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Friday, April 29, 2011

Bobby Jones Chips Smoothly Too

A couple of days ago I posted a clip from a Bobby Jones film on putting. Well, I found another clip from the same series, except this one's on chipping and pitching. This one's chopped-up like the other one -- they were recorded from a TV adaptation that, for a while, was the only way you could see them -- but it shows enough to prove that the Jones approach isn't limited just to putting:

One thing I like about this clip is you can clearly see how the Jones "popping" style works. Most people have heard teachers say "pop putting" is bad, but the Jones style is very different from the way most people "pop." See how his right forearm is anchored and his right wrist acts like an unpowered hinge while his left hand does all the work? It let Jones use the same technique for putting, chipping, and pitching, which probably contributed to his success against the pros.

Did you also notice how he uses the same "routine" when he chips that he does when he putts? One tap in front of the ball, one tap behind the ball, hit the ball. There's no elaborate preparation; he just hits the thing! I'm not saying you should duplicate what he does, but I do want you to see that there's no reason to agonize over the typical putt or chip.

There is one really important tip I think would help many of you chip better. Although it's true that sand wedges weren't invented until around the time Jones made these films (Gene Sarazen is officially credited with its invention in 1935 though he may have used a version as early as 1932), note that Jones doesn't use a short iron until he's some distance from the green. He's using a 5-iron from just off the green, where most of us would use a lob wedge!

Clubs with straighter faces (as opposed to a wedge's lofted face) are much more forgiving of mis-hits, and are less likely to leave the ball in the rough because the club went under it. And because of this, the technique is much closer to putting than chipping -- Jones just moves the ball back in his stance and uses his standard golf grip, then makes a putting stroke.

Why is this important? Jack Nicklaus says the most important tip he ever got came from Arnold Palmer. What was that tip? Simply that your worst putt is usually better than all but your best chips, so you're better off to putt if you have a choice. Chipping with a straight-faced club is a way to get most of the advantages of putting even when the ground is too rough for putting.

I personally tend to use an 8-iron or a hybrid, depending on how deep the rough is, but the principle is the same. Use a straighter-faced club if you can, and don't get so tense over the shot. It's just a chip, after all.

Remember: A club is just a tool for hitting balls. Tools are intended to make the job easier, not harder. So a good workman lets his (or her) tools do the work.

Try it and see if you don't hit better chips.


  1. I was able to use this tip during my last round. I was just off the green but the ball was sitting down a little bit. Normally I would putt from this position, but decided I needed more loft. I used a 7-iron to pop it up a little bit and then it rolled just like a putt once it hit the green. A lot more predictable than using a wedge. Saved a par!

  2. In some ways I think wedges have made the game harder. There's so much you can do with a wedge that we have a tendency to use them for everything and, as a result, we don't learn to appreciate the other clubs.

    Unless the ball is really down in the grass, a short iron is usually the percentage shot. I'm glad you're discovering it; it may help you get that "3-putt" average down.