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Golf: Chipping - “What Works, Works”

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Contributor:
Stan Sutherland
Stan Sutherland
“When I (Butch Harmon) do come across players who have fallen in love with one club, I let them stick with it, because I see it working for one of the best short-game players (Jimmy Walker) in the game. It goes to show you, there is no textbook. What works, works." 
 
What I’ve learned from my players
Butch writes, “During the past three decades, I’ve been fortunate to work with some phenomenal players, and I’ve learned so many lessons: rhythm from Fred Couples, short game from Phil, feel from Seve, sheer grit from Tiger. Whenever I’m working with players who have a special way of doing something, I want to know how they do it.” 
 
I was thinking maybe Butch would provide some real Aha! Moments and there was but in my case I liked it when he focused on what works for these guys when it comes to chipping. Did I hear?, “Different chipping strokes for different folk.”
 
Phil’s philosophy
Butch writes, “Phil has a million different shots with different clubs, but the ball position is always in one of these two spots, no gray area. The forward position allows him to slide the club under the ball for a higher trajectory; the back position creates a trapping action and a low spinner.
 
I tried out Phil’s system on some amateur students and quickly realized that using two positions was simpler and easier to learn. So a lot of times now, that’s how I teach it. And yes, it helps when you can tell golfers, “By the way, this is how Phil Mickelson does it.”
 
Rickie Fowler
“A couple years ago before the Houston Open, we (Butch and Rickie) were practicing at Lochinvar, where I was the pro in the ’90s, and I told Rickie I needed to know his secret. He showed me how he keeps the clubhead low to the ground on pitch shots so it slides along the turf through impact, instead of crashing down on the ball. Players who struggle with these shots tend to hinge their wrists quickly on the backswing and end up sticking the clubhead in the ground. Rickie’s style is to go wide on the backswing and then focus on turning his body through the shot, which shallows the swing and allows him to brush the ball off the grass. He sets up with his hands just ahead of the ball and pictures returning to that spot at impact.”
 
Jose Maria is a square
Butch writes, “Jose Maria (Olazabal) does something very simple on greenside shots that all golfers should try: He plays from a square or even closed stance. Golfers are often taught to open up so they can see the line better or to pre-set the turn through the ball, but that advice only sets their progress back.
 
When I asked Jose Maria about squaring up, he explained that when you take an open stance, your back leg gets in the way of the downswing, so you instinctively push the club away from you and then cut across the ball from out to in. That can affect contact and also put left-to-right sidespin on the ball, so it doesn’t roll true. I’d never heard anyone explain it like that, and it made perfect sense. This tip from Jose Maria changed how I teach the short game—now it’s everything from a square stance."
 
Link to Butch 
 
Quote of the Day
“Find out what a person does naturally, and improve on that. I see so many players, pro and amateur, who fight their instincts and try to become something they’re not. Identify what you do well, and build from there.” Butch Harmon quoting his father, Claude Harmon
 
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