Here's a little secret many golfers never learn: The ground is your friend.
Sometimes, flying the ball all the way to your target isn't the best approach. Sometimes, in fact, it makes things a lot more difficult. Certain situations call for a shot that flies only a short distances, then bounces and rolls the rest of the way.
This is called a “bump-and-run” shot, and it's popular on the seaside links courses of the British Isles. The bump-and-run is extremely handy when the ground is firm, especially during windy weather when an airborne ball is vulnerable.
You can play the bump-and-run from very short distances, just off the green, or from farther out – 200 yards or more, depending on conditions and your ability. Any time you've got a shot with no hazard, trees or rough in your way and the turf is firm, the bump-and-run may be your best option.
Here's how to play it: Learn the bump-and-run
How and Why – Bump and Run Golf Shot
The bump and run is among the oldest shots in the game of golf. Early golfers kept the ball on the ground far more than modern players, largely because the game was invented on the windy links land of Scotland. While the game has changed tremendously over the centuries, the bump and run shot still has a place in your game. Whether you want to roll the ball along the ground in order to take the wind out of play, or you just find it to be an easier way to get close to the hole, knowing how to hit a bump and run is something that will pay off for you nicely on the course.
So what is a 'bump and run' exactly? Well, it is pretty much exactly as it sounds. To execute this shot, you 'bump' the ball with any of a number of different clubs, and then allow it to 'run' out toward the hole. This shot is almost always played from within close range of the green, and it is usually chosen only when there is plenty of green to work with between your ball and the hole. A traditional bump and run shot would be played with something like a seven or eight iron, however you can technically pull off this shot with many different clubs. As long as the ball doesn't have too much backspin when it lands on the green, you can bump and run the ball with nearly any club in the bag.
One of the big advantages to hitting the bump and run is taking the backspin portion of the shot out of the equation. Have you ever hit a chip shot with your lob wedge that you thought was going to be perfect, only to see it 'check up' and stop well short of the hole? That is the outcome you will be trying to avoid when you use a bump and run. This shot has very little backspin, so you are virtually guaranteed to see it run out after it lands. In fact, a bump and run is much like playing a putt from off the green. You use a little bit of loft to get the ball over the grass right in front of you, but then you get the ball back down on the ground so you can run it the rest of the way. If you are naturally talented with lag putting, you may be a perfect candidate for using the bump and run.
Of course, there are limitations to this kind of chip shot. If you are facing a shot with a lot of long grass between you and the green, for instance, you likely won't be able to choose a bump and run. Also, if you are playing a chip shot that is headed straight down hill on a firm and fast green, the bump and run probably won't enable you to stop the ball quick enough. However, most golf courses will provide for plenty of opportunities to employ the bump and run throughout the course of a round. The best plan of action is to learn how to hit this shot on the practice green so you can put it into use whenever you see fit. Good short game players have a variety of shots at their disposal, and the bump and run is one that you should absolutely know how to use.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
Basics of the Bump and Run
One of the great things about playing a bump and run shot is how easy the mechanics are to execute, even for a beginning golfer. The bump and run is a great shot to teach to new golfers because they can quickly begin to see success after just a few minutes of practice. The standard technique used for a bump and run is very similar to a putting stroke, with only a couple of minor modifications. Once you learn how to hit a bump and run, you should be able to reliably produce this shot time and time again.
The first thing you will have to do when playing a bump and run is pick a club. To start with, use your seven iron for the bump and run shots that you are going to hit during your next practice session. You can move on from there to using a variety of other clubs around the greens, but starting with a seven iron is a good way to learn the basic technique. With a seven iron, you shouldn't experience any noticeable backspin when the ball lands on the green, so the shots you produce should simply bounce and roll toward the target.
With your seven iron in hand, find a spot around a practice chipping green at your local course that will allow you to hit some bump and run shots. You should be standing on flat ground, in an area that has been mowed down to fairway height. While it is possible to play a bump and run from the rough, most of these shots are played from the fairway – so that is where you should start. Pick a target on the green that gives you plenty of room to let the ball bounce and roll. Don't pick a hole that is cut right next to the edge of the green in front of you, as that will not be a shot that is well-suited to the bump and run.
