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What is the Best Approach for a Difficult Chip?

By Keith Stewart, PGA
Published on

Lillia Vu on the 17th hole during the second round of the 2022 U.S.Women's OpenGetty Images

Watching the US Women’s Open is really entertaining. The play is world class, but a major championship always brings out player creativity in order to contend.
Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club has hosted three previous US Women’s Opens. The past champions are a literal who’s who of LPGA history: Cristie Kerr, Karrie Webb and Annika Sörenstam.
The name describes it better than I can. You almost feel as if you walk around on “pins and needles” throughout the round. Even though approach play and putting are extremely important this week, I’m really watching all the short game play. Donald Ross’ devilish design around the greens creates some unbelievable up and down challenges. Combine the landscape with the texture of bermudagrass and these ladies certainly have their hands full.
Each short game situation they face is an opportunity for all of us to learn from the game’s best. Most of these chips and pitches we see are coming from a closely mown collection area or swale around the green. Amateurs face push up greens all the time because they drain easily. We always tend to be chipping toward a level or plateau above us. Therefore, this article is designed to help you successfully navigate those shots. Just like the leaders will in North Carolina!
  1. Rule #1 – The easiest way to hit a successful short game shot is to get it on the ground rolling as soon as possible. Only throw it up in the air if you must go over something like a creek or bunker.
  2. Let’s start with assessing the lie from the ground up. What is the grass doing? If the grass is laying against you, using a wedge is not an option. You must either use a putter or a hybrid. The loft of a wedge going against the grain will catch the grass and dig. Putt the ball just over the grass surface and use a club that has a wide bottom.
  3. Make sure you read the shot like a putt. Always incorporate break into the equation. Even off the green, the ground influences the roll. Better yet, where we start may influence the roll completely opposite from on the green. Get the ball beginning on the correct line.
  4. All amateurs consistently fail to get the ball past the hole on all types of approach shots. When chipping/putting from below the hole off the green convince yourself to hit the shot hard enough to go past the hole. Three feet past the hole is just as far away from the hole as three feet short. Except, the shot that went past the hole has a chance to go in! Hills REALLY slow the ball down, hit it hard enough.
  5. Employ a simple stroke when you putt or use that hybrid. Don’t change to a chipping motion just because you are off the green. Continue to use a putting motion and your contact will be much better. Great contact = distance control.

There are plenty of birdies being made at Pine Needles. It’s exciting to see and it makes those par saving moments all that more important. Watch closely how these amazing women assess their own situations around the green this weekend. Follow their lead along with these keys your newfound short game success may surprise you.