Category Archives: ten rules

Ten Rules For Better Chipping

[Commentary added January 2018.]

No one hits every green. Getting your ball one-putt close from just off the green is not that hard to do if you know how. Here are ten rules that will help you get your ball tight to the hole and prevent a missed green from costing you an extra shot.

1. Read the green. The ball will roll for a considerable ways across the green, and behave just as if you had hit an approach putt. Plan a chip with all the care you give to a putt, because the objectives of each shot are the same–leaving the ball close or even sinking it.

2. Chip with the least-lofted club you can. Your bread-and-butter club would be something like a 6-iron. Use more lofted clubs only under special circumstances. Chipping with a lob wedge is a professional technique.

[I have changed my mind on this. See My Chipping Formula.]

3. Relax your mind. This is a simple shot. You are trying to save yourself a stroke, but don’t get so careful that you get too delicate and muff the shot.

4. Do not break your left wrist as you swing through impact. This leads to consistent contact and predictable distance control. A breaking left wrist is the leading cause of poor chipping by recreational golfers.

5. Hit the ball with a descending strike. The bane of golfers everywhere, from beginner to winner, is hitting the ground behind the ball on one of these simple shots. When the club comes into the ball from above, you ensure that clean, ball first-ground second contact.

[I have changed my mind on this, too. See Stop Chunking Chip Shots.]

6. Keep a light grip pressure. You want no hit in the stroke. It is hard to have a hit when you are holding the club very lightly.

7. Hit the ball off the toe of the club. This deadens the strike, leading to minimum backspin and pure roll. When the ball is hit on the sweet spot of the clubface, it can come off hot and roll too far.

[Please ignore that.]

8. Keep the club low to the ground in the follow-through with the clubface still aligned to the target. There is no forearm rotation.

9. Land the ball on the green. Regardless of how far away from the green the ball is, its first bounce must be on the green so it can start rolling. A ball that lands short can get grabbed by high grass or soft ground and stop dead, or take an odd bounce.

10. Practice from every kind of lie, from and into every kind of slope, and to every combination of ball-to-green-to-pin distances. You will never hit the same chip twice on a golf course. The more scenarios you practice, the more you will be able to handle the real scenarios the course hands you.

If there is one shot to get real good at, this is it. Being able to get up and down from anywhere builds confidence into every other part of your game, because you know you can erase your mistakes. It drives your opponents nuts, too, because a good chipper is never out of the hole.

My new book, The Golfing Self, is now available at It will change everything about the way you play.

Ten Rules For Hitting More Greens

The shot into the green is your scoring shot. Hit the green and par is yours for the taking. While no one hits every green, these ten rules will help you hit more than you do now.

1. Use enough club. Figure out which club you would use to hit the back edge of the green and take one less club than that. -or – Determine the distance to the pin and add five yards. Choose your club on that distance.

2. Make generous allowances for unusual conditions. Use one club more, at least, when hitting into the wind, and one more club hitting with a cross-wind. Use one club more when hitting off uneven lies, including a downhill lie. True, the downhill slope will de-loft the club, but you will be swinging more easily to keep your balance, and a perfect strike is hard to come by.

3. Aim for the center of the green. Save pin-hunting for the pros. The center as your target gives you the most room for error in direction and will leave you with the shortest approach putts on average in the long run.

4. Know which iron is the longest you can reliably hit the green with. When you hit longer irons than that toward the green, favor the side of the green that will give you the easiest up and down if you miss.

5. Get good with your 8- and 9-irons. When you have one of these in your hand, it is a money shot and you must have the confidence that you can hit the green with that club every time.

6. Get good at the 50- to 100-yard pitch. This is the shot you will be hitting into par 5s if your first two shots were adequate. Good pitching sets up an easy par and makes birdie a real possibility.

7. Irons are for direction, not distance. If you hit the green from 140 yards eighty percent of the time, the only person who will care that you need a 7-iron to do it is you.

8. Start your divot in front of the ball. This is how clean, crisp contact is born. Your club does hit the back of the ball, but what you should be hitting at is a spot on the ground about a half inch in front of the ball.

9. Aim yourself correctly. When you end your practice swing with a classic high finish, the spot you are looking straight at is where you are aimed. -or- look down at your thighs and mentally draw a line across them and down the fairway to show you where you are aimed.

10. Work on your short game at five yards from the green and in. The majority of your misses will be in that zone. You will swing with more confidence if you are not worried about a miss, and you can still save your par if you do.

