There are all sorts of theories regarding the way to hit pitch and chip shots. The great Ken Venturi, a fine teacher, advocated an absolutely stiff-wristed technique. Phil Rodgers, another excellent teacher, professed an extremely wristy method.
Frankly, I think both of them made things too complicated.
To my mind, the pitch and chip are simply small golf swings. Your stance, which narrows from the driver to the short irons, narrows still further for the pitch and chip, and also continues to open up on the short-iron shots, to the point that on a chip shot your heels are no more than 15 to 20 centimetres apart and you’re aligned about 20 degrees left of your target. Your ball position remains the same as for all your shots, somewhere off the left heel to the instep for most people.
From a compact stance, you simply make a proportionately compact swing at the ball. Wrist action is neither restricted nor forced – it’s as natural as in a full swing, the result of a swinging back of the arms.
Throw yourself into the short game
For years, I played the pro circuit without having a feel for the short game. Then one day, I turned things around – not by hitting balls but by tossing them.
For an entire day I tossed golf balls, from a variety of positions and to a variety of targets. I must have tossed 500 of them, carefully noting the way each ball reacted after it hit the green. That was the day I learned the meaning of touch.
I recommend this exercise to you, whether you have a good short game or not. Take a dozen or so balls and toss them, underhanded, all towards the same target. Cup each ball in the palm of your hand and toss it with a stiff-wristed motion. This will give you a feel for the properly firm wrist action in chipping.
Toss high balls that fly all the way to the hole and sit, and others that roll almost like putts. Make some downhill and uphill tosses as well, to see which type of trajectory and roll works best in which situations. I suspect you’ll find, as I did, that the ‘low road’ is easiest to regulate, whether you’re tossing a ball with your hand or chipping it with a golf club. Above all, however, you’ll gain an understanding of the intricacies of the short game, where imagination and innovation are paramount.