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Chip Like You Putt

Rick V., Team Titleist Staff Team Titleist Staff

It recently dawned on me that I've become very lazy with my short game. I've fallen into the habit of automatically pulling a 56° sand wedge around the green, and trying to loft shots that I think will get me close to the cup. More times than not, this sad attempt to rely on feel is leaving me well outside gimme range. And what's funny is that this is the polar opposite of an interesting approach I used when playing my best.

I first heard the name Paul Runyan when I was living in California back in the late 1990's. I was taking lessons from Craig Chapman, a great instructor who taught in Palm Desert. Craig didn't spend much time on the short game, but one day around the practice green the subject of chipping came up.

Craig snatched the wedge out of my hands that I had been chipping with (he had these quick outbursts of heightened speech and forceful gestures whenever he was about to share something important) and he said,

"Have you ever tried this before...Junior?"

And Craig proceeded to show me this awkward looking grip, where the palms of both of his hands were placed on the back surface of the handle. His forearms were kind of opposing each other, both at 45° angles to the shaft. Craig started to rock his arms back and forth, making little piston-like putting strokes as he began to speak.

"Paul Runyon beat Sam Snead in the 1938 PGA Championship putting and chipping like this," Craig told me. "He couldn't hit it out of his shadow. Snead outdrove him by almost 100 yards every hole, but Runyon thumped him, something like 8-up in the final. He got it up and down from everywhere. Drove Snead out of his mind!"

Craig laughed and handed my club back. He then grabbed my 7-iron and demonstrated the chipping technique that earned Runyon 29 PGA Tour titles, including two PGA Championships. Craig addressed a ball and took aim at a cup some 25 feet away, odd grip and all. The ball position was back towards his right foot and he leaned toward the hole, shifting a good deal of his weight onto his left foot.

He then made a brisk little putting stroke, trapping the ball crisply. The ball popped out, landed just over the collar and rolled like a putt right next to the cup.

"Air is your enemy in the short game," Craig said as he scraped another ball into position. "Putt whenever you can putt. When you can't putt, chip. Pitch only when you can't chip."

The concept that Craig shared is simple. You always try to land the ball just onto the first foot or two of the putting green and let it roll out the remaining distance to the hole. The motion is always the same, your standard, natural putting stroke. The only thing that varies is club selection.

For example, let's say your ball is four feet from the putting surface. If you chip with a pitching wedge, the ball will fly four feet onto the green and roll out another eight feet. Perfect if the cup is 12 feet away.

If the cup is twenty feet away, make the same exact stroke with an 8-iron. The ball will fly the same initial four feet (though it will come out lower and faster) and it will roll out about 16 feet vs. eight.

This method definitely takes some practice. However, once you start getting the hang of club selection and you get comfortable with the idea of rolling the ball whenever possible, you won't believe the consistency you can achieve.

Your landing spot is always the same. You're not relying on spin to check the ball. Mishits still produce very acceptable results. And the short little motion is much more reliable under pressure than trying to hit that one bounce, skid and check Tour shot that everyone covets.

I'm going to rededicate myself to this approach and I hope you'll give it a try. Please let me know if the idea of chipping like you putt helps your game.

One note - use your own putting grip as you experiment. Paul Runyon's putting grip was beautiful in its efficiency, as it completely removed any wrist action from the stroke, but it was also uniquely his own. His grip might feel restrictive and it's far more important in chipping to simulate how you feel when you putt.

Good luck and please share any short game wisdom you've acquired!

Rick

30 Replies

  1. Tyler H

    Thanks for the tips Rick. I like to think of the short chip of choking down and just "rocking my shoulders" like a putting stroke.

    TH
  2. Steve S

    Great post Rick. Grabbing the 56 degree wedge really hit home. Think I'll have to give this a try. Thanks!
    Play Well,
    Steve S.
  3. Todd T

    Great Advice.... I us Runyan's method using 9-7-5 iron depending on length of shot.
  4. Chuck Z

    Great point Rick. Never been one to use the sand wedge when chipping. Love my 52* and 48* and have great success with them. Will even go down to the 44* at times. These old timers were masters around the greens. I used to play with one of them in Mt Pleasant who use to play up and down the east coast with Sneed and Hogan when they were not playing on the tour. You know subsidizing their income. The gentleman, and I use that term lightly, and I loved playing with him and listening to his stories and his tips, had one of the best games inside of 100 yards I have ever seen. He was deadly from sand traps and around the green and he never used anything above a 54* wedge. There was a story that he beat Sneed by birding the last three holes on one of the course's in Myrtle beach by hitting shots out of the sand traps on the last three holes. Did not set to well with Sam. But to concur with you point, have seen putt many times with lower lofted wedges and that has stuck with me. Lesson learned. Thanks for the reminder.
  5. Jack H

    Rick,

    Neat! Thanks for sharing! It really compels me to get out and get back to practicing the bump and run. It sure is a consistent and overlooked method. Best of luck getting you chips tighter!

    Thanks!
    Jack
  6. John p

    Wow! My short was at its best when I used my putting stroke around the green. The concept somehow escaped my game over the years. Thank you for bringing it back for me!
  7. Chuck Z

    If my memory serves me right, Lee Trevino was one of the best at this. He believed in getting the ball on the green and giving the ball the opportunity to roll to the hole like a putt.
  8. Matt W

    Spent some time this morning working on the putting stroke with a 7 iron. What a difference it has made so far. Confidence is huge in this sport to me and after reading your post I think I may have added some around the green. Thanks for the post!
  9. Tim Tiger

    Rick, Don't miss the green. Problem solved. lol

    Great post my friend.

    TT
  10. Steve L

    great post. I'm only 49 , but old enough to have been taught this style. I'm guessing anyone on the champions tour would be using this method. And the best part is it doesn't take much practice to get good at it.
  11. pulplvr

    The teaching pro here has always taught: Putt whenever you can. If you can't putt, then use your hybrid or fairway metal. Chip only when neither of the other two options is possible, such as when you have to clear an obstruction like a divot, an irrigation head, or a drain. You can control the ball much better on the ground than in the air, so keep it on the ground whenever possible.

    Question, Rick -- did you follow this method at TPC Sawgrass?
  12. Dwayne N

    Rick,

    Like the article. I use a similar technique and stroke that I call an 8 iron shuffle. A bump and run with an 8 iron close the face down and use a putter stroke drives my playing partners crazy how many scrambling saves I make with this.
  13. JAM

    Great advice. Brad Faxon suggests a similar technique, excluding the Runyan hand and arm placement. It takes a bit of practice, but, worth the time and effort. I use the 6 iron thru 52 degree wedge for my short game depending on the distance to the pin and my goal is to land the ball just over the collar and let it run out.
  14. Tom B

    I've had great success chipping like putting for years. Taking in from watching techniques from Runyon, Ray Floyd and others. Some at my club laugh and poke fun at me chipping from 6 inches off into the fringe, as opposed to thei "Texas wedge" from further off. But...they don't laugh at success. I would say my up and down % is 90% and that includes many makes. Putting grip, putting stroke with anywhere from 7 iron to 9 iron depending on how far it has to run and how much fringe to carry. Even a slippery downhiller with a gap wedge as instead of coming out with overspin from a putter the putting stroke with the wedge is backspin and it actually bites a bit when it hits to slow it. Worked real well fro me
  15. Gabriel G

    I spend half my practice time on the short game. Chipping and putting. I have beat guys who hit the ball over 300 yards because of the short game. Drives them crazy. Even took lessons on the short game. Great read, thank you.
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