Chipping is often an overlooked area of the game for many amateur golfers. The reason being that we won't always need to use a chip shot on every hole. If you hit every single green in regulation, you're not going to find many situations where you need to hit a chip shot. However, for those of us who miss the occasional green, a chip shot is going to be a crucial tool to helping you complete the hole in regulation.
A chip shot is similar to a pitch shot, except that it's even a shorter version of the swing. A chip shot will likely be hit when you are about 20 yards or closer to the pin.
You'll want to set up your chip shot with a very narrow stance. Your feet should be as close as they would be as if you were putting. The ball should be in the middle of your stance to ensure that you make solid and crisp contact. You should choke up on your club almost to the point where you're touching the shaft, allowing you to get a great feel for the shot. You'll want a very short back swing along with an equally short follow through. You'll modify the length of the swing depending on how far you need to hit the chip shot.
A good start to help you get a feel for how hard you need to chip the ball is to think about what it would take to make an underhand toss of the ball to the hole. It would take roughly the same amount of strength and arm movement to get the ball to the hole with an underhand toss as it would with a chip shot.
Chip shots can be practiced almost anywhere and with very little space. Even your yard can be a great place to practice your chipping. Just take a few golf balls, set up a target (i.e. hat, small box) about 10-20 yards away and start chipping towards the target. Once you've hit all those, move the target and start practicing again.
If you're having problems hitting your chip shots solid then a quick fix can sometimes be a basic adjustment in ball position or weight distribution. It is generally better in chipping to play the ball too far back in your stance rather than forward. This is to ensure that you make contact with the ball first. Another method that can help cure chipping problems is to place a little extra weight on your left foot and keep it there throughout the chipping motion.
Beginner Golf Tip – Chipping
Have you ever gone through a round where you felt like you did a good job with both your ball striking and your putting, yet you failed to post a good score? What went wrong? How did you waste so many good shots on your way to posting a higher-than-average number for the day? Most likely, your chipping is to blame. Countless amateur players struggle with their chipping, and as a result, those players are never able to live up to their scoring potential. The ability to chip the ball close to the hole on a regular basis is invaluable when it comes to saving par and keeping your round on the right track. If you can get up and down with regularity, you will find it much easier to keep your scores in an acceptable range.
Without a doubt, the most-overlooked aspect of the professional game is chipping. When you watch a tournament on TV, pay close attention to the quality of the chip shots that are played by the top pros. Sure, they hit plenty of great approach shots from the fairway, but the real magic takes place when they happen to miss a green. A good professional with a solid short game can get the ball up and down time after time, all day long. Even a professional golfer a good lie somewhere around the green, and you don't have to wonder if he or she will get it up and down – you only have to wonder if the chip shot will go in.
Most amateur golfers completely ignore the chipping portion of the game when they decide to practice, instead focusing on the full swing and on their putting stroke. Every part of the game is important, so you need to divide up your practice time evenly in order to address all of the various skills required to play good golf. No matter how much you work on your swing, you are still going to have days where you just can't seem to hit the greens in regulation. When you do have an off day with your full swing, it is a great feeling to know you can rely on your chipping to get you out of trouble. Golfers who are strong in the chipping area of the game actually tend to have more confidence from the fairway because they know they can get up and down to save their par if necessary. If you are fearful of missing the green while hitting your approach shots because you know you can't get up and down, there is an increased chance that you will make a poor swing.
It is often said that the best golfers learn the game from the green back to the tee. That means they start by working on their putting and chipping skills first, and then moving back to longer and longer swings. This is probably the best way to learn how to play golf, since the short game will always have a more profound effect on your score than will the long game. If you can bring solid chipping performance with you to the course each and every day, your average score will quickly come down.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
Keeping It Simple
How often are you able to practice your golf game? One a week, or maybe once a month? If you are like most golfers, you don't have as much time available in your schedule as you would like to work on your skills. Real life commitments, such as work, tend to get in the way of golf practice for the amateur player. Therefore, since you are limited on practice opportunities, you want to keep your game as simple and straightforward as possible. Learning complicated skills takes time and repetitions – and you don't have enough of either of those two things.
One of the best ways to keep your short game simple is to use only one club to hit the majority if your chip shots. By settling on a 'favorite' club that you use to hit the vast majority of your chips, you can reduce the amount of practice time necessary in this area of the game. Rather than needing to practice with three or four different clubs, you can use just one to get your chipping game ready to go. This method will save you time in the short game practice area, and it shouldn't cost you anything in terms of performance. In fact, many professionals prefer to hit most of their chip shots with a single club just because of the confidence and trust they have developed in a specific wedge.
