Sergio Pulls Off Ridiculous Up-And-Down

Aaron Ungvarsky

Aaron Ungvarsky

PGA of America Professional, SwingU Instructor

Viewers of all abilities should pay extra attention when the golf coverage gives insight into pros scrambling off the fairway and from around the green. This when even the best are forced to play shots and take stances that the weekend warrior seems to face on every hole.

Playing in the third round of the European Tour’s NedBank Challenge in South Africa,  we see Sergio Garcia short-sided and the ball is well below his feet. Adding difficulty to the shot is the dense rough and a bunker lurking to the right. Although his lie is very severe the key points remain the same and should influence how you approach a similar shot.

Here is the best way you can approach a short-sided and ball below the feet chip.

The Setup

  • -First, you need to build a stance for contact. Watch how Sergio has maximized his knee flex and set his hands low. His aim in slightly to the left, which allows him to drop the hands almost inside of his legs. This is done to get as close to the ball as possible while still maintaining balance on the uneven lie.
  • Next, adjust your grip according to the shot you face. Here we see Sergio has choked up on the grip and shortened the club. The best way to determine what you should do is to take some practice swings after you’ve built a balanced posture. If your club is hitting well behind the desired point of contact then choke up and let out more of the grip if your club is not contacting the ground at all. This lowers the bottom of the swing arc.
  • Your ball position will vary based on the circumstances of your shot but it is best to start with a standard ball position and adjust based on the situations discussed above.

The Swing

  • Since the posture and stance have put you close to the ball, the nature of the swing plane will be very upright. Don’t try and alter this because it is perfect for getting down steeply into the impact area with minimal rough interference. Feeling like the swing is more of a chop than a sweep means you are on the right track.
  • The swing motion is driven by the arms and the club is accelerated on the downswing by the hands. The role of the lower and upper body is to provide stability. If you try to turn with the upper body, chances are you are going to raise or lift during the swing and alter your impact for the worse. Stick to an arms and hands swing, focusing on keeping your posture and body lines throughout the shot.
  • Watch how Sergio barely has a follow-through. Many amateurs swing to a full finish regardless of the lie or shot at hand, thinking the chest facing the target and hands around the neck must apply to every shot in golf. Remember, the finish should be the product of a well-executed swing motion. Here, the perfect motion has the energy of the club being absorbed by the ball, ground, and heavy rough. Even a great player like Sergio only has the momentum left to finish waist high. Instead, most of his effort and focus on the back end of the shot was keeping the clubface from closing down — had that happened the ball would have traveled low and left.

NOTE: The strategy you apply is just as important to the mechanics involved in the setup and swing. You must pick the proper shot, in both trajectory and landing point. Sergio knew that he was not going to get clean contact and a high soft shot out of that lie, so he adjusted and planned to land the ball short of the green in the first cut of rough with a lower trajectory that would roll out.

Try and implement a ‘picture and plan’ step into your routine. I often encourage my students to work this part in as they near the next shot, keeping them positively engaged in the round and not worrying about their score.

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