Phil Mickelson is a short-game master. Follow his tips on chips and pitches to improve your own game.
Here I’m playing a 40-yard pitch shot to a flagstick located just onto a top tier. To hit a low shot that lands short of the slope and runs to the hole, align your sand wedge squarely at the target, and position the ball in the middle of your stance. Take a short, crisp backswing, hinging your wrists but limiting your arm swing (above). Then make the downswing firm and aggressive, keeping your hands well ahead of the ball through impact so you trap the ball with the clubface. Keep your follow-through short, your hands staying low (inset).
The flagstick for this shot is farther back on that top tier, and you should consider flying the ball almost all the way to the hole. Start by opening the face of your 60-degree wedge, with the ball off the instep of your front foot. Because you need additional clubhead speed to hit this shot, swing your arms back farther, and hinge your wrists more (above). Then swing down aggressively, making sure you accelerate through the ball. The longer swing combined with the forward ball position means a higher, fuller follow-through (inset). Expect extra loft and more backspin.
USE LESS CLUB
If you’re chipping uphill or have plenty of green to work with, you want a low, running chip that rolls farther than it flies. Using your 9-iron, position the ball forward in your stance (inset). On the takeaway, keep your arm swing to a minimum, and hinge your wrists only slightly. On the forward swing, simply move your hands deliberately toward the target, delivering the clubhead into the ball on a level, shallow angle and keeping the clubhead low into the follow-through (above). The ball will come off low without much backspin and will roll like a putt.
PLAY IT BACK
If the green is firm or you’re chipping downhill, you need the ball to check up quickly. Choose your 60-degree wedge, and position the ball opposite the big toe of your back foot (inset). Make a steep backswing, the clubhead rising abruptly as you hinge your wrists. The downswing will be just as steep, your hands leading the way as the clubhead comes down sharply into the back of the ball. Feel free to take a small divot (above). Because you delofted the clubface at impact, the ball will come out low–but should bite quickly.
Adapted from the new book Secrets of the Short Game by Phil Mickelson. Copyright © 2009 by Phil Mickelson. 224 pages, $29.99. Reprinted with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.