David Toms is the hottest golfer on the planet at the moment, and we happen to have access to the guy who helped him get there, childhood friend and longtime swing instructor Rob Akins. Over the years, Rob has helped Toms win 13 Tour titles, including the 2001 PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club — site of this year’s PGA — and he's also lent his wisdom to Athlon readers as a member of our Elite 8 faculty of golf instructors.
“In my opinion, Rob is one of the best instructors in the world,” Toms said. “His intimate knowledge of the golf swing, unlimited energy and dedication to his job have led to my current success.”
Here, Rob tells us how to master the greenside chip, one of the most important shots in golf.
Forget the one-foot putt for a second as the simplest shot in golf. Discounting the putter, the greenside chip shot is the simplest motion in golf. It doesn’t take a lot of moving parts, and the swing is short. Simplest doesn’t mean it’s the easiest. You may be having trouble with this shot, as a lot of golfers do. I’m going to make it simpler.
The chip is defined as a low, running shot, whereas a pitch is defined by more air time. The chip is the introduction to hitting a lofted iron. The manufacturer gave you a club that gets the ball airborne by the way it is designed as long as you hit the ball solidly.
So that becomes our first goal in chipping: Hit it solidly. With that in mind we are going to get the arc of our swing to hit on or past the spot where the ball sits.
All the essentials of chipping make sense if you keep hitting the ball solidly in mind. The weight should be leaning toward the left foot, the hands are slightly forward, and the ball is just back of the middle. These setup factors all encourage a solid shot. I keep mentioning solid because that is a must before you can have distance control.
In the swing, let the club make an arc going back. Don’t keep the club too low or pick it up too sharply. On the forward swing, you want to avoid the most common fault in golf: the “scoop.” Make sure to bump the ball with the hands leaning slightly forward.
Now, I’d like to offer you a couple of drills that focus your attention on touch and feel.
Drills for Touch and Feel
Chip It In
Find a spot on the fringe 6-10 feet from the hole. Chip with the attitude that you are going to chip it in. Start to move farther away while maintaining the goal of holing it. This focus will increase your confidence and your results.
Ping Pong Ball
You can use this drill inside. Hit chip shots with a ping pong ball. Notice how hitting slightly down makes the ball go up and puts some spin on the ball. Be creative and take what you learn to the real ball. I have all my juniors and many of my adult players use this drill indoors.
This drill teaches my players touch, the effects of spin and imagination. It also helps you develop your intuition when chipping — that’s critically important.
I used to chip ping pong balls onto my dining room table at home and try to get them to stay there. It’s a fun, competitive little game to play with a partner, and one that really helps you learn to shape your shots.
And while you’ve got the ping pong balls out, experiment with them. See what it takes to make them curve. Hit draws and fades. You can easily pick up little habits to take with you to the course.
One Ball’s Difference
Throw a sleeve of three balls onto the ground, and line them up facing the hole, one right next to the other. Line up as if the middle ball is normal ball position. Playing the ball that’s farthest back will give you a lower shot with more run if you need it. Playing the forward ball will give you a slightly higher shot that will not run as much.
Rob’s Rules for Great Chipping
1) Land it on the green.
2) Land it as close to you as possible.
3) Land it on a flat spot.
Rob Akins is Director of Instruction at Spring Creek Ranch in Collierville, Tenn. He is recognized by Golf Digest as a Top 50 instructor in America.