In golf, following your instincts is usually a bad idea. Take chipping, for example.
Most golfers hear a little voice telling them that to get the ball airborne, they must lift it into the air. So they hit the ball as though the club were a spoon, flicking the hands and wrists to create a scooping action that doesn't work very well.
Instead of trusting your instincts, you should trust the club itself. The face is built with loft to do exactly that – loft the ball into the air. This works especially well when you strike the ball with a descending blow.
It's important to learn proper technique through repetition, since many players find it counter-intuitive. A big key is keeping the hands ahead of the club through impact, rather than rolling or flipping them over.
Here's a drill that will instill the correct chipping motion:
- Take your pitching wedge and grip it about 2/3 of the way down the shaft.
- Assume your setup with your normal posture, the clubhead above the ball, your hands slightly ahead, weight on your lead foot.
- The shaft should touch your left (lead) hip, or be just off the hip.
- Make a backswing and follow-through, with the shaft separating from your body on the follow-through. To execute correctly, you'll have to keep the left wrist firm beyond impact.
- If you flick the wrists, the shaft will hit your side or finish in front of your body, pointing right.
After you've gained a feel for the correct swing, grip the club normally and start hitting shots. Look at the butt end of the club at the finish – it should point away from your body.
Crisp Chip Shot Golf Drills
Chipping is an area of the game that gives many amateur golfers fits. It can be hard to consistently chip the ball up close to the hole – and you will struggle to get up and down for par if you aren't chipping the ball close. Of course, in order to chip the ball close to the cup, you need to be making crisp contact as often as possible. Clean, crisp contact is essential for distance control, and distance control really is the name of the game when chipping and pitching the golf ball.
The purpose of this article is to provide you with some drills you can use to work on improving the quality of your chip shots. The exciting thing about working on your chipping is just how fast you can actually see results in this area of the game. Working on your full swing is a long-term endeavor – it will usually be months, or even years, before you will find noticeable improvements. That is not true when it comes to chipping. If you put in some practice time on your chipping technique, you can see results almost immediately. You will notice those results both in the quality of the shots you hit, and in the scores you write down on the card. Simply put, chipping is one of the most important aspects of the game, and every golfer from beginner to pro can benefit from working on their technique in this area.
Chipping is important because you are sure to miss greens during each and every round that you play. Just as you know you will have to putt during every round, you are also going to need to chip during each round that you play. Even a solid ball striking round is going to include a few missed greens over the course of 18-holes, meaning your chipping game needs to be ready to go. Turning those missed greens into pars with a nice chip and a solid putt can go a long way toward keeping your score down at the end of the day.
In addition to the ability to save par from around the green, chipping well will also give you confidence to be aggressive with your approach shots. Knowing you have a good chance to save par even if you miss the green, you will now feel free to attack the flag in the hopes of setting up a birdie chance. With the ability to chip well tucked away in your back pocket, you can play the rest of the game with significantly increased confidence.
Feel free to use the drills included below to work on improving the quality of your chipping technique. All of these drills have been written from the perspective of a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
Drill #1 – Over the Top
This first drill is a simple setup that is completely focused on teaching you how to hit down into the ball properly. You want to hit down on your chip shots in order to cause the ball to pop up into the air. Many amateur golfers try to 'scoop' the ball up by swinging in from a shallow angle of attack, but this is the wrong way to go about your chip shots. Use a downward angle as you swing through impact and the entire chipping process will quickly get much easier.
To learn how to hit down on your chip shots properly, use the simple drill below.
- For this drill, you are going to need a lofted wedge (such as a sand wedge), two golf balls, and a place to practice your chipping. You want to have a clean, flat, fairway lie for this drill, so find such a spot at your practice area before getting started.
- Set one golf ball down in front of you, and take your stance as if you were going to chip that ball to a specific target on the green. At this point, the second golf ball should be in your pocket. Go through the entire pre-shot process, but stop at address just before you would normally start your swing.
- At this point, take the other golf ball from your pocket and set it on the ground approximately six inches behind the ball that you will be chipping. The ball should be placed directly on an extension from the target line, just to the right of the original ball (as you look down from address).
- Once that second ball is in place, go ahead and hit the shot. By chipping with this second ball on the ground, you are going to have to use a relatively steep swing plane in order to hit your chip shot without contacting that second ball. The backswing of your chipping action should go up over the second ball, and your downswing should come down over top of it. If you contact the second ball at all during your shot, reset the drill and try again.
