An Experienced Golfer’s Guide To Bump And Run Shots

Chipping from around the green is something all golfers inevitably end up spending a lot of time doing. Most of the time when we think of chipping we think of wedges, but sometimes keeping the ball low and rolling along the ground can be a much safer option and can get you closer to the pin with much less risk. The bump and run shot involves using a longer iron, maybe a seven or eight iron, and can be a great way of giving yourself consistent chances to make up and down. But how do we play a bump and run shot, when is it appropriate and why would we use one instead of a regular chip with a pitching wedge?

Why use the bump and run shot?

Bump and run shots are regarded as less risky than a more lofted shot for a few reasons. Firstly, the more lofted the club and the higher you plan to hit the ball, the more energy you need to put into the shot, which means a mishit can go a long way off target, whereas with a bump and run shot there’s relatively little difference between a thinned or mis-struck contact and a perfect strike in terms of the results, and due to the swing used for bump and run shots these mistakes are also less likely.

Secondly, with a little practice it is much easier to judge length using a bump and run shot than a traditional chip or a flop, and because the swing is smaller and more controlled, with less wrist action, it’s also easier to keep the shot on the right line, which means if your short game tends to be a little erratic when using the wedges the bump and run might be a great way to hit more greens and make fewer putts every round.

When to use a bump and run shot

The main point of the bump and run is to get the golf ball down and rolling on the green as soon as possible. A bump and run shot can be made from anywhere up to about a hundred yards out from the green but they’re usually a lot shorter than that. Imagine being just a few yards off of a large green, the bump and run shot will pop the ball a few feet onto the green and get it rolling like a putt once it’s passed over the rough or fringe. On any course with large greens or particularly open approaches and fairways the bump and run will be a surefire way to save shots.

Of course another huge advantage in keeping the ball low is that you can avoid the wind. Anybody who’s ever played a coastal or links course will know just how dangerous it is to chip it high in a strong wind and many players will therefore use a lot of bump and run shots to maintain their accuracy on these types of courses. Any time you have a clear line of sight to the pin and no hazards in the way the bump and run shot is an option, it’s also a great option on dry courses or hard greens when the bounces from more lofted chips are hard to control.

How to play a bump and run

So we’ve seen why to use a bump and run shot, and when, now let’s look at how to play the shot from a technical perspective.

The swing for a bump and run shot is a controlled one, almost a putting stroke, with the legs remaining very still and the wrists very firm throughout the whole swing. Most people will choose to use an eight or nine iron for a bump and run shot but any iron can be used right through to a three iron in some cases. The stance is slightly narrow, around shoulder-width, and the ball should be central – some people choose to slightly open their stance or move the ball back a little to help de-loft the club face but this is down to personal preference. The length of the shot comes directly from the length of the swing here, not the speed of the club, and it’s vitally important that your follow-through matches the back swing in length as this ensures a smooth, pendulum-like swing. Much of the consistency comes from keeping the wrists sturdy and ahead of the ball throughout the swing and not ‘breaking’ them like you would during a regular chip, which also is important in keeping the ball’s trajectory low and keeping any backspin off the ball, which will help it roll and run to the hole.

Common errors

The most common error people make when playing a bump and run shot is to decelerate through the shot and leave the ball well short of the green. The can easily be avoided by focusing on the follow through stage of the swing and ensuring that it’s at least as long as the backswing and that the hands stay ahead of the ball through impact. By focusing on the follow through you can ensure a confident stroke though the ball.

Another common error is to try to take too much ground, generally bump and run shots involve striking through the ball rather than down onto it as we want topspin rather than backspin to really help the ball roll once it’s on the ground, and so divots aren’t necessary or desired. The goal is to clip the ball cleanly if possible.

A third common mistake is to over-emphasize the wrists and let them move or hinge too much during the stroke. The bump and run shot is all about roll, so again, the less wrist the better as this helps the clubface stay at a low loft position throughout contact.

Once you’re comfortable with the technique it’s simply a matter of practicing with different golf clubs and different lengths of swing until you feel confident with your ranges. Once mastered, the bump and run can be an immensely useful shot to have and can really shave shots from your scorecard, especially on windy days!

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Samuel O'Brien

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