Wings and Things
As I observe many golfers around the greens . . . including myself . . . one of the most glaring errors in short game technique that I see is the collapsing left arm at and through impact – the dreaded “chicken wing”. Whenever I hit an awful short shot, it invariably ends up in this unsound breaking down of the left side firmness through the impact zone. And it is something you NEVER see in a tour level player.
I collect photos from the golf magazines that illustrate the position of the best players just after impact and into the follow-through on their greenside scoring shots. I think there is a huge amount to be learned by these photos. But the two things that always stand out to me the most are 1) the consistent angle formed by the clubs and forearms – impact copies address – and 2), the firmness of the left arm well into the follow-through.
As for the former, that angle formed by the arms and shaft at address is what puts the club in the proper position so that the sole can work to its best design advantage as it makes contact with the turf or sand. If the angle is allowed to shallow out as the club is brought into the impact zone -- i.e. the arms and shaft form more of a straight line – then the angle of the club’s sole changes in relation to the ground and the entire “geometry” of impact is compromised.
The principle that ensures this angle remains constant is the firmness of the left arm until well after impact. Try this practice tip. Set up to hit some soft chip shots and focus on the left arm only. Lighten your right grip so that your fingers are barely feeling the golf club – it’s just along for the ride. Take the club back and through with your left arm totally in control. Make the left arm take the club back and return exactly through its address position, hanging naturally from your shoulders.
And don’t let that left arm break at all through impact. Just feel the left arm swinging the club back and through, like a pendulum. Forget “accelerate through the ball” – put the picture in your mind of a grandfather clock’s pendulum . . . back and through . . . back and through.
What you’ll find is that to keep the left arm firm through impact demands that you also rotate your body core through impact. Poor short game shots occur when you stop your core rotation prior to impact, the right hand takes over, which in turn forces the left arm to break down. The results are not pretty at all.
Take a few balls into the backyard and practice this. Get the feel for the firm left arm being totally in control of your delicate greenside shots and you will see immediate improvement.
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Bryan K says:
This is the biggest fundamental change in my game this year...core rotation which leads to better impact. Nothing is more annoying than hitting a soft chip shot fat and getting the ball to maybe roll a yard or two because the ground stops the clubhead. I've found that with proper core rotation, the club will go through the ground if it is uneven or if I hit a little bit fat. I might lose distance on the chip shot, but the ball will still get close to where I want it to go.
For the longest time I was a very "handsy" chipper. I did not use a miniature version of my full swing so I didn't keep my left arm very straight, nor keep my wrist hinge in tact.
This year I made a concentrated effort to swing as Terry suggests above, and my chips have become more consistent, but I am really having issues with distance control. I feel less wrist action is taking the "pop" out of the swing, and also accounting for less roll out. Takes a while to get used to making a 1/3 or 1/2 swing from just 10-15 yards out depending on the club selection. But I can see how it gives you a lot more options, especially when short sided.
For anyone trying to make the switch, don't give up if you keep leaving a lot of chips short, just experiment with more clubs. I am hoping this is my last major piece to re-working my game.
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