North Foreland, Kent. PGA Professional for more than
20 years who played in the 2006 Open Championship.
In my experience, the downhill chip is one of the more troublesome shots for the club golfer. The sight of a firm green running away from you can create a negative and hesitant mindset that leads to poor execution – and poor results. But if you can approach the shot with a clear strategy that includes an accurate reading of the situation, effective club selection and clear visualisation, the shot becomes a whole lot easier. Follow these five steps to bring some positivity to your execution, and some success to your results.
1)READ THE LIE… AND THE SLOPE
How clean is the lie? Can you get the grooves of your wedge into the back of the ball? If so you will be able to create more spin, which helps the ball settle more quickly on the green. Longer grass means less spin, and more run-out. Similarly, note how steep the slope is. A steeper slope sees the ball come out lower and hotter, while height is easier from a softer slope. Both these factors should shape how you picture the shot, and which club you use.
2) HOW DO I PICK THE RIGHT CLUB?
Don’t rule out the putter too soon; if the fringe grass is relatively short, the flatstick can be a safe option. But if it’s too long, you’re looking at your most lofted wedges. Grassier lies and steeper slopes will need more loft, as the trajectory is naturally lower and the spin is reduced. But also take into account the firmness of the green and how much of it you have to work with. Remember, landing the ball on the green gives a predictable bounce and your best chance of success.
3) READ THE GREEN
On downhill chip shots, the land tends to continue running away from you on the green itself. Because of this, the ball is going to run out considerably more than a chip onto a flat green. Take this, as well as any side slopes, into account before settling on a spot to land the ball. Another factor to consider is where you want to putt from. It’s best to be positive on short putts, so play a committed shot that will leave you putting back up the hill rather than above the hole.
4) PICK YOUR LANDING SPOT
This shot needs a precise strike. So your priority is to keep your action short and controlled, no longer than a three-quarter action, and avoid weight shift and lateral movement. Try to maintain that feeling of height as you swing; the image of a shelf under your chin can help you, as can retaining that feeling of level knees. Balance is key to clean, solid contact, so commit to a smooth, even tempo and a picture-book finish.
5) LET THE SPOT DICTATE YOUR PRACTICE SWING
Make a practice swing where your key focus is to “feel” the ball coming off the clubface exactly how it needs to hit your landing spot. Don’t worry if the first practice swing doesn’t feel right; you can make another until you have the correct feel. When you’re ready to go, step into the ball, look up at your spot briefly, back down at the ball and play the chip. With any luck you‘ll watch it land perfectly on your spot before running down to the holeside.
By Darren Parris