After you have picked a spot to chip from and you have selected a hole to serve as your target, there is one last step before you can hit some shots – choose your grip. On this point there are basically two options –
- Use your regular grip. This is the option that most players will choose when hitting a bump and run, simply because it requires no adjustment from the rest of your swings. Whatever grip style you use on your full shots is the same style that you will then use while hitting bump and run shots from around the green. The advantage to keeping your grip the same is that you will be able to hit all of your short shots – whether they are bump and runs or regular chip shots – with the same grip. This provides continuity to your short game, and you should be able to achieve more consistent results in the end.
- Use your putting grip. The other choice here is to use your putting grip to hit all bump and run shots. Since the shot is so similar to a putting stroke, it does make some sense to hold the club in the same way that you hold your putter. Most putter grip styles make it easy to keep your hands out of the swing, which is exactly what you will be trying to do while bumping the ball. Of course, on the downside, you will have to change grips between your bump and run shots and the rest of your short game shots, which could become somewhat confusing.
The recommendation is for most golfers to use their regular full swing grip while hitting bump and run shots, simply because of the consistency that you will gain from that approach. However, if you are significantly more comfortable using your putting grip, there is nothing wrong with that option.
At long last, you can finally hit a few bump and run shots. When you hit your first shots, don't worry about much other than trying to bump the ball just over the top of the grass so that it lands on the green and rolls out toward the target. It isn't important to think about your technique at this point, because you need to have a starting point before you can begin making adjustments. Hit five or ten shots and observe your results. Now that you have hit a few bump and runs in the practice area, you can move on to refining your technique.
Learning as You Go
Since the bump and run is such a short shot with such a small swing, there aren't a lot of mechanics that you will need to learn. In fact, just by hitting a few shots without really thinking about your technique, you are probably in pretty good shape already. From there, you should only make changes based on the results that you are seeing in front of you. By carefully watching the outcome of your shots, you can make small changes which will hopefully lead to big improvements.
Following is a quick list of potential outcomes for your bump and run shots, along with the corresponding corrections.
- Running the ball past the hole. This is most likely the outcome that you will see when first starting with the bump and run. Since you are probably used to chipping with a wedge, you will be making a swing at first that is too long to use with a less-lofted club. Therefore, the ball will carry too far onto the green and it will quickly run past the target. The adjustment that needs to be made, obviously, is to make a shorter swing. Most golfers are surprised at just how short of a swing they can use to hit a bump and run shot.
- Coming up short. If you find that you are having trouble getting the ball to bounce and roll consistently to the target, you may be using too much loft. For longer bump and run shots, try moving down to even a four or five iron until you are able to comfortably get the ball all the way too the hole without making a big swing. If you would like, you can even try hitting some bump and run shots with your fairway metals or hybrid clubs to add roll out to the shot.
- Hitting it fat. It is relatively common for golfers who are new to the bump and run to hit the ball fat from time to time. Usually this occurs because the ball is too far forward in the stance. Try lining the ball up off the inside of your right foot at address, with your weight leaning slightly toward the target. This kind of setup will encourage a downward strike, perfect for making sure that you catch the ball before the grass.
- Hitting it thin. Even with proper ball position, it is still possible to hit your shots thin if you move your head prior to making contact. Keep your head and eyes perfectly still as you swing through the shot to give yourself a good chance of hitting the sweet spot. A thin bump and run shot is one that will likely run well beyond the intended target, so it is important that you hit this shot square as often as possible.
The most important thing you can do to improve your performance on bump and run shots is simply to carefully watch your results and respond appropriately. Obviously, if you are bumping the ball up close to the hole most of the time, you don't need to make any changes at all. However, if you are struggling in one area or another, use the points above to make the proper corrections to your technique.