The club that you choose as your 'go-to' option is totally up to you. Some players like to use their most-lofted wedge for the job, such as a sand wedge or a lob wedge, while others players opt for the pitching wedge to keep the ball a bit closer to the ground. Experiment in the practice area with a variety of clubs until you settle on one that gives you the best results. You can always reach for a different club out on the course from time to time if you get into an awkward position, but you want to have one club in mind that you can use for at least 75% of your shots from around the green.
Simplicity in the chipping game applies to your club selection, but it also applies to your technique as well. We will get into more detail regarding chipping technique later in this article, but right off the top you should understand the importance of keeping it simple. By reducing the number of moving parts in your chipping motion, you will improve the chances of creating satisfactory results time and time again. In this way, it might be helpful to think of chipping as being very similar to putting, only with different clubs. The putting stroke doesn't require much power, so the technique is built around being able to deliver the putter into the ball the way way over and over again.
The story is the same with chipping. You won't need much power to move the ball up to the hole, so you can make your motion extremely simple and repeatable. Nerves are likely to come into play when you are hitting chip shots from time to time as well, so having a simple motion will make it more likely that you can repeat your technique even when you are feeling the butterflies in your stomach. Resist the temptation to overcomplicate your chipping technique and you will be rewarded with improved results almost immediately.
Three Basic Fundamentals
As was highlighted above, simplicity should be a main focus when you are learning how to chip the golf ball. With that in mind, the list below contains the three basic fundamentals that you want to have present in your chipping technique. As long as you can hit on these three points consistently, the results of your chip shots are sure to be acceptable.
- Leaning left. This might be the single most important fundamental that you can use while chipping the golf ball. At address, it is critical that your weight is leaning slightly onto your left foot. Why? You need to establish a downward angle into the ball in order to hit quality chip shots, and that all starts by leaning to the left at address. When you start with your weight on your left side – and you then keep it there throughout the shot – you will naturally be promoting a downward angle of attack for the shot. Your club will swing up steeply in the backswing, and it will be dropped down onto the back of the ball in the forward swing. Many amateur golfers lean back and 'scoop' the ball at impact, which is exactly the opposite of what you should be trying to do. Hitting down through the shot is an absolute requirement of good chipping, and you can set yourself up for success on that point simply be leaning to the left at address.
- Flat left wrist. This goes along with the point above regarding many amateurs trying to 'scoop' their chip shots. When you swing the club through the ball in a chip shot, you should maintain a flat left wrist position. With a flat left wrist, you will have great control over the club face and you should be able to send the ball nicely on its way toward the target. Unfortunately, many players try to help the ball get off the ground by cupping their left wrist to add loft to the club. You don't need to help the ball into the air – that is why there is loft on your club to begin with. All you need to do is hit down through the shot with a flat left wrist and allow the club to do the job of popping the ball up out of the grass and onto the green. It takes a measure of discipline and self-control to keep your wrist flat through the hitting area, so this is one fundamental that is going to require some practice time to master.
- Tight backswing. The final fundamental for you to track in your chipping game is a short and tight backswing. Amateur golfers commonly swing the club back too far when they chip the ball, leading to shots that fly too far and wind up beyond the target. As you gain experience, you will start to feel that you are swinging back too far – so you will decelerate into the ball as a result. This is even worse than hitting the ball too far in many cases, as deceleration can lead to poor contact. Have you ever hit a chip shot fat to the point where the ball didn't even reach the green? If so, that bad shot was almost certainly a result of deceleration. Keep your backswing short so you can accelerate through the chip and you will be impressed with the results.
That's it. Those three fundamentals make up everything you need to know to get started chipping the ball successfully. Sure, there are some other technical points that can be made (see the content below), but you don't need to know anything beyond these three fundamental tips to hit some great chip shots. In fact, as you are just getting started, you probably shouldn't know more than what you find above. Keep the process simple in your head and master the basic movement require to chip the ball cleanly. Once you feel confident in executing your basic technique, you can then move on refine that technique in order to achieve better and better results.
Checking the Grass
Chipping wouldn't be nearly the challenge that it is if you were able to play from a perfect lie every time. Think about it – if your ball came to rest on a flat patch of fairway length grass each time you missed the green, how often would you get up and down? It wouldn't take much practice at all to post an impressive up and down percentage if you could always chip from a great lie.
