A lot of people, especially amateurs, believe smashing driver 300 yards down the middle of the fairway is all you need to be a good golfer.
While getting off the tee is the crucial first step to laying down a solid score, just think about how many times you’ve played with someone who hits ‘bombs’ but seems to finish every hole with bogey or worse.
As the old golfing adage goes: “drive for show, putt for dough” but is this the truth? It may just be the case that you chip for dough, instead.
Again, it is absolutely vital to have distance off the tee if you want to be a quality golfer, but watch an interview with someone on tour or chat to your local PGA pro and they’ll no doubt all say the same thing about where most of your practice time should be spent: inside 100 yards and around the green.
Now, there’s no doubt a fair chunk of this time should be spent putting and learning to nail those crucial six-footers.
But if you miss hitting the green in regulation, you need to have a killer short game in order to get up and down as much as possible – and there’s one chipping technique that can help you do this.
It’s called the bump and run.
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What is the bump and run?
The bump and run is a reliable way of chipping the ball onto the green by ‘bumping’ it into the ground and letting it release towards the hole. It is most commonly played using a seven or eight iron. The bump and run is often preferred by lower handicappers as it allows more room for error, and is forgiving for golfers who fear using high-lofted wedges when chipping.
There’s no doubt everyone wishes they could play that high, fizzing flop shot like the pros and impress their friends out on the course with their lob wedge in hand.
When Phil Mickelson broke the record for oldest major winner, taking out the 2021 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, many were quick to applaud his long ‘bombs’ off the tee, especially given his ripe age of 50 at the time.
Despite this, many golfing pundits, myself included, saw the true hero: his unbelievable wedge game under pressure.
Kiawah had steep run offs making greens incredibly hard to hit, so high, lofted third shots in pursuit of up and downs were a feature of everyone’s round.
To some degree, Phil did this best, hence lifting the trophy.
But while the big boys need to be able to play that crisp 60-degree wedge off tight lies to give themselves easier putts, at many courses a bump and run will prove the best remedy for a sloppy approach.
Why the bump and run is the amateur’s best friend
The bump and run is the perfect shot for golfers playing fairly standard courses with scarce bunkering and reasonably flat approaches.
Obviously, bunkering and drop offs around greens will feature on any course, but the ones the pros play often feature incredibly raised greens, as much as triple the height of what you are used to.
Playing the lofted shots they do is something rarely necessary on a standard municipal or private golf course frequented by most casual Saturday players (if you’re weighing up whether to get a golf membership to one of these courses, you should definitely check out one of our other articles on the pros and cons).
The bump and run is a shot that is played low, almost like a putt with a modestly lofted club, like a seven or eight iron.
It is played with a rigid motion, helping players bring the club face down to impact fairly consistently, avoiding dreaded fats and thins.
It is a great shot for people who find it difficult judging how hard to swing in order to hit a spot near to the hole, or those who may not get great spin with their wedges.
Instead of playing with high loft, the bump and run is more a judgement of speed, rather than a display in ball-striking ability.
So, now that you know what the bump and run is, it’s time to learn how to play it.
How do you play the bump and run?
To play the bump and run, you must keep your weight on the front foot; place the ball back in your stance; and pick a spot to land the ball. Your elbows should almost be locked and your arms should swing back and forth like a putting stroke, ‘bumping’ the ball into the ground to keep it low and rolling towards the hole, rather flying through the air.
Mastering these steps is key to executing the shot, so let’s take a look at each in more detail.
Keep your weight forward
It’s crucial when playing a bump and run, similar to almost all chip shots, to keep your weight forward and through the lead leg.
By doing this, you’ll promote a downward strike on the ball and avoid a thin shot that may fly through the back of the green.
While the bump and run is often used because it is more forgiving than a more lofted wedge chip, an upward strike catching the ball with the teeth of the club will still have horrid results – just not quite as horrid as a bladed shot with a 60-degree wedge.
A forward press will help the club make that downward contact and the use of something with less loft – such as an eight iron – will avoid the leading edge of the club digging in too much, reducing your chance of a chunked shot.
Essentially, this part of the technique is no different to a higher-lofted wedge shot, but by using a short iron you’ll decrease the likelihood for error if played correctly.
Ball back in the stance
The idea of a bump and run is for it to be played low, running out towards the target.