The Benefits of the Bump and Run
Now that you know the basics of how to hit a bump and run, it will be helpful to know why you would want to hit one in the first place. After all, there are plenty of different ways to chip the golf ball, so you have options to choose from on each short game shot that you play. Shot selection is an important part of becoming a good golfer. Each situation that you encounter on the course will be unique, so it is crucial that you are able to pick the right shot at the right time.
There are many benefits to choosing the bump and run, but it is not the right shot in every situation. By understanding the list of benefits below, you will stand a better chance of employing your new bump and run shot at just the right moment.
- Great under pressure. One of the best things about using a bump and run is that it is far easier to execute under pressure than a normal chip or pitch shot. When you get nervous, it can be difficult to execute your chipping motion correctly, and hitting the ball fat or thin becomes a very real possibility. However, with the bump and run, you will be making a swing that is more like your putting stroke than anything else. Therefore, you should be able to hit a pretty good shot even if you are feeling the pressure.
- Easy to play uphill. Uphill pitch shots can be difficult because the ball will often check up before it makes it all the way to the hole. That won't be a problem when playing a bump and run. Simply bounce the ball on the green and allow it to roll like a putt the rest of the way. This is a particularly effective technique when the hole is located all the way in the back of the green. Rather than having to run the risk of flying the ball close to the back edge, you can bounce it in the middle of the green and let the run out take care of the rest of the shot.
- Possibility of a hole out. When the ball is rolling along the green in the vicinity of the hole, there is always the chance that it will fall in. Obviously you aren't going to make your bump and run shots very often, but seeing one fall in from time to time is certainly a nice bonus. If you are facing an easy chip shot that you think you could make, consider putting the bump and run to use in order to knock it into the hole.
- Deal with a bad lie. When you draw a poor lie on the short grass – such as when your ball is sitting on a bare spot – you can use the bump and run to take some of the risk out of the shot. It is easy to hit the ball thin or fat from a poor lie when hitting a conventional chip shot, so play the bump and run to provide yourself with more margin for error.
As you gain experience with the bump and run, you will likely find more advantages than just the ones listed above. Of course, at the same time, you will start to discover the limitations of this shot. Golf is a never-ending learning experience, so take the good with the bad when it comes to the bump and run. After a period of trial and error you should have a pretty good idea of when to use this shot, and when to leave it in the bag.
There is no such thing as a perfect type of golf shot, and that is certainly true of the bump and run. You will find plenty of chances to use this shot, and you will also find plenty of short game situations that call for something else entirely. The whole point is to add as many 'weapons' to your bag as possible so you can get your ball up and down with regularity.
Before you jump into the world of bump and run chip shots, consider the following few points as final thoughts on this topic.
- Be careful from the rough. While it is possible to play the bump and run out of the rough, you will likely find it difficult to execute properly. Controlling your distance from the rough is always difficult, and many golfers will struggle to get the speed right when choosing to bump the ball from the longer grass. Using as much loft as possible is typically your best bet when chipping from the rough, although you may opt to hit the bump and run if you have a lot of green to work with – or if the rough is cut rather short.
- Use good tempo. Even though a bump and run swing is a short one, you still want to use good tempo and rhythm while swinging the club. Distance control is all about tempo, so you need to move the club smoothly back and through in order to leave the ball right next to the hole. If you find yourself rushing through your bump and run swing, take a deep breath before hitting the shot and focus on keeping everything as smooth as possible.
- Master a single club. It is certainly possible to hit the bump and run with a variety of clubs, and that versatility can be a good thing in certain circumstances. However, you first want to master hitting this shot with just one club so you can become comfortable with how far the ball will travel both in the air and on the ground. Only when you are completely confident in your bump and run abilities with one club should you move on to using others.
The bump and run is a classic golf shot, and it is certainly one that should have a spot in your game. Just like anything else on the golf course, the key to using the bump and run effectively is knowing when to use it. When used at the right time, the bump and run is a powerful weapon that can make getting up and down rather easy. When used at the wrong time, however, the bump and run is almost useless for trying to get the ball close to the hole. Learn how to pick your spots wisely, and get comfortable with the simple technique, and you will have added a useful shot to your overall game.