A golf lesson that needs to be experienced to be appreciated

“Drive for show and putt for dough”

I‘m sure you’ve heard this one before. Let me tell you that I think this is perhaps the worst advice in golf. Firstly, driving the ball is important – try shooting a good score if your tee shots keep finishing in the trees. Secondly, putting is not that difficult and you shouldn’t need to speed that much time on it.

Let me explain myself.

Over the last 12 months or so I’ve been noticing a common theme with my clients in respect to their golf game. For the most part they have a good golf swing, they can hit the ball forwards and they enjoy some sort of consistency.

I should add here that most of my clients don’t believe their swings are that good. They seem to remember the bad stuff and have trouble accepting the odd poor shot or two. This is my opinion that their swings are good, not theirs.


After some full swing training I almost always do some putting exercises. Again, I’m usually pleasantly surprised at the results. Their strokes are solid and they’re able to follow my advice and execute the challenges that I throw at them successfully. There’s potentially room for improvement but it’s rare to see mental (or technical) flaws that need urgent attention. My main point here? They are good putters.

The glaring golf problem that seems universal

Then the fun starts with the lesson. We move onto chipping.

I don’t know why it is but chipping proficiency is always way below that of their full swing and putting skills. And I don’t mean just a little bit – it’s usually a long way below.

I’ve had 15 handicappers come in complaining about their golf swing. This is funny because they don’t miss a shot for the first 30 minutes and perform exceptionally well. Ask them to chip a ball a few metres and they go to water. They miss the ball, hit 20 centimeters behind it or top the ball severely. I’ve had people miss the net which is only a few metres in front of them. If it wasn’t so serious it would be funny.

The end result is this poor chipping skill can’t allow you to play your best. What’s the answer?

I believe that the first step is NOT to start practicing. No! You need to actually experience this chipping problem to fully appreciate it. Reading about it or thinking about it is not enough – you need to fully experience it with your own body and feelings. Here’s how…

The one golf drill that every golfer must do!

Last weekend I wanted to test this universal chipping problem by using a novice golfer as my test subject. This Guinea pig wasn’t a complete beginner, had good hand and eye coordination and was skilled at other sports. He was the perfect subject.

We started on the practice fairway and hit a small bucket of balls. The results were OK – he didn’t set the world on fire but after twenty minutes was able to hit a series of good shots and was enjoying the experience. He definitely had enough swing skill to get his way around a golf course with some success.

Then to the putting green.

This was potentially an embarrassing moment for me. My test subject was leading our nine hole challenge match after the first four holes and was letting me know all about it. I chose some tricky closing putts and managed to win one up. The moral? A novice golfer can be competitive on the putting green with a scratch golfer. And don’t think my putting is awful – it’s probably the most consistent part of my game.

Thinking he was ready for the US Tour, my test subject was ready for the final test.


This was really funny. After nearly beating me on the putting green his confidence was quickly shattered when he duffed (read: didn’t get the ball onto the green) his first shot. His second shot was a classic overcompensation and it was bladed across the green and into thick ti-tree. To be honest he really struggled with the chipping – even his good shots ran way past the hole and rarely were in comfortable one-putt range.

For a laugh we tried some difficult shots. These included bunker shots, lob shots and pitches from tight lies. The results were more dramatic. While I was able to find a way to get the ball onto the green, and sometimes close, my mate couldn’t. If we were on the golf course or keeping score he would have many more shots than me. Over 18 holes of golf this could be a huge number.

The solution?

This chipping (short game) problem needs urgent action. I’ve been motivated enough to focus my attention on producing a short game manual. There is a definite lack of quality material available on the golf market in this area. Most golf instruction focuses on the full swing and this is a shame. If you want to shoot lower scores you must improve your chipping and other areas of your short game.

The first step is to actually experience how poor chipping affects your score. Find a good short game exponent and have a contest on the chipping green. Hopefully this will motivate you enough to start practising.