- Hit as many shots as you would like from this setup. Even after just a few chips, you should start to feel quite confident with the idea of hitting down into the back of the ball with a lofted wedge.
Hitting down on your chip shots should be considered one of the building blocks of solid technique. It might not be impossible to chip well without hitting down – but it is pretty close. When you hit down on the ball, you will avoid any grass behind the ball that might be in your way. Also, you will impart backspin on the ball, and the ball will quickly get up off the ground. The best short game players in the world all hit down on their chip shots, and you should be doing the same.
Most likely, the progress that you make from doing this single drill will be dramatic. Failing to hit down is the biggest chipping mistake made by the amateur player, and you can correct it by adding this drill to your regular practice routine. Consider using this quick drill at the start of all of your short game practice sessions to consistently remind yourself to hit down through impact.
Drill #2 – Left Hand Only
The next drill on our list is another simple yet powerful way to improve your chipping performance. As a right handed golfer, your left hand is going to lead the way when you are chipping (or doing anything else, for that matter). So, in order to make sure that the left hand is behaving properly during the chipping action, you are going to remove the right hand from the club in order to hit chip shots with just the left.
Why would you do this? Mostly, you want to get a feel for the stability that you should have in your left hand (and wrist) at impact. Many golfers 'flip' the club through the hitting area, meaning they use their right hand too actively to force the club into the ball. This is the wrong way to chip, and it will lead to countless miss-hit shots. When you chip properly, the back of your left wrist will remain flat at impact. Your entire left arm, from your fingers on up into your shoulder, should feel solid and steady when you hit a chip shot.
The best way to confirm that you are using your left side properly while chipping is to take your right side completely out of the picture. Follow the steps below to hit some one-handed chip shots during your next practice session.
- Set up in the short game practice area with a lofted wedge, a few golf balls, and a clean fairway lie. Anytime you do practice drills to work specifically on your technique, you are going to want to give yourself a good lie. You can spend time later working on hitting chip shots from long rough and other tough spots, but now is not the time for that kind of challenge. Stick with a clean lie to allow yourself to focus in completely on the task of executing the drill.
- Pick a target on the green in front of you, and take your stance as you would for a normal chip shot. Remember, when chipping, you should have feet open to the target and the majority of your weight should be over your left foot.
- When you have completed your stance and you are ready to hit the shot, take your right hand off of the club and put it in your pocket (or behind your back). As you are removing your right hand from the club, make sure to not change anything else about your address position. It is important that you stay in exactly the same position to give yourself the best possible chance at success.
- It is now time to start the swing. You will immediately notice that the club feels much heavier now that you only have one hand on the grip. Use your shoulders to control the backswing and keep your eyes down on the ball (rather than allowing them to follow the club head). As you transition into the downswing, pay attention to the position of your left wrist. By keeping your left wrist flat, you should be able to trace a downward path into the back of the ball. Accelerate through impact and only look up once you are sure the ball is on its way.
- Continue on with this drill to hit as many golf balls as you would like. When you feel like you are finished with the drill, put your right hand back on the club and hit a few more shots. Even when chipping with both hands, remember the feeling of swinging the club back and through with just your left. Hitting the ball while your left side is firm and your left wrist is flat will lead to consistently solid contact.
When you combine a solid left wrist with downward impact, it suddenly becomes difficult to hit a poor chip shot. Have you ever wondered how professional golfers are able to chip the ball close to the hole with such incredible consistency? Talent has something to do with it, of course, but so does solid fundamental technique. Pro golfers know how to move the club in a way that will lead to solid contact time after time, and the two drills we have covered so far will help you chip more like the pros.
Drill #3 – The Ladder Drill
Now that you have spent some time working on those first two drills, your chipping technique should be in pretty good shape. After all, chipping is a relatively simple action, meaning you don't need to do a lot of complicated drills in order to master solid technique. You do, however, need to put in plenty of practice time to learn how to use your technique effectively. That is where this next drill comes into the equation. This drill is going to focus on your ability to control distance through solid, crisp contact shot after shot.
As was the case with the first two drills, you can simply follow the steps below to perform the ladder drill.
