For those of us in the south we are lucky enough to be able to continue playing golf through most of the winter. With that said, a different style of golf is necessary in order to successfully navigate the changes in conditions. In particular, chipping takes on a completely different look when the Bermuda goes dormant.
Have you ever notice that your scores go up in the winter as a result of your short game? That is a result of the tight, unforgiving lies. In the wintertime is less grass under your ball. This means the difference between solid contact, fat or thin is a much smaller margin than in spring, summer and fall where there is a little more “padding” under the ball.
Fortunately, there are stills ways to get the job done from around the greens even with the more difficult winter conditions. In fact, it’s actually easier! One thing that I want you to keep in mind is: the bigger the swing, the bigger the miss! Let’s look at a common greenside chip shot that we would likely see a few times per round. The grass is tight and firm, which allows us to choose between a trajectory with height that lands on the green, or a low rolling shot.
Landing it on the green
With more grass under the ball, this would not be a difficult shot. Using a sand wedge or similar you could pop that ball up in the air, land it and the green with a little spin and watch it trickle towards the hole.
In the wintertime, this shot becomes incredibly unforgiving and penalizing! The sharp leading edge can easily dig into the ground and if contact is just a little bit early, it’s a chunk short of the green. Chuck enough chips and guess what happens? Yes, you blade it across the green. Just that quickly you have built up some mental baggage that will likely shake your confidence enough to ruin the rest of your round.
Using the putter
Using the putter or the old “Texas wedge” is a good strategy. I have no problem with this play at all. It’s a much smaller swing than with the sand wedge. There aren’t any real contact issues because we don’t even need to hit the ground. It’s an all round good play. The only thing I would say about using the putter is that judging distance can be difficult on longer shots. Hitting a putter from 60ft plus seems like a big whack and a bit of a guess. That’s where the hybrid comes in.
The Hybrid or fairway wood
The hybrid in my opinion is the best play from these tight winter grass shots. The club face of the hybrid (or fairway wood) is a little hotter than a putter so it requires a smaller swing. It also has a little bit of loft, which can be handy for getting the ball out of the imperfect lie it is sitting in. Sometimes the ball bounces immediately when putting from off the green as the ball is sitting down slightly and there is not enough loft on the putter. Now, there is a bit of a learning curve when it comes to distance control but it is quick. Commit to it and you’ll have the speed down in no time!
How to do it
The set up for this shot is simple if you keep the mindset of putting with your hybrid. The only difference is that you will play the ball a little further back in your stance. Use your putting grip and stand in your putting posture. When you do this you will have to hold down partially onto the graphite shaft as a result of the length of the shaft of the hybrid. Now, just make a putting stroke back and through. You might hit the first few a little too hard, but you will get the hang of it and it won’t be long until you are the winter wizard from around the greens.