by David Lake
The most important factor influencing any part of your golf game is consistency. A consistent swing leads to consistent ball striking which leads to lower scores. 1 Iron single length irons were designed specifically to address the issue of swing consistency in golf since they are identical throughout a set.
An often overlooked factor in swing consistency is that the same set-up and swing posture should be used on every shot regardless if it is a tee shot, fairway shot, pitch shot, or chip shot. This means that for a chip shot three feet off the green you should use exactly the same set-up, swing posture, and so forth as you would for a full shot from the fairway. The only difference is that you would not bring the club back as far or hit with the same amount of power. Personally, when I chip I only take the club back four or five inches depending on how hard I wish to hit the ball. The same is true for pitch shots where you normally see the golfer choking down on the club and bending way over. You never want to choke down on any club or for any shot, but rather, take your normal set-up and address position and only bring the club back half-way or so. The reason is simple – consistency. Any time you introduce a new swing or set-up into your game you will lose the consistency and simplicity that is necessary for low scoring.
There is a secondary reason for never choking down on a golf club. Human eyesight has evolved over millions of years to judge distance and direction with the eyes in a horizontal plane toward a point of reference (in golf this would be your target). This is the way you look at your target in every sport or game known to man; i.e.: darts, bowling, archery, baseball, billiards, etc. In a round of golf, once you bend over after choking down on a golf club your eyes are in a vertical plane towards your target which greatly reduces your depth perception and accuracy in a golf shot. Prove it to yourself with this experiment: place a bucket ten feet away from you and toss tennis balls into it under-hand while facing the bucket with your eyes in the horizontal plane. Now try the same experiment facing sideways and bending over until you are facing the bucket with your eyes in the vertical plane. The difference in results is quite amazing.
Consistency also applies to club selection for your pitch and chip shots. Practically all golf instruction promulgates the use of different clubs for different length chip shots. For example: #4 or #5 iron for chips from the fringe or just beyond the fringe, #6 or #7 iron for chips two to four feet beyond the fringe, and #8, #9, or PW for chips five to fifteen feet beyond the fringe. The idea being to land the ball on the green as close to the fringe as possible and then letting the ball roll the rest of the way to the cup. This type of instruction and approach to chip shots is, in my opinion, disastrous from a consistency standpoint. First of all, becoming proficient at all of these shots using the numerous irons of varying lofts that are suggested would take a lifetime of practice. Secondly, the idea that you want to have the ball land on the green near the fringe and let it roll ten or twenty feet to the cup adds the complexity of a putt to an already intricate shot. Typical golf instruction follows the same logic for pitch shots suggesting the use of differing clubs and swings for varying distances. Again, the logic is disastrous from a consistency standpoint.
Personally, whenever I am within 90 yards to 20 yards of the green the only iron I pull out of the bag is my Lob Wedge. I used to practice with this club on a high school football field near my home in the evenings by hitting varying length shots to targets I set up on the field. It is quite amazing how quickly you can develop a feel for distance with just a little practice. Anyway, today I can drop the ball on a dime (albeit a large dime), with this club anywhere from 90 yards in. I would never have been able to develop this kind of consistency by using numerous clubs of varying lofts for my pitch shots. The same is true in my chipping game as I only use my #9 iron for all chip shots. The reason is simple – I know how far the ball will fly, its trajectory, and the distance it will roll when it hits regardless of my distance from the fringe. Again, I would never have developed any feel for this type of shot if I were constantly switching between clubs. As far as the idea of having the ball begin rolling on the green as soon as it clears the fringe, I disagree wholeheartedly. To my knowledge there is no break or undulations in the air so I want the ball to fly as far as possible towards the hole and then have minimal roll when it lands on the green.