Short Game

‘Shave off up to 10 shots’ by mastering chips from tight lies, says Top 100 Teacher

Unsure about how to chip off tight lies around the green? GOLF Top 100 Teacher Kevin Sprecher shares 3 ways to master this type of shot

Learning how to hit off tight lies is important in order to shave strokes and avoid blow up holes.

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Welcome to Shaving Strokes, a new series in which we’re sharing improvements, learnings and takeaways from amateur golfers just like you — including some of the speed bumps and challenges they faced along the way.

Although I haven’t played much golf since my daughter was born a month ago, my most recent round presented a challenge that caused me quite a bit of anxiety.

After crushing my driver down the left side of the fairway, I left myself just 35 yards from the green on a short par 4 (the exact hole can be seen here) — so birdie was a very real possibility. From this type of distance, I could either go with a 60-degree or use an alternative club up to an elevated green and feel good with my decision.

But this is where my mind began to wander and doubt creeped in.

My ball was sitting on an extremely tight lie, with a tree branch just to my left, stacked bunkers staring me right in the face on the front left of the green, and another massive bunker that dropped down about 15 feet on the right side of the green. The image below shows the exact layout.

No. 17 at Fircrest Golf Club in Fircrest, Wa. Screenshot via YouTube/Fircrest

So I had to hit this shot nearly perfect, making sure it was a high, soft shot that stuck on the putting surface.

As a mid-handicapper, this isn’t a shot that I often practice, but here goes.

Making sure I did my best to avoid the front left bunkers, I swung way too hard, mishit it, and found myself in the worse bunker on the right side of the green. Luckily, I hit a pro-level bunker shot, but the damage was already done; and I walked away with bogey after a brutal 2-putt.

This is where having help from a GOLF Top 100 Teacher like Kevin Sprecher is clutch, as he’s capable of explaining exactly how to chip off tight lies without the fear I experienced.

So take a look below to see what Sprecher has to say about these type of shots from tight lies, and learn how to hit them safely near the pin.

How to chip off tight lies

As a teacher, Sprecher says he witnesses mishits from amateurs all the time — often from the fairway. He even saw a playing partner in a recent Pro-Am struggle with shots within 50 yards over and over throughout the round together.

“I witnessed skulled shots, chunks, and even a double hit,” he says. “When they played shots from the same distance, but from the rough, they performed better.

“So why do amateurs struggle from the fairway, but not the rough? The rough provides a margin for error.

“For example, a player can hit slightly behind the ball and still end up on the green. You can’t do this from the fairway, as you’ll lay sod over the ball.”

To help amateur players see more success on tight lies, Sprecher suggests doing the following.

1. Use a less-lofted club

If possible, use a less-lofted club and try to roll the ball onto the green — it’s even easier to use a hybrid or an 8-iron to roll the ball to the green.

When going this route, you don’t need a big swing, and the mishits tend to be thin or drop kicks; which will still advance the ball to the green.

To play this shot, place the ball in the middle of the stance. Grip down two finger widths from the top, and add some pressure to both hands. Stand closer to the ball than usual, and lean your body and the club shaft towards the target. Use your upper body to move both your arms and club.

2. Use a wedge that allows for the most comfortable swing length

I teach my students to have three different length swings with their wedges: half, three-quarter, and full.

The key to swinging at different lengths is to maintain your normal swing tempo. Most amateurs use the same length of swing, but slow their tempo, which changes the timing of the swing. This typically results in a poor shot.

So be sure to practice half and three-quarter swings using your normal full swing tempo. I recommend practicing from different lengths, using different wedges, and learn what swing length and wedge loft is best for you.

3. Learn your distances

If you don’t know how far the ball flies, it’s difficult to commit to a shot. And while it takes time to learn how far the ball flies, it can make all the difference on your scorecard when you master it.

I highly recommend spending half of your practice time on the short game area, making sure you dial in your distance control. You could shave off up to 10 shots!

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