Midterm Season – Mechanics of the Short Game

One of the other midterms on the docket next week is Mechanics of the Short Game, specifically chipping and putting. Here’s a sampling of what we’re likely to see on next week’s exam:

Involves controlling both the distance and the direction of the golf ball

Grip = the hands are placed close together. The club is held primarily in the palms so the shaft is in line with the bottom of the forearms. The type of grip employed by the player should be one that firms up the wrists while leaving the hands relaxed.

Aim = alignment with the body is parallel left of the target line. The most important alignments occur with the upper body. The eyes should be positioned over the ball or to the inside edge. Forearms and shoulders should be aligned parallel to the target line. The putter face should be lined up squarely to the target. Face angle determines 83% of initial direction in putting. Forward swing path determines the other 17%.

David Leadbetter demonstrates the "Y" shape
David Leadbetter demonstrates the “Y” shape formed by the arms and the putter.

Set-Up = Feet should be a little less than shoulder width apart. Weight should be evenly distributed across both feet or favor the leading side. Tilt from the hips so arms hang freely down from the shoulders with the elbows slightly flexed and pointed toward the pockets. The arms and putter will form a “Y” shape. Ball position is determined by the location of the player’s leading/trailing weight position but should be 1-2” in front of the bottom of the arc created by the upward motion of the putter head. Weight is over the heels. Putter length matters. Putters that are too long will cause the player to be out of balance and pull the putter outside-in (pull). Putters that are too short move the eye line beyond the golf ball and cause the player to hit inside-out (push).

The Putting Motion = is a single-lever motion (arms and shoulders). It’s a rhythmical motion similar to a pendulum. The backswing takes approximately twice as long as the forward swing. For longer putts, the length of time for the stroke is almost identical to that of short putts. Tempo is a 2:1 ratio. Shoulders turn around a centered spine angle. The butt end of the putter moves in an arc that is smaller than the one created by the putter head but still fairly wide. The putter path should be inside-square-inside. The face should remain perpendicular (square) to the swing path. On longer putts, it is virtually impossible to maintain a square putter face (straight back, straight through) to the target line.

Reading Greens = Comes from experience. Putts are affected by the elements of gravity and friction. Gravity will pull the ball to the lowest point and friction will cause it to slow down. The three best positions to view the putting surface are: from behind the ball, halfway to the hole on the low side, and behind the hole. Grass influences the roll of the ball. Bentgrass and bluegrass are fine-bladed with soft stems. Bermudagrass has thicker leaf blades with more rigidity, which increases the amount of friction, producing a slower, bumpier roll. The faster the ball is rolling, the more it will overcome the force of gravity and the less it will break. As putts slow down, they are more susceptible to gravity and will break more. Putts moving uphill will slow down faster and are more susceptible to slope. Downhill putts lose speed less quickly and will hold their line longer. Grain affects speed because it creates more friction.

Pre-Shot Routine = Developing a consistent routine to approach every putt goes a long way towards keeping the player’s tension level at a minimum.

Putting Drills = I will be posting video clips of each of these drills next week. The information in parentheses represents the benefits of each drill:

Break Drill (visualization, aiming point, speed) – place labels or tees on either side of the correct path for a 10-15 foot breaking putt.

The NSEW drill sharpens aim, speed, and break.
The NSEW drill sharpens aim, speed, and break using three different balls placed around the hole.

NESW Drill (different breaks, aiming point, speed) – set up four balls 3’ away from the hole north, south, east, and west. Then move back another 3’.

Tempo Drill (length of backswing, follow through) – set up seven tees or labels 6” apart. Place a ball at the middle tee hitting putts swinging between the inside set of tees, then the middle, and then the farthest to maintain a consistent tempo.

Ladder Drill (distance) – put down a line of five tees or labels 3’ apart toward the hole. Practice rolling the ball to within 3’.

String/Chalk Line Drill (aiming) – find a straight putt. Set up under a supported string or use a chalk line.

Perseverance Drill (aim, path, mental) – Place three balls at 3, 4, 5, and 6’ and make three in a row from each distance before moving back. Miss and you have to start over from 3’.

Barrel Drill (distance) – Place a semi-circle of labels or tees around the back of the hole within “gimme” range. Hits putts from 20-40’ trying to get them inside the semi-circle.

SAM Putt Lab
Face angle at address = 100% square is 0 degrees; positive numbers mean the face is open
Face angle at impact = 100% square is 0 degrees; positive numbers mean the face is open
Clubhead path = a putter path pointing 100% to the target results in 0 degrees
Launch angle = mostly determined by the shaft angle at impact (dynamic loft)
Tempo = Backswing time should generally be about 100-200 milliseconds shorter than the forward swing.

Minimizes loft while maximizing roll

Selecting the Club = can vary greatly based on the lie of the ball, the required carry distance, the slope of the target area, and the speed and firmness of the green. The chip is a one lever stroke for most lies.

Grip = held primarily in the palms like a putting stroke. The player who grips the club the same way he does on the full swing will add complexity to the stroke and make consistency tougher to attain. The player should grip down on the club ½” or more. The Vardon grip is not necessary.

When you chip, narrow your stance and put your weight on your lead leg.
When chipping, the player should set his weight toward the leading foot.

Posture/Address = The player should set his weight toward the leading foot (or forward) to encourage a descending motion. Tempo should be 2:1 like a putting stroke. The ball is moved further back and the weight should be more forward as the lie worsens. As the ball is moved back in the stance, the club is de-lofted and the resulting roll out will be greater. A higher lofted club is necessary.

The Chipping Motion = predominantly one lever as with putting. Firm wrists. No wrist hinge. Tempo should be 2:1.

Greenside Rough = Several additional factors that the player needs to consider include the position of the ball in relation to the ground, the amount of grass between the clubface and the ball at impact, and the trajectory needed to stop the ball quickly enough. When playing from greenside rough, take a more lofted club. Grass between the clubface and the ball will cause more roll-out. Play the ball back in the stance to get a steeper angle of approach. This de-lofts the club and requires a club with more loft to get the needed trajectory. Hinging of the wrists on the backswing may be necessary to get the additional force required to carry the ball onto the green.

Chipping Drills = Again, I will be posting video clips of each of these drills next week. The information in parentheses represents the benefits of each drill:

Different Lofts (game management) – pick spots 5-15 feet away from the green and use different clubs to determine which club works best for each situation.

Chip to a Spot (tempo, contact, direction, game management) – from 10 feet out, place a circle of labels 3’ in diameter 3-4’ onto the putting surface. Land the balls in the circle.

Under the Bridge (contact, weight position, single lever, impact) – chip to a spot 10-15’ from the edge of the green under a dowel or a shaft 12-15” off the ground.

Pathway Drill (alignment, path direction) – create a pathway to the target using two straight objects.

Up & Down Drill (direction, distance, focus) – set up 18 spots around the practice green. Chip one ball from each spot to a designated hole. Putt the ball into the hole.

Barrel Drill (distance) – place a circle of labels or tees around the hole at 3’ and 6’ distances. Chip three balls from different spots around the green. Assign points for each result (3 for a make, 2 for inside 3’, 1 for inside 6’).

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