are usually fairly close to the green and most golfers would use a 7 or an 8 iron but it can be played with longer clubs as if you were some distance from the hole, it could be useful to play a shot that could easily call for a #5 iron to be used to get the distance right.

A shot that’s played into the air, is obviously a higher trajectory shot that is intentionally played to get the golf ball up in the air quickly, in an effort to land the golf ball close to the hole and have it stop very quickly afterwards.

A very effective shot to play when there is trouble between the golf ball and the hole, it is generally attempted with the golfers pitching, sand or lob wedge.

So, while the first part of my answer to this question is always, ‘It depends’.

The second part of my answer is usually, ‘It depends’ as well.

Way to definitively answer the tough questions Ian!

But it really does depend on your personal competence with both types of shot and your preference and experience when it comes to deciding which way to go.

My suggestion is that you need to go spend some time either on the golf course or around a practice green and put a few golf balls down in a bunch of different situations, then hit each golf ball with a different club watching how the golf ball reacts, where it finishes and taking note of whether you feel confident in reproducing that shot in a game.

Or did the shot go poorly, as it simply wasn’t the right one to play?

After a few weeks of doing this you can build up an incredibly good mental framework as to which shot and club, suit which situations around the green for you personally.

A final point that may help you to decide.

Many years ago, as a young professional I played almost every shot around the green as an up in the air shot, mainly because I was pretty good at it as well as the fun I had putting a load of backspin on the golf ball while doing it.

Anyway, one day I was playing a round with a very experienced Tour Pro and having come out of the trees for my second shot (which was fairly usual back then) I ended up about 30 feet short of the green, and as I did back then, I played a shot up into the air towards the hole.

I expect I was probably trying to demonstrate my skill at spinning the golf ball to the Tour Pro, even though there was nothing to go over between my golf ball and the hole.

I struck it perfectly and as a result it hit the green with a significant amount of spin but instead of stopping by the hole, it bit and spun sideways about 4 feet from the hole.

Next to play from a similar position, the Tour Pro calmly selected a #7 iron from his bag, played a simple shot along the ground, that rolled on a direct line to the hole and fell in for birdie.

After I subsequently missed my par putt, he took me aside and explained that many years ago he played a lot of shots like I had tried to play on that hole but years of experience on the Tour had taught him that the most consistent way to play those shots and in the process avoid stupid bogeys – like I had just made!

Was to select the club and the shot, that gets the golf ball onto the green and rolling towards the hole as soon as possible, instead of trying to figure out if the ball will spin sideways when it lands and inviting the possibility of bogey or worse.

It was good advice, both for my game since that day and as the basis for how I coach golfers to improve their chipping, in my extremely popular small group coaching offering, The Chipping Workshop.

You can find out more about that here.

Play well


Ian Hardie is Golfer Pacific’s Golf Professional contributor. He is Club Professional at Omanu Golf Club in Mount Maunganui. Ian’s time is split between the pro shop at the club and helping people to improve, while enjoying their golf more as a result of his golf coaching. Over the past few years, in an effort to help as many golfers as he can, Ian has been sharing his common sense golf advice with golfers around the world through his website golfhabits.com. With over 500 articles to read, it’s a great resource for any golfer looking to improve their golf game.

Location Omanu Golf Club, 98 Matapihi Road, Mount Maunganui Phone 0272222073 (txt is ok) or at Omanu Golf Club Pro Shop (07) 575 5957 E-mail ian@golfhabits.com Hours Coaching Times: Monday - All Day, Tuesday - All Day, Wednesday - Morning, Thursday - Afternoon, Friday - Sometimes, Saturday - Afternoon, Sunday - Rarely.
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