DJ, Tiger Struggle To Chip From Tight Lies

Aaron Ungvarsky

Aaron Ungvarsky

PGA of America Professional, SwingU Instructor

Get it right when the lie is tight! We saw some of the best players in the world struggle this past weekend when they faced shots around the green at the Hero World Challenge. The undulating run-offs of the green complexes coupled with very tight and dry playing surfaces on bermuda grass created lies that looked uniform but played anything but.

The advancements in wedge technology and capabilities spinning the modern golf ball have allowed players to gain control and shot-playing capabilities with a middle ball position and utilizing the creatively-ground bounce angles.

When watching better players and pros play shots around the green, it is common to see the clubhead pass the handle after impact, with softer arms and hands at a minimal finish. However, when any ground contact before the ball is disastrous, even the best players can look like a 25 handicap with a poor ball position and swing motion.

“The greens are built up, and a lot of times you’re on these swales and we never play this golf course with the green speeds like this,” Tiger Woods said, explaining the unique challenges Albany Golf Course presents. “So generally you can flight the ball down, you can keep it where it’s manageable. Right now, with as dry as it is and as fast as they are, trying to get the ball up, you expose the bounce and that makes things a little bit more interesting.”

If you face a bare lie, or tightly mown fairway-length approach short of the green, get your ball position shifted so that it is even or just inside your back foot. This simple change makes ball-first contact occur naturally as the ball is behind the low point of the swing arc, and will be struck as the hands and handle of the club are leading into the impact point.

This forward shaft lean places the leading edge of the wedge as the only area of the club that will be interacting with the ground right after ball-first contact. For those of you that have played off of bermuda, or any into-the-grain lie know the importance of minimizing the surface area the sole of the wedge presents.

As an example, we see Dustin Johnson go to a putter to try and move the ball effectively close to the hole, a club that has a swing motion where the shaft is forward during the stroke and should not be contacting the ground in any way where the quality of the strike is compromised. Then, when Patrick Cantlay had to play a second time from the same lie, we saw him make a more aggressive swing with a back ball position and drive the shot towards the target.

So remember, “if it’s tight, get your ball to the right!”

Allow that forward shaft lean established at address to be maintained through the swing and accept that a properly played shot from the lie will be lower.