Bonus: Swing easily with your irons. Slug your driver if you want to (well, really don’t do that), but make an easy pass at the ball whenever it is on the ground to make sure you hit it neatly.

My new book, The Golfing Self, is now available at It will change everything about the way you play.

Ten Rules For Playing Better Golf – Part 2

Rules 1-5 were about shotmaking. These rules concern thinking about your game and supporting your game.

Rule Six: figure out what score you expect to make on the hole you’re playing, given your skills, and play to get that score. If you’re not good enough to get a par, but a bogey isn’t a problem, play for bogey and get pars when they come. Depending on your skill level, even playing for double bogey might be the best strategy. Playing for par on a hole that is too much for you leads to high scores. As you improve, you can re-evaluate certain holes, but never overreach. That’s how you throw away strokes needlessly.

Rule Seven: have go-to clubs and use them constantly. I have a 24° hybrid iron that is my ticket to good scoring. It hit it as my second shot on par 5s and long par 4s. I don’t care if it leaves me short sometimes. The ball is always in an ideal position for the next shot. Around the green, I love my sand wedge. Not because it makes me look cool, but because I’ve practiced a lot with it and I know what I’m doing.

Rule Eight: identify the one error that’s hurting you most and fix it. I played with a guy who hit marvelous irons, putted well, and had a decent short game, but could not hit the fairway with a driver to save his life. Every drive careened to the right, in the rough, in the trees. He shoots in the high 90s, and if he could just get the ball in the fairway, he’d be shooting 85 and under. We could all improve in every phase of the game, but I’ll bet there’s one flaw that when corrected will turn you loose.

Rule Nine: be happy. I play much better when I’m having fun with the people I’m playing with. Other players have told me they, too, started playing better when they stopped being so intense out there, and just lightened up. The problem is that we have an overinflated opinion of how good we are because of the good shots we hit. We hit bad shots, too, and they are as much a part of our game as the good ones. So just take what you get and have fun. That’s what the rest of us are doing.

Rule Ten: get lessons. (1) Go to the range and watch people beat balls. Based on the results you wonder why they even bother. If they would get a few lessons they would be hitting the ball the way they imagine they can. (2) I played with a guy once who was pretty good, but was terrible in that 20-40 yard in-between range. He said, “I just can’t hit these shots.” I thought, “So why don’t you get a lesson??!!” (3) How many of you get around in 32 putts or less consistently? But a teaching pro I know says he gives a thousand lessons in a year and maybe fifty of them are putting lessons. If you want to play better, GET LESSONS.

Ten Rules For Playing Better Golf – Part 1

The object of golf is to get the ball in the hole with as few strokes as possible. Every recreational golfer would get an ‘A’ if golf was a written test, but we don’t do so well on the practical exam. These ten rules will help.

Rule One: get the ball in the fairway. Use the longest club off the tee that gets the all in the fairway three times out of four. That means most of the time you WON’T be using your driver. One hundred eighty yards into the fairway beats two-twenty into the weeds/water/out-of-bounds every time.

Rule Two: get your approach shot up to the green, not necessarily on it, and away from trouble. Trouble is most often to the left, right, and back, but the front is usually wide open. Thus, playing short and chipping on from a good lie is often a better choice than hitting into challenges that can cost you strokes. Counting greens hit in regulation (GIR) is for highly skilled golfers. Until you get very good, GIR has nothing to do with making a good score, and the pursuit will definitely harm your score.

Rule Three: chip so you can start putting. Just getting a chip shot on the green is much more important than getting the ball close to the hole. Have you played a tough chip at the hole and had the ball run all the way across the green, when you could have played an easy shot for twenty feet away and two putts, and saved yourself a stroke?

Rule Four: think about where you want to leave your approach putt and hit it there. Thinking about the hole from thirty feet away, especially if the contours are tricky, is why we blow it eight feet by. If you think about hitting the ball to the vicinity of the hole, you’ll have a much easier second putt, and occasionally the first one will go in!

Rule Five: hit only reliable shots that you’re good at. Avoid using clubs you don’t hit well from the situation you’re in. Avoid hitting shots you haven’t practiced, or that have a big disaster factor lurking in the background, especially when there’s little to gain. If the voice inside your head says, “I’m not too sure about this,” listen! Get a different club, choose a different shot, or both. From wherever you are, there’s a shot that makes sense to you. Hit that one.

See also Ten Rules For Playing Better – Part 2