Better still, use your free time to work on your short game. Forget about your full swing and your putting, at least for a while, and see if your score improves. I know that the long game is more fun and sinking putts is probably a boost for your confidence, but if you really want to play better golf devote some time to your chipping. If you get really keen you could take this further by working on your bunker play and pitching.

I’m planning a short game book and hopefully it will be something of real quality. I’m planning on having it finished by the end of the year. If you have any suggestions about what you’d like to learn or be added to the manual, drop me a line in the comments section below.

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  • David Pryde

    Reply Reply September 17, 2008

    Certainly agree with your comments Cam. If not playing automatically you can think of many ways to hit a chip and get very confused because the movement is less dramatic than a fuller swing.
    Do you use all arms, all wrists, a combination of both, weight on left foot or balanced between both.
    Play off back foot, halfway between stance, or forward for more lofted shots?
    Stance open, toes pointed forward, or stance square or natural. What is natural and does it work as well?
    Lob wedge, 56 degrees, 54 degrees or use a variety of clubs for chipping when there is no obstacle.
    Should one club be used for chipping no matter what the length of the shot or should the object be to get the ball on the ground (putting surface) as soon as possible and get it running at the hole?
    What about the firm bare lie – ?ball forward and shaft vertical to catch the ball below the equator and minimise risk of duffing- or- ball way back and try to catch it first and allow for a lower shot with more run. If bunker in way do open sand iron and try to hit just behind ball and ‘skid’ it in off the bare lie.
    Sandy lie is it best to play a long bunker type shot or try to catch ball first?
    I am just giving some ideas to work with and help you understand the multiplicity of options which I have thought of over the years.
    I have more but have to go.
    Cheers Cameron,
    David Pryde

  • David Pryde

    Reply Reply September 17, 2008

    Further thoughts.
    Club face open, square, hands forward or vertical.
    Take club back square, outside or inside. Keep clubface square or let it roll open.
    I think very light hands are important but what is considered best by the experts?
    Backswing longer the longer the shot or just hit it harder the longer the shot?
    Is scooping an option if it feels better? Probably yes for some!

    You could say just go and hit it and see what happens but why try and reinvent the wheel when there is already a tried and true better way which can provide a shortcut to the most appropriate way to hit the f*&%*r properly and with a feeling of some control?

    If you want anymore ‘thought fodder’ to work with just let me know.
    I am off to have another glass of red.
    Good night and good golfing.

  • Cameron Strachan

    Reply Reply September 18, 2008

    G’day David,

    Thanks for taking the time to respond.

    This short game topic has got me thinking over the last week or so. As you know, many golfers can hit the ball quite well but really struggle with the chipping and other areas. What’s the solution?

    I’m planning a short game series on this blog in the next week or so. I will include pictures and cover all areas that you’ve mentioned and maybe a few more. This series will run for a week and be a prelude to the short game book I’m working on.

    Anyway, keep your eyes peeled and hopefully this blog series can answer some of your questions.

    Keep up the good work.


  • Peter Frost

    Reply Reply September 24, 2008

    Hi Cameron,

    This is a really good topic to talk about. I have found that if my Chipping is going well then so is the rest of my game.

    The biggest problem I have is as follows:
    1. Most places won’t let you practice chipping before you start your round, putting greens are for putting only.
    2. If I get tense (even when counting) I tend to jab at the ball and don’t follow through, thus I skinny the ball across the green.

    I am using my Gap Wedge 52 degrees. When I hit it well I have good control.

    I try and practice in the garage a couple of times a week by chipping on carpet into the brick wall and getting the ball to stop near the wall or return depending on how hard I hit the chip. This works well for me so I get the feel of chipping all the time. The maximum length I chip is 5 metres down to a metre.

    But it is the jab chip which brings my game down. I believe if I keep practicing in the garage and at the MGA’s Short game greens it will eventually get to 99%.

    I will look forward to your chipping book when it comes out.

    All the best,


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