I picked up the game of golf late, starting in the mid 1990’s at the age of 17. So it’s no surprise that my favorite golfer back then was Greg Norman, the “Great White Shark”, who was in the midst of dominating the golf world. At this point in time, Norman was the World’s #1 player for an impressive 331 weeks, a run of consistency that gets forgotten in the era of Tiger Woods and the “Young Guns”. So when I saw that Norman was hosting a “Golf Channel Academy” show on the short game with Rich Lerner, I was interested to watch and learn from a player that has won 91 times around the globe. It’s interesting to watch this kind of show hosted by Greg Norman, when you also consider (listen up, kids) that when people talk about Norman they always talk about how he was one of the greatest drivers of the golf ball ever to play – a lethal combination of distance and accuracy that you don’t see too often in these days of the “bomb and gauge” era of golf. The resulting show was fun and, I think, worth watching.
Norman covered the basics of chipping, in terms of proper set up, ball position, and where to land the ball on the green. I’m not going to go over these topics, but rather talk about two quick points that he brought up that most people should learn and remember.
First, he spoke about “covering the ball” when chipping. Lerner asked Norman to clarify this term for the viewers, and I think that was a fair thing to do, considering that most average players don’t understand this term. “Covering the ball” basically means to use the body – right hip, chest, head, and with the shaft leaning TOWARD the target – to strike down and through the ball. As Norman described, you never want to move your body “off the ball” in chipping; it’s really important to stay over the ball so that you can have a descending blow on the ball for good contact and distance control. Just remember – it’s imperative to always have a downward strike with the hands IN FRONT of the ball through impact. Hanging back on your rear foot and flipping up at the ball with most likely give you one of two unwanted results: the dreaded “chili dip” (laying the sod over the ball) or the “grand slam” (the screaming liner over the green – FORE in the snack bar).
The second point that Greg Norman made is a really important one that a lot of amateurs don’t understand or do: that the body must continue to rotate through the shot even when chipping. This keeps the club head in position and keeps it moving so that you do not decellerate through the shot. It also has an additional benefit of helping your distance control, as it takes your hands out of the shot more and helps you use the big muscles in your core to hit the shot. Just remember that chipping has a rhythm, and to be a great chipper you must have this rhythm. Your chest, arms, hips, and even your knees (slightly) must rotate open to the target to be a good chipper. You can do this with a quick rhythm – see Nick Price, Tom Watson – or a smooth rhythm like Ernie Els or Phil Mickelson. But it is all at a “tick-tock” speed with the body moving.
I really enjoyed watching Greg Norman talk about the short game, and I have to admit I was impressed also with his physical conditioning for a guy over 50 (maybe this is the 3rd great point to take away from him). But I also was impressed with the fact that a guy who has so much success, 91 wins around the World, 2 Major championships, and made more than a few bucks, was willing to listen, watch, and learn from other great players like Seve Ballesteros and Lanny Wadkins. Maybe that’s lesson #4.