Short-Game Secrets: How to use your bounce like a pro
Over the past couple of days, the pros have battled difficult greenside conditions at Southern Hills Country Club. The course’s firm and fast greens, which are tough to hold, feed into pebbly bunkers and closely mown areas, leaving little room for error on shorter, feel shots. Many greens are also elevated and have fall-off that eliminate the easier, low-running chip many tour pros and amateurs rely on with recovery shots.
While these conditions might be limiting, Golf Digest Best Young Teacher William Schmedes III explains that those who perform the best in these circumstances are the ones who know how to utilize the bounce the most.
So what should you do when you encounter firm and fast courses like Southern Hills? Depending on how much green you have to work with or what’s in front of you, Schmedes says there are two shots you can lean on when playing in these conditions.
When you need to hit it high and land it quickly:
If you want to hit it high, Schmedes says there are a few adjustments you should make before you pull the trigger to help get more launch on the ball. First, club selection. Schmedes suggests using your highest lofted wedge, as this will allow the club to do most of the work. Next, ball position. Play the ball slightly forward of center. This will help you maximize the loft and utilize the bounce on the club, Schmedes says.
You should also be aware of your handle location, as Schmedes calls it. Pressing the hands forward at address delofts the club and encourages the leading edge to dig. Instead, set your hands even with your ball position at setup. And if you really want to get the ball up quickly, move your hands slightly behind the ball, Schmedes says.
Before hitting your shot, your final checkpoint is to get your weight forward. Be mindful though on how you do it; many golfers tilt their upper body away from the ball when they think about getting their weight forward. This causes the upper and lower body to work against one another and creates an inconsistent low-point, Schmedes says.
Instead, think about setting your chest slightly forward of ball position, Schmedes says. A great visual is to get your shirt buttons to point in front of your ball at address.
“This will allow your upper and lower body to work together as a team and will keep your low-point in a consistent spot,” Schmedes says.
From here, just pivot back and through, and trust that your wedge will get the ball up quickly and land softly on the green.
These adjustments also will help the ball stop quickly. A common misconception among golfers is that they need to move the ball back in their stance or hit down on the ball in order to make contact higher on the face and create spin. But, most of your spin actually comes from hitting the ball in the center of the face—or even a groove below it, Schmedes says.
“When you see tour players hitting those short chips that hop and stop," Schmedes says, "they’re actually striking the ball lower on the face than you’d think."
When you’ve got more room to let it roll out:
If you find yourself on a severe upslope in the rough just off the fringe, Schmedes says the hybrid chip is another great option–especially if you have a tendency to dig the leading edge. Again, it all comes down to setup.
Bubba Watson uses a 3-wood from the fringe during a PGA Tour event.
Schmedes says to start by taking a narrow stance that’s closer to the ball. Choke all the way down on the club—almost down to the shaft. Set the shaft a bit more upright with the toe down. Play the ball slightly forward and lean the center of your chest and hips toward your target. Then, it’s as simple as making a putting stroke.
“The club will do all the work from there,” Schmedes says. “Because the hybrid has such a wide sole, you’re not going to have to worry about the leading edge digging, and it has enough loft to get over something a few feet in front of you before it releases like a putt.”