You see it all the time at tour events: A player is a few yards off the green, faced with a delicate shot from a tight lie. The average golfer would likely skull it over the green or chunk it. But the pro nips it cleanly, and the ball lands on the green, skips once and checks up next to the pin.
Chances are, you've been told to use a lot of wrist hinge on these little shots, bringing the club up abruptly on the backswing and then hitting down sharply on the ball. How many times have you heard: Hit down to get the ball up? But I teach a shallower swing. Focus on crisp contact, and let the loft on the club get the ball in the air.
Too much wrist hinge creates too steep an angle and too long a swing. As a result, most amateurs will decelerate through impact out of fear of hitting the ball too far. Think of a wide arc going back, the clubhead staying low to the ground, and firm wrist action. To see this technique on tour, check out Jason Day and Steve Stricker.
The shallow angle of attack that this type of swing produces helps the sole of the club slide under the ball. That means solid contact and more backspin so you can control the rollout. —with Roger Schiffman
LESS WRIST HINGE
Keep the clubhead low to the ground going back by limiting wrist hinge. The shaft stays in line with your wrists and arms (above). You're using a shorter swing, so you need to create speed at impact from another source: the bigger muscles.
Babe Ruth once said: "Small muscles choke; big muscles react." Feel your arms and body rotate through together. A good thought is, Lead shoulder turns back and up through impact (below). That prevents the club from digging and promotes clean contact. Also, let your eyes follow the ball out. Don't keep looking down.
LOW THROUGH, TOO
The clubhead should remain low to the ground after impact as well (below). Your stance should be narrow, and the feeling through the strike should be a dragging action, not a downward smash. This will help you impart backspin.
Try the Drag Drill. Take your setup, and set the clubhead several inches behind the ball and slightly to the inside. Then drag the club along the ground, into the ball, and to an abbreviated finish. You'll have to use your hips and upper body to rotate through. Hit pitches replicating that body action. You'll see better results fast.
Matt McLean is based at Fishers Island (N.Y.) Club and the Concession Golf Club, Bradenton, Fla.