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Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Incompleat Hybrid Chipper

Almost all of us carry hybrid clubs these days to replace long irons (and even mid-irons). Hybrids are also very useful for chipping, especially since they have flat faces like irons rather than rounded faces like fairway woods. But we often find that their long shafts give us problems.

Today I offer you an incomplete guide to hybrid chipping -- some enterprising player will always find new ways to use their clubs! But here are two common situations where a hybrid comes in handy.

First, teaching pro Mark Woods shows you the basic technique for a normal chipping situation, where the ball isn't buried in the rough:

In this normal situation you want to put the ball forward in your stance, take a typical short game stance with your weight a bit more on your forward side, and let your wrists flex a bit on the backswing. (Quite frankly, the length of the club makes it difficult not to have a little wrist flex.) Your body does most of the work, so you just need to hold the club. You'll notice that Mark doesn't specifically say to use a putting grip, although he does say you don't want your hands ahead of the ball. This is more of a sweeping stroke than a putt.

Now teaching pro Jeff Ritter shows you how to use a hybrid in a problem situation -- the ball has rolled up against the collar around the green:

For this stroke you do the exact opposite of the first technique. This time you want to hit down on the ball to avoid getting the clubhead caught in the rough. In fact, we're using a hybrid because it has a larger head and the grass won't wrap around the shaft. Therefore you put the ball back in your stance, take a typical short game stance, use a putting grip, and put your hands ahead of the ball.

Note this: The big secret to chipping well with your hybrid is to use your body to swing the club, not your arms. The extra length of the shaft means you don't have to make as big a swing to get results, so this "body swing" works really well. You can rest your upper arms lightly against your body to help keep the club steady.

One other personal note: I find that a hybrid is often easier to handle with a split grip -- that is, a putting grip with one hand at each end of the rubber grip and a gap between them. Separating my hands like that also helps make it easier to keep the club from wiggling around during the swing. That's purely a personal preference, but you might want to try it if your regular grip feels a bit weird when you try this chipping technique.

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