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Friday, May 26, 2017

Dealing with Conflicting Wedge Advice (Video)

A couple days back, I posted a short game video from Lee Trevino. Lee knows what he's talking about because he has always had a great short game.

But so does Phil Mickelson. And if you watch this slideshow of Phil's chipping at the Golf Digest site, you'll get some different guidance than you will from Lee.

And if you watch this short game video from Golf Digest Best Young Teacher Brandon Stooksbury (the video below), you'll get yet another approach. Who's right? Who's wrong? What's a poor player to do?

Let me give you a few tips to help sort things out.

One thing that I noticed right off is that none of these videos is specific about which short game shot they're teaching! I can tell you that Lee is teaching a pitch shot, and Phil is teaching a flop shot, but Brandon is teaching something midway in-between.

How do I know this, you ask? Because I look for some specific clues in the slideshow and videos. You can look for these things too.

First, if possible, I look for clues about the trajectory of the shot.
  • I can see that Lee's shot is flying pretty high when he hits it, and I can see that he and Billy are quite a distance away from the green. Lee is also using a lob wedge; I could tell that when I ran the video full screen.
  • I can see that Phil's shot is shooting almost straight up in the air (the final slide shows all the pictures in sequence), and the text on the second slide says he's using 60° and 64° wedges.
  • I can see that Brandon's shot looks to be flying about the same height as Lee's, but I can see from another section of the video (just keep reading) that he's using a lob wedge like Phil and Lee.
Although all three men are using lob wedges of some sort, the trajectories are slightly different. Those differences are explained as I gather other info.

Second, you need to note the stance. Lee and Phil both use an open stance, Brandon uses a square stance. (Lee doesn't say his stance is open, but you can see it in the down-the-line shots of both him and Billy Andrade.) If you open your stance, you also have to open the clubface. Otherwise you'll pull all your shots.

Third, check the ball position. Lee says to place it back in your stance, Phil has the ball opposite his lead heel, and Brandon say to place it forward although he actually has the ball just ahead of center, as you can see in the video.
Let me make a quick note about playing the ball back in an open stance. It sounds funny but, with an open stance, your stance is effectively narrower than the same width in a straight stance, so the ball is actually closer to the middle of your stance. If that doesn't make sense to you, let me know in the comments and I'll do a post to explain it. For now, just take my word.
But you can't stop with just knowing the ball position...

Fourth, you have to check weight distribution at setup. If your weight is more on your lead foot, the ball is probably being played farther forward. With a more balanced weight distribution, the ball position is going to be farther back. Phil has 99% of his weight on his lead foot, according to the text on slide #3. Lee has his weight more on his lead foot, but not nearly as much as Phil. And Brandon's weight is nearly equal on both feet. (You can tell from Lee and Brandon's videos.)

Finally, you have to check how the hands and arms move when compared to the ball position. And this is where it can get tricky. Check these out:
  • We'll start with Brandon this time. Brandon specifically says not to bend your lead elbow and pull the club across the ball. That's because his stance is square. He lets his arms and shoulders work as a unit, without any manipulation, and the turn of his shoulders provides a very quiet swing where his wrists don't bend forward or back. The weight of the club pulls his hands straight out so his wrists don't flip or bend. He's playing a "straight" shot, and the ball is in the standard mid-stance position for a straight shot.
  • Lee is the exact opposite. You can see him bend his lead elbow somewhat dramatically as he swings along the aimline of his open stance, and finishes with his bent lead elbow close to his side. He's "cutting across" the ball.
  • And Phil? Although he plays from an open stance, he tries to swing straight down the line for as long as possible. The result is that he actually "chicken-wings" a bit, as you can see in the final slide's swing sequence.
These are all things you need to take note of whenever you try swing techniques that are different from what you normally do. Differences in address position make a huge difference in how the swing works, as do extra hand and elbow activity. All of these affect when you actually contact the ball during your swing, and therefore it changes what you're trying to do when you hit it.

Hope that helps you know what to look for when exploring any new golf techniques.






  5. Hey, Mike. Golf Magazine had a recent article on side-saddle chipping. In a modified version, it looked a lot like your chapter in Ruthless Chipping on using the pop stroke. Any thoughts? I've reached a point of frustration on my chipping where I am going to try the pop stroke -- probably adopt for both putting and chipping like Bobby Jones.

    1. I'm guessing that you mean the Joe Hallett article. (For those of you who don't recognize the name, he's Stacy Lewis's coach.)

      Personally, I think the "side saddle" label is more advertising than fact. It makes it sound like something new and innovative. But having tried it, I'd just call it chipping from an extremely open stance. Why? Because you're still using a standard chipping grip. A true side saddle move would change the grip to better mimic an underhanded pitch.

      As it is, the "side saddle" motion is really just a wristy chip -- which, as you noted, is very similar to the pop stroke in my book. (Thanks for bringing that to my attention. And the fact that you noticed it means you're thinking about motion in your swing. That's a good thing!)

      I'm not disparaging the "side saddle" move. I think it could work -- it's just a way of locking your lower body to make the hands and arms do the work. But one thing I don't like is that he says you have to move to a more conventional setup as the length of your chip increases. You'll be more consistent if you can use the same setup and motion for all your chips.

      I never cease to be amazed at how much conflicting info we put out. Just think about it for a moment -- we spend all this time telling people not to use their wrists when they chip, then say they can fix their chipping problems by locking their lower bodies in place so they HAVE to use their wrists. It's no wonder players get confused!

      Maybe I'll do a new post on "wristy chipping" using the popping method from Ruthless Putting. Maybe in the next week or so. It's clearly a technique that's ripe for a comeback.

    2. Thanks for your prompt reply, Mike. I really appreciate your thoughtful responses. Look forward to your next chipping article. Keep up the good work.