In my recent GSOM article “The 2 Vital Magic Tricks” discussing putting I explained that there are many varied styles that will “get the ball in the hole”. However, with the addition of the two disciplines (the 2 vital magic tricks) into your current method of preparing and playing a putt, you would improve your chances of reducing the number of putts you take in a round.
I would like to share with you now a discipline that I use on every chip shot that I play; from practicing my chipping right through to tournament play. I call it the “BRUSH & LOOK” and I would never dream of playing a chip until I had carried out a shot routine that had incorporated brushing & looking.
I believe that once you understand why the “BRUSH & LOOK” is so important in the lead up to a chip you will be able to play shots; with more commitment, enjoyment, flow and most importantly less thinking.
I hope that you will create a routine that works best for you that includes many of the ingredients explained below. Then you will improve this area of your game dramatically by being able to play the chip shot in a more trusting subconscious state. This will help you to avoid too much conscious thinking whilst playing and taking too much control in your downswing, which causes the duffs and thins that we all know can happen!
SO HERE WE GO……
Once I have selected my club of choice for the shot I will stand a couple of paces behind the ball on an imaginary straight line back from my target that stretches through my ball to where I am standing, many people refer to this as the Ball to Target Line. By standing here I am signalling to myself that everything I do from now onwards is contributing greatly to the quality of the shot in hand.
While standing on this imaginary line I start evaluating and visualizing the shot that I want to play. I will identify the direction the ball needs to be sent on, accounting for any undulations between my ball and the flag that I have identified. Then I focus on my landing area.
At this point I walk forward towards where I think I need to be landing my ball to get a feel for this location, and to commit to a specific place to attempt to land my ball. I do not want to place any pressure on myself by making my landing area too small. I normally visualize a small hula-hoop that if I were to land anywhere within it I would gain good accuracy and length to my chip. However, if I did happen to land right in the middle of it, it could be the jackpot! (It staggers me how many people I coach on a daily basis do not even factor a landing area into their preparation for a chip. So if you are currently not doing this, I believe you should start now!)
I now walk back to the ball and now…. YES! You have probably guessed it; it is the time for the “BRUSH & LOOK”. I start doing some practice swings and if possible in the same lie conditions as where my ball is. This will help me to feel what the impact on the ground should be like on the actual shot.
I will make as realistic a practice swing as possible with a confident brush of the ground that feels so real that there could have almost been a ball struck. During these 2, 3 or 4 brushes I want to work out the required backswing length that will allow me to commit to my brush impact without over hitting the shot. Hopefully I can quickly build the feel that this realistic practice for playing chip shots will send my ball into the imaginary hula-hoop.
When I carry out a brush I want to notice that I see and feel the ground being impacted upon (Freddie Couples refers to this in his long game as “Looking for your divots”). This means I am training my eyes to wait and watch the all important impact take place.
Once I am sure that an imaginary ball would have been sent on its way to the target, I then turn my head to look and track the progress of the ball. (Don’t worry I haven’t gone mad, I am just trying to use my imagination to visualize where the chip is heading and then question myself. Did it land in the hula- hoop? Would it have then run up nicely to the hole?)
Playing chip shots with ease
There it is! The “BRUSH & LOOK” has now been carried out, so without further ado I shuffle in and get my club behind the ball and settle myself ready to play the real ball.
I’m sure that for some of you just reading this is enough to send you into panic mode, filling you with dread that you now need to have a go at the actual ball. There really is no need to worry because your practice brushes were so realistic that you have worked out the swing you need in a much more subconscious way. Your looking helped you visualize what the ball will do. You should now have a lot more trust, confidence and commitment to get in there and enjoy playing chip shots with a lot less thinking and a lot more feeling.
When I begin my shot I will have released the shackles of over thinking and be feeling more relaxed, which will help my grip pressure to be loose. I will be feeling less tense, since I am not stepping into the unknown. I have played this shot virtually already several times in my preparation; this will assist my breathing pattern to be more normal, as there is no need for anxiety. I definitely have a single thought to focus on, as I do believe I need something to consciously achieve in the shot. For example “look at the impact” would often be my focus and then trust to let the feel of the preparation take over and do the rest.
Many golfers of all levels simply do not realize the importance of “realistic” practice swings in preparing for short game shots. Often I see people doing practice swings for chipping that at best barely skim the grass and often are done through the air at a completely different swing length and pace to what they are about to attempt at the ball.
In effect you are playing chip shots without any real help or guidance, similar to going off on a mountain hike without checking the weather forecast, without adequate provisions and without a map!!
I really do hope that incorporating the “BRUSH & LOOK” into your chipping will have a positive effect on your golf. I would really appreciate feedback on your experiences trying this out. So please leave a comment below and I will reply to you. I look forward to writing more articles for GSOM in the near future.
Photo by Keith Allison