The best short-game players always find a way to figure out the right play and get the ball close. You walk away thinking they have some magical gift. But the ability to pull off those little shots is rooted in one simple skill: making solid contact. That's the first fundamental of the short game, and whether those players know it or not, learning to strike the ball consistently set them on the fast track to success.
Most golfers get caught up in all the details of the shot—the carry, the roll, trouble over the green—and they forget that hitting the ball solid is the first requirement. For a basic chip, which works for most greenside situations, good contact comes mostly from getting into a proper setup. Take a narrow stance, with the ball in the middle and your spine vertical—not tilted away from the hole. Set more weight on your front foot, and then lean the handle just ahead of your pants zipper. Also, open the clubface a touch. These positions will pre-set a swing where you catch the ball first, then brush the grass.
The swing flows naturally from the setup. It's an arc back and through with a slight descent into the ball. With the face open, the club will slide through impact. Remember, it's about ball-first contact.
Corey Lundberg, a Golf Digest Best Young Teacher, is at Altus Performance in Dallas. His charity is the Kidney Cancer Association.