US Open 2015: Chambers Bay’s One Handed Chipper

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Jason Palmer qualified for the US Open after finishing 46th at Wentworth and fifth finish at Walton Heath

If all is as we are led to believe then Chambers Bay, home to the 115th US Open, is going to throw up something very different with its unique location, linksy set-up, funky greens and sloping tees.

Now we can also add a player who chips one-handed into the mix. The folks Stateside won’t have seen anything like it.

Last October Jason Palmer looked set for another season on the Challenge Tour. The 30-year-old from Kirby Muxloe was sitting in 51st spot before he went wire to wire in China.

Get a one-handed chipping lesson from Jason Palmer

A week later he was second in Oman and he had booked his place on the European Tour.

Fifteen events into his rookie season, the Leicester man has made the weekend in over half his starts with a healthy pay cheque at Wentworth moving him up the Race to Dubai standings. 

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The following day he lit it up again at Walton Heath, playing his last 29 holes in nine-under to claim one of 11 spots for the USGA’s showpiece.

“I doubt there have been many one-handed chippers at the US Open before,” he said.

“The rough might be a bit too deep to play one-handed, so I’ll have to assess it when I get there, but it is a problem I’m looking forward to having.

“I would like it to play firm and fast, like it was here.”

I first became aware of Palmer about a year ago. 

Very quickly, despite knowing next to nothing about him, he became a bit of a hero to me.

What I did know was that, at some stage in his life, he had known the pain and misery that only a small ball and a lofted golf club can bring.

Palmer had developed the chyips – a glitzy name for the chipping yips – and while my suffering only happened once a week, twice if I was lucky, this was his living.

He turned pro in 2009, the timing of which couldn’t have been worse as his affliction was gathering pace and his once positive mindset was now gradually disintegrating.

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“At one point I wouldn’t practise because if anyone else was near the vicinity of the chipping green I could wipe them out. I was a hazard to my fellow golfers. If I did practise it would always be in solitude.”

Palmer dabbled with going cack-handed – ’it was too restrictive’ – as well as having short-game lessons from a variety of fellow pros.
I doubt there have been many one-handed chippers at the US Open before If any success was found it was short lived. Then, in the early part of the 2010 Alps Tour season, Palmer was having a chipping competition with Neil Chaudhuri when his friend suggested going one-handed.

How to play a bunker shot one handed with Jason Palmer

“I was at rock bottom and decided to change and the minute I changed I loved the short-game aspect and fell in love with golf again.

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“I wasn’t anxious about missing greens, the stress had gone and I felt like a kid again.

“I do obsess about the game, it was affecting me on a daily basis. If I had a good session I would suddenly be upbeat and feel like I had cracked it and would feel good about myself.

“If I had a bad session or a round where I had capitulated I would feel bad about myself and that’s not me.

“I’m quite a positive guy but it was really getting to me.”

As a fellow and long-suffering member of the chipitis brigade I wanted to know whether there was a specific moment when the magic in the fingers had just disappeared.

For me it was a heaving, involuntary lunge with a seemingly straightforward chip over a bunker in the mid-90s. A shot where I only succeeded in making contact with a piece of earth behind the ball, the divot ending up sitting apologetically on top of the ball.

This chain of events of hands and knees collapsing in imperfect disharmony had been coming for some time, the uneasy nausea beginning when the approach shot had failed to find its target, but never with the result that I hadn’t even made contact with the ball. 

The next effort was less turf and more ball and finished the same distance past the hole from where it had begun.

I relate this, and more, to Palmer. He simply nods and smiles. He knows where I’m coming from – but he wasn’t struggling to remain in single figures, he was trying to make a living.

How to chip one handed – The basics with Jason Palmer

“I would freeze if any shot required loft. I couldn’t figure out a way of getting the club back to the ball in the correct way. On full shots it’s not a problem. I am fortunate that I don’t think of technique onehanded and just think of where I need to land it. 

“I know I can get it on the green one-handed whereas with two it can be like watching a tennis match.

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“I went through a spell in Australia when I would just look at the hole when I was pitching from 40 yards and instantly the results and the technique were good. I was amazed I could strike the ball.

“Then I would look at the ball and I couldn’t do it, I would have that many thoughts inside my head.”

Palmer has entertained us with a series of perfect recoveries, the most impressive being a succession of incredible flop shots, all of which finish within four feet of a pin set on a slope going away from him.

He is not just satisfactory, he is incredibly skilled, and as often as not the ball finishes at gimme distance.

I ask him to play a couple with both hands on the club.

Both balls are airborne, there is no obvious heave of the body at the ball and they finish alongside each other next to the hole. The feeling from within though is one of unease and the hands, when placed together on the club, remain on high voltage.

“The reason why no-one else does it is that you have more control with two hands. But it’s not for me.

“The key is getting the clubhead back to where it started. I over-complicated things with two hands and was always thinking technique rather than where I wanted to land the ball. I’m still better with one hand from heavy rough unless it is very deep.

“I have more control of the clubhead and that is key.”

Palmer is understandably happy with his lot and, while I and many of us, become ever more consumed by our shortcomings, he glides on.

“I don’t obsess about it. My short game needs to be adequate and acceptable, I have my fair share of up and downs but I am never going to be the best chipper in the world as there are limitations to it.”

Next stop: the US Open.

For more on the US Open click here

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