Positioning the ball back in the stance – on the inside of the back foot – causes the club to make contact in a de-lofted manner, meaning the ball will shoot out lower.
If you play the ball too far forward in your stance and attempt a bump and run, you’re likely to see one of two things happen:
- You swing up through the ball and catch it thin
- You present too much loft and don’t fly it very far, getting minimal run out to the hole
If you’d rather play the ball off the front foot when you are around the greens, then you probably need to think about changing to a higher lofted club and a different chipping technique.
Pendulum swing like a putt
One of the most unique elements of the bump and run is the swing you make, far more similar to a putt than any other golf swing.
Since you are trying to keep the ball low and get it rolling, you want to avoid any ‘flippy’ wrist action that could catch the ball in the teeth of the club or scoop the ball high into the air, stopping it dead.
The former result is far more likely, as playing a bump and run with a wristy swing is a very hard thing to pull off.
The bump and run is played with elbows nearly locked and the wrists kept quiet.
It may feel like a rather ‘stiff’ swing, but the movement should ultimately come from a pendulum-like rocking of the shoulders, ensuring the club deviates as little from the original path as possible.
To hit the ball farther, increase the backswing. To keep it a short shot, decrease the backswing.
Like any chipping motion, acceleration through the ball is a must.
Pick a spot to kill pace and release
The final, and most feel-based element of the bump and run technique is picking a spot to land the ball.
If you have good form and can make clean contact, the last remaining piece of the puzzle is knowing how far to fly the ball and how far to make it roll.
When bumping uphill, the ball will pull up quicker, so you may need to fly it farther.
If chipping down grain, the flight of the bump and run shot might be very small, with a long, winding release towards the hole.
Some things in golf can’t be taught, and that general nous and touch around the greens is vital to playing a good bump and run, so practice on course is a must.
When should I use the bump and run?
The bump and run golf shot should be used when close to the green with no obstacles in your path to the hole. As this shot is played quite low with a lot of roll out, the bump and run should be used when the route to the hole is clear of hazards and you can use the contours of the earth to direct and control your shot.
Times to use a bump and run instead of a flop chip shot include: when you have plenty of green to work with between you and the hole; when your lie is poor and you are worried about hitting your chip fat/thin by using a wedge; or when there is a steep embankment before the green and you need to kill speed out of the shot, and then let the ball release out towards the hole.
See the video below from PGA professional Rick Shiels on when to play the bump and run:
What club should I use to play the bump and run?
A bump and run is best played using a seven or eight iron as these clubs are very forgiving, leaving you more room for error, and will get the ball rolling out better than a wedge. You want a club that provides you with the option to open the face and use a little more flight, or de-loft the club to keep it low, making a seven or eight iron the ideal choice.
You may also find a club like a chipper quite useful if you have anxiety about chunking or thinning the ball with a short iron or pitching wedge.
Chippers, such as the popular Square Strike Wedge, are designed for exactly this type of shot, as they are a mixture between a wedge and a putter and are played with that same back-and-forth pendulum shoulder motion.
They may not be trendy, but plenty of golfers use them to great effect out on the course (we’ve recommended our top chippers in an extensive review that you can read).
If you’re feeling extra creative, a hybrid or even a three-wood can prove to be a solid option around the green as well.
Many tour players will opt for the hybrid on super tight lies, given the wide, flat sole can help facilitate a consistent strike.
What we don’t recommend you use for a bump and run is a high-lofted wedge such as a 56 or 60 degree.
The only way to present loft that is low enough to keep the ball zipping along the ground, when using these wedges, is by leaning the shaft way forward and removing the club’s bounce (a recipe for hitting it fat) or putting the ball awkwardly far back in your stance.
Experiment and get creative and you may find that anything from a gap wedge down to a six-iron could be your go to club, but we definitely recommend starting with a seven or eight iron.
The bump and run is a golf shot that should be in the arsenal of every golfer; from weekend hacker, to the PGA Tour player.
If you have a case of the chipping yips, then high-lofted, wristy golf shots using your wedges are undoubtedly going to make you anxious and more often lead to fat or thin strikes, and poor results.
Practice the bump and run, and develop the touch and feel required to play it well, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how many strokes you’ll save around the greens.
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