Two basic shots you need to get up and down ... the clip and the chip.
THE CLIP: SWING BACK WIDE AND TURN THROUGH
From 30 or 40 yards out in the fairway, you want to clip the ball off the turf, not take a big divot. You don't need to make a wristy swing or try to help the ball up. It's more of a sweeping action. The way you set up will create the right angle into the ball at impact. Using your sand wedge, center the ball in your stance, and set more weight on your front foot—that pre-sets a downward hit. From there, extend your arms back and let your wrists hinge naturally. No need to add hinge. Coming down, feel like your hands stay right in front of your body as you turn through. You want to skid the bottom of the club along the ground and leave a little bruise in the grass. Give the ball room to hop twice and check up.
THE CHIP: LAND THE BALL JUST ONTO THE GREEN
There's no excuse for screwing up a straightforward chip from the fringe. The swing is so simple, it's mostly about picking the right club and getting into a good setup. I'll chip with anything from a lob wedge to a 6-iron. You want to use the club that will carry the ball just onto the green so it gets rolling right away. For the setup, here's an easy way to remember it: Ball back, hands forward, weight forward. Step in with your back foot first, directly in line with the ball, then set the clubface square behind it, then position your front foot. Lean everything a touch toward the target, and swing your arms back and through. If you turn your body through with your arms, you won't chunk these little chips.
THE CHOP: BURY THE HEEL WITH A STEEP SWING (ABOVE LEFT)
If your ball is sitting down in greenside rough, you have no choice but to chop it out. You have to create a steep angle into the ball, which comes from making a steep backswing. With your most lofted wedge, open the clubface, position the ball in the middle of your stance and put more weight on your front foot. Grip a little tighter with your top hand (the left hand for righties) so you can power through the grass. Going back, feel as if you hinge the club straight up with your wrists. Then, keeping your weight forward, pull the club down. It's OK to hit it a touch fat, just make sure the heel of the club leads the toe to the ball. It's a crisp chop with a firm top hand and very little follow-through.
THE FLOP: SLIDE THE FACE UNDER THE BALL (ABOVE RIGHT)
Sometimes you need to loft the ball and drop it dead on the green—that's the flop shot. First off, don't try it unless you have a good lie, because the clubface has to slide under the ball. Take your most lofted wedge, turn the face open, then grip with your top hand so your thumb is straight down the handle. That's a weak grip and will help you keep loft on the clubface at impact. Play the ball forward, and take a wider stance because you're making a bigger swing. The motion should be long and lazy—think Freddie Couples or Ernie Els—and commit to following through. Hit an inch behind the ball and slide the face under it. Once you get this shot down, you can do anything around the greens.
Butch Harmon, a Golf Digest Teaching Professional, is based at Rio Secco Golf Club near Las Vegas.