Golf is best learned in gradual progression—a golf tip from golf guru David Ledbetter we often see played out in our golf instruction sessions. A legendary teaching professional and founder of the David Ledbetter Golf Academy, Ledbetter’s worked with numerous professional golfers over the years including Nick Faldo, Charles Howell III, Michele Wie, Greg Norman, and Ernie Els. Though it’s been years since he first came on the scene, he still gets asked by pro golfers for golf lessons when their games go south.
What David means with his statement—and what we often see in golf instruction sessions— is that golfers improve best by first mastering the basic techniques of a skill, like pitching or putting, and then learning the skill’s more advanced techniques. Thus, the
golfer improves steadily until he masters the skill. With driving, for example, you’d focus first on mastering the swing’s basics before trying to hit draws and slices. Thus, the golfer gradually improves until he or she finally masters the skill. This approach makes sense.
This progressive approach has many physical and psychological benefits for golfers. It’s also a great way for them to chop strokes off their golf handicaps when applied consistently, among other things. Below we take you through how this approach might work when applied to chipping, with some golf tips added in to help you perfect the skill:
Eliminate Hand Action
Too much hand action is a killer in chipping. That’s why you see many teachers trying to quiet a student’s hand action in golf instruction sessions on chipping. Beginners are especially prone to this. They tend to employ a lot of hand action when chipping, which often leads to poor contact because hand action requires touch. Quieting and action improves consistency and accuracy. One way to quiet hand action is maintain the triangle created by your arms and shoulders when you grip the club at address through impact. Below is a drill that teaches you this skill.
Get your best chipping club, address the ball with a slightly open stance, position the ball back in your stance, and shift your weight to your front foot. Next, pick out a target on the practice green and then make an elongated putting stroke. Keep your hands passive. Use your arms and shoulders instead to power the ball. Work on this fundamental until you’ve mastered it.
Rotate Through The Swing
Next, you want to add some body rotation to your chip shots—a move we emphasize in our golf lessons. As you take the club back, hinge your wrists slightly and maintain the hinge while allowing your knees and hips to turn toward the target on the through swing. Rotating through improves distance control and helps you to adapt to different chipping situations. Rotating through also enables you to increase swing speed and backspin, which helps the ball check up when it hits the green. Work on the drill described above, but add some hand action and body rotation to your shot.
Use More Right Hand
The next phase in this approach is to learn to use your right hand to control the shot. Do this by first hinge your wrists as you go back and unhinging them through impact. Keep your wrists hinged until impact. This fundamental enables you to control the shot’s trajectory and spin. Learning to use more right hand, we tell students in our golf instructions sessions, helps you hit high shots, spinning shots, and shots that hook and run, among other things. In other words, it promotes touch in chips. The drill below will ingrain the wrists should feel when chipping correctly.
Lay your golf back down on the ground horizontally. Now take your chipping address position so the clubface faces the side of the back. Practice pushing the clubhead against your bag while you pull the clubhead to the target. Feel the relationship and position of your wrists. The back of your left wrist will be straight, but your right wrists will be bent. The motion must come from your arms and shoulders not your wrists.
Use the progressive approach described above to learn other shots. Break down the shot into three or four key moves and work on them until you’ve mastered them all. Start with a basic technique and then move on to more advanced techniques. Learning golf gradually will not only make you a better golfer, it will also help you chop strokes off your golf handicap.