Kiradech Aphibarnrat's unique chipping method isn't for the timid. Here's how to do it
It usually doesn’t take more than a hole or two during a pro-am for one of my amateur partners to ask me about the way I chip. You don’t see it very much on the PGA Tour. I play the ball back in my stance, hinge my wrists up quickly, and hit down on it with an open clubface. This creates a low trajectory and a lot of spin, so the ball quickly checks up. It’s a shot I learned growing up in Thailand to deal with the grainy grass around the greens there. I learned it from Thai pros Prayad Marksaeng and Thammanoon Sriroj, and I’m here to teach it to you. But with one warning: It’s hard to master. Ready to try it?
1 BALL BACK, HANDS AHEAD
This position doesn’t look so strange compared to a traditional chip. I play the ball off the center of my back foot with my hands ahead, and I open the clubface. Since the ball position will produce a very low shot, the open face on my wedge (a 56- or 60-degree depending on the situation) creates some height and spin to keep the ball from running out too much. My weight is forward, but my shoulders are tilted so that my right one is lower. I aim slightly left of my target because the shot produces spin that causes the ball to hop to the right a little when it lands.
“Remember: you need to aim a little left of your target because the cut spin will make the ball hop to the right.”
2 LIFT THE CLUB UP
This is where you start to see how this chip is different—and why it’s so popular in Southeast Asia to get out of heavy, grainy rough. I make a little shoulder turn in the backswing, but mostly lift the club straight up with my wrists. You’re trying to create a very steep angle of attack so the club can come down on the ball without getting caught up in the grass. The steepness also helps keep the club from passing under a ball sitting up in the rough. It will probably scare you at first to try this wrist set because it feels different. But keep at it. You need the reps. I’ve hit thousands of them.
3 LEAVE THE FACE OPEN
The most important thing at impact is to keep the clubface open. It gives you the loft to get the ball up and out of rough, or the spin to stop the ball on the green from a tight lie. (You can use it on tightly mowed grass, too.) The key from any lie is to hit the ball as cleanly as possible. If you keep the face open, the club should skid along the turf after contacting the ball. You don’t want it to dig. I think you’ll find it’s a useful way to chip if you struggle with poor contact. Try it out, and tell me on Instagram (@kiradech_arm) if it worked for you. No charge for the lesson.
WHO IS BARN RAT?
If one of your prime complaints about modern tour players is that they’re cookie-cutter competitors, Kiradech Aphibarnrat should be your new favorite golfer. The 30-year-old from Bangkok, Thailand, is unmistakable from two fairways over, with his technicolor shirts, husky physique and ever-present cigarette. “Barn Rat,” as he’s called, has a persona as colorful as his look. He loves fast cars, expensive sneakers and cracking jokes with players on three continents. After conquering the Asian Tour and winning the Maybank Malaysian Open in 2013 (co-sponsored by the European Tour), he won three more European Tour events to go with four top 10s at World Golf Championship tournaments. Now, he’s taking on America full-time. Aphibarnrat moved to Orlando early this year to play the PGA Tour and, with the help of coach, Mike Walker, is remaking his hard draw into a fade to become a regular threat on firmer, faster courses. “I want to do everything I can to win the biggest tournaments,” says Aphibarnrat, ranked 46th in the world. “That’s my goal. It’s been hard work to play shots that don’t look like the ones I used to see, but I love it.”