Play Your Best: Fixing FaultsAugust 20, 2014

Why'd I Do That?

You flub a chip, and then hit it again in mid-air

There are certain things you see on the golf course that make you go, What the hell just happened? Like a shank, or when someone misses a one-foot putt. Another one is the double-hit chip shot. Typically, this happens in thick greenside rough: You chunk the shot so the ball comes out weakly, then your club catches it again on the through-swing. (Under the Rules, you don't count the second hit, but you're penalized one stroke.)

The problem here comes from thinking too much about the follow-through. If the clubhead gets stuck in the grass at impact, causing the ball to float out in slow motion, your instinct is to keep the club moving. When you force the follow-through, the club can catch the ball again, before it gets out of the way.

Instead, think of the clubhead going down at impact and staying low, either remaining in the grass or coming up no more than a couple of feet. It's similar to the way you play a buried lie in the bunker, where there's little to no follow-through, and the clubhead stays in the sand.

Keeping your clubhead in check will stop you from hitting more than one chip per hole—well, at least only one per swing.

GET YOUR BRAIN BACK TO NEUTRAL

After you make an ugly mistake like a double-hit, you need to change your mind-set. First, tell yourself that another double-hit is not an option. Next, plan a different shot: Change clubs, change ball position, change technique. You need a new focus. I tell players at Arizona State, where I research psychophysiology, to take 10 steps and count each one. This kind of objective thinking might not get you from negative to positive, but it'll get you to neutral. And you can play from neutral.—Debbie Crews, Ph.D.

Chipping stats

ANOTHER REASON TO CHIP LIKE PHIL

A good thought for avoiding the double-hit chip is to make sure the club swings through to the inside (toward your front foot) while keeping the face open to that path. Phil Mickelson is a great model for this. He'll never double-hit a chip because his clubhead tracks along a different path than the ball. Trouble comes when you swing out toward the target.

Rick Smith is a Golf Digest Teaching Professional.