June 18, 2007

Position sternum over ball

For crisp chips and pitches, pre-set a downward strike

YES The sternum should be above or ahead of the ball. Dangle a club from your chest to check.

YES The sternum should be above or ahead of the ball. Dangle a club from your chest to check.

I always hear people say you need to set your weight forward and play the ball back in your stance to hit good chips or pitches. To a certain extent, that's true. But it's more important to set your chest in line with—if not slightly ahead of—the ball to achieve crisp contact. What you're trying to do is create the correct bottom of the swing. Wherever your sternum is located, that's where the bottom of the swing is going to be. By having it in line with or ahead of the ball, it ensures a downward strike that promotes ball-first contact.

To check your sternum position, set up to the ball, then hang a club from the center of your chest (right). See where the shaft points.

A lot of players think they have their weight forward when they set up for this shot simply because they have put more pressure on their front foot. But they often still have their sternum set behind the ball. Consequently, the club still bottoms out behind the ball, resulting in fat or thin shots.

The most important thing with a pitch or chip is that the club hits down on the ball. The way to ensure that is to position the sternum correctly. If it's back, the club goes down and then up, and you'll have to scoop the ball to get it airborne—an inconsistent technique.