Obviously, that will never be the case. Golf courses feature all sorts of grasses and terrain around the greens, designed to make your job a little bit harder. In fact, this is actually a good thing, as golf would get somewhat boring if you drew the same lie time after time. It is the variety of the game that makes it interesting, but that same variety also offers a tremendous challenge when it comes to chipping the golf ball.
The first thing you need to notice about your lie is the length of the grass. Are you on the fairway cut, or is your ball sitting down in some longer rough? When you are on the fairway length grass, you should have just about any shot open to you as an option. It should be no problem at all to generate a bump and run where you let the ball roll out to the hole, but you can also choose to be more aggressive by hitting a harder shot with backspin to stop it near the target. With pretty much any type of chip shot at your disposal, you will simply need to pick your favorite option and get down to work.
As the grass gets longer, chipping gets both more complicated and simpler all at the same time. How is that possible? Well, on the one hand, you will have a harder time hitting the ball the correct distance from longer grass. Some shots from the rough will come out quick, while others will come out soft. You will have to judge each lie individually, and you should get better at judging distance with experience. On the other hand, chipping from long grass can be rather simple as there really is only one option for the type of shot you can hit. Since you need to cut through the grass, you will want to reach for a lofted club even if you usually chip the ball with a nine iron or pitching wedge. Also, the ball isn't going to have much (or any) backspin when chipped from the rough, so you won't have to decide on what type of shot to play. You should expect the ball to bounce and roll, so adjust your aim accordingly.
Experience plays a major role in learning how to deal with various lies, and that is obviously something that only comes along with time and practice. Every time you hit the ball into the rough around the greens out on the course, look at it as an opportunity to get better. You will remember little bits of information from each shot you hit, and eventually you would feel comfortable with the task of controlling your chip shots from the long grass. Make no mistake, it will always be easier to chip from the short grass than the long stuff, but experience will go a long way toward helping you get up and down from many different lies.
In an effort to speed up the process of gaining experience reading your chipping lies, try to put yourself in all sorts of difficult positions around the practice green. Most people just practice chipping from the fairway cut, but your time would be better spent in the long grass learning how to adjust effectively. Don't place your ball right on top of the grass, either – throw a handful of balls into the rough and play them as they lie, just as you would on the course. By learning how to deal with some difficult lies in the practice area, you will be much better prepared when the situation arises during a round.
Making Swing Adjustments
The basic chipping motion was outlined above through the use of three key fundamentals. If you are able to hit on those three points, you should have no trouble producing quality chip shots over and over again in most circumstances. However, when you face a particularly difficult shot, you may need to adjust your mechanics in order to put the ball close to the hole. Even if you only have one or two 'specialty' shots in your arsenal around the greens, those shots may be able to save you a stroke when you badly need to get up and down from a tough spot.
One of the most important adjustments that you should be able to make is having the ability to hit the ball higher on command. Playing the ball low to the ground is a great way to consistently hit good chip shots – but that won't work if there is a bunker or other obstacle between you and the green. If the hole is cut close to the edge of the green in front of you, the only way to get close to the cup is probably by going high in the air. A higher shot will land softer and stop quicker, meaning you don't have to have as much room on the green in order to hit a good shot. To elevate your chip shots, try adjusting your technique as follows –
- Move the ball up in your stance. The first change that needs to be made is to your ball position. Move the ball closer to your left foot at address so you can slide the club under the ball at impact and send it almost directly straight up into the air.
- Keep your hands back. Most chip shots require your hands to remain out in front of the club head, but that is not the case when you need to go high. Instead, set your hands slightly behind the ball at address and make sure they are still behind the ball when you make contact.
- Right hand action. Instead of keeping your left wrist flat like you would when hitting a standard chip, use your right hand aggressively through the hitting area to add loft to the wedge and get the ball airborne as quickly as possible. This move will take some practice, but you will be amazed at the height you can get on your chip shots when you learn how to use your right hand effectively.
Chipping can actually be one of the most rewarding parts of the game to practice, because it can go such a long way toward improving your scores. When you work on the full swing, it may take months to see any actual improvements on the course – if you ever see any at all. That isn't true when it comes to chipping. If you put in a few hours of chipping practice over the next couple of weeks, you should expect to see returns on your effort almost immediately. The beginning golfer who dedicates himself or herself to learning how to chip the ball properly will be thrilled to see just how fast their scores can improve with the help of a solid game around the greens.