I grew up playing at Esker Hills in the middle of Ireland. My short game is quite good as all the greens there are raised. I used to practise my chipping a lot. You’d always have to chip it up with a little bit of spin to get the ball close. I was never taught how to play this but I chipped and chipped and over time I developed it.
At the start of this year my chipping wasn’t good. I was practising really hard on my technique as opposed to just doing it, so my caddie said, “just hit the shot you see first.” Now my chipping is back to where it was. Technique is hugely important - if you have a really strong grip and close the clubface in the takeaway you’ll struggle for loft. If you’re confident and know what the ball will do when it hits the green, that’s the most important thing.
My Favourite Shot
Often the harder the shot, the better I play it. Give me a tight lie playing over a bunker, and I’ll fancy my chances. At The Open in 2010 I played a flop shot off a really tight lie behind the Road Hole bunker at St Andrews and got up and down for a four - that would be one of my favourite short-game shots. To play that shot, I have the heel of the club sitting off the ground a fraction at address, forcing the toe of the club to sit into the ground, reducing the bounce of the wedge. Then I open the clubface, set the club in the backswing and release it at impact.
My Wedge Set-Up
It’s massively important to get the right wedge set-up. From 150 yards and in is where you make your living. The best players get up and down six or seven times out of ten from 150 yards out. I only have three wedges – all Cleveland RTX 2.0. I have a 46° pitching one that goes 135 yards, a 51° gap wedge that goes 118 yards and a 58° lob wedge that I hit 95 yards. I have a big gap between lob and gap wedges but I’m quite good at the ¾ wedge shot and 110 is a really nice yardage for me. Also, with an 85-yard shot I’m pretty confident I would put it in there inside 10ft.
For most amateurs a higher bounce wedge is safest. If you start using low bounce wedges the club will dig and get stuck in the turf through impact, making it less forgiving. A big fault I see among amateurs is that they set the ball too far back in their stance and end up driving the ball forward. If you set the ball more in line with your front foot and swing left through impact to get more loft on the clubface, that gives control. The ball comes off the face softer and lands softer.
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