- For this drill, you will need a wedge, five golf balls, and two golf tees. Of course, you will also need to be at a practice facility which offers you the ability to hit chip shots to a green. As was true of the previous two drills, the ladder drill should first be done from a clean fairway lie. After you get the hang of it, feel free to try this drill from more difficult locations.
- Before you get ready to chip, you need to do a bit of setup for this drill. First, place one of the tees in the ground to mark your chipping spot. This spot should be a few steps off the edge of the green. Push the tee partially into the ground at the point you choose, and then walk up onto the putting surface.
- Now, you need to pick out a hole to use for this drill. This hole should be on a flat section of the green, and it should be roughly 10-15 yards from your chipping spot. Once you have picked out the hole you will use as your target, you are going to put the other tee into the ground ten feet short of that hole. The tee should be directly on the line between your chipping spot and the hole.
- With the second tee in the ground, you can walk back to your chipping spot and prepare to start the drill. The idea here is pretty simple – you are going to hit five chip shots in total, with the goal of hitting each shot farther than the previous one. However, all five shots need to at least travel as far as the tee you put in the ground ten feet short of the hole. Also, each shot needs to stop short of the hole itself. This is called the ladder drill because completely it successfully will see you building a 'ladder' between your target tee and the hole.
- When you chip the first ball, your goal should be to chip it past the tee but well short of the hole. Remember, you need to leave room for the next four shots. If you successfully chip the ball somewhere between the tee and the hole, continue on to the next shot. You will have successfully completed the drill if you are able to fit all five balls between the tee and the hole, with each shot traveling further than the one before.
It should be said right away that this drill is far more difficult that it sounds at first. Controlling your distance is the hardest part of chipping. You will likely be able to get through the first couple shots without much trouble, but things will quickly get more difficult from there. If you are able to finish this drill at any point during your practice session, you should be proud of your accomplishment.
The key to actually getting through this drill is making crisp contact at impact. Solid contact is what is going to allow you to control your distances successfully, so focus on your fundamentals and keep your head steady through the swing. If you make the ladder drill a regular part of your short game practice sessions, you will find that your ability to control distance when chipping on the course quickly improves.
Drill #4 – Bad Lies
For our last drill, we are going to leave the clean fairway lies that we have been using to this point. Now, we are going to intentionally seek out bad lies around the practice chipping area. Of course, this might not be a lot of fun at the moment, but it will be great preparation for when you draw these kinds of lies on the course. Missing a green on the course often means having to chip or pitch from a tough spot, so you might as well prepare for that task during your practice sessions.
While practicing from bad lies can be as simple as just tossing a few golf balls down into the rough and getting to work, you can use the drill outline below if you would like to focus your process.
- Start with a sand wedge and three golf balls for this drill. Pick out a hole on the green that you are going to use as your target for each shot.
- Once you have picked a target, look around the practice green for some less-than-ideal lies. Obviously, long grass is one place that you can easily find a bad lie. However, you can also find bad lies in old divots, on bare patches of ground, and more. Even the nicest practice area is sure to have some tough spots as long as you are willing to look around for a minute. In addition to tough lies with regard to the grass, you can also place your ball in tough spots on the sides of slopes.
- For each round of this drill, you are going to use three different types of poor lies – one for each golf ball that you chip. Each ball will be chipped toward the same hole, but each will be hit from a different kind of bad lie. Continue chipping from poor lies, three shots at a time, until you decide to move on to another drill.
Many players find that this kind of chipping drill quickly becomes one of their favorites. Rather than hitting the same kind of shot over and over from a clean lie, chipping from bad lies requires you to use your imagination as you go. Remember, even from bad lies, you should always be focused on making clean contact with the ball. If you can achieve clean contact at impact, you will be able to control the ball nicely, regardless of what your lie looks like. Building up this skill during practice will go a long way toward helping you get up and down from tough spot on the golf course.
Developing your chipping skill is one of the best things you can do in the pursuit of lower scores. You might be tempted to rebuild your swing as you work toward becoming a better player, but the results of those efforts will take months to show in your game – if they ever show at all. Chipping practice provides quicker results, as most players will start to shoot lower scores after only a short period of working on this crucial part of the game. Focus on the basics of your technique, work on making crisp contact with each swing, and use the drills above to continually improve day after day. Good luck!