Unfortunately, the “yips” aren’t limited to a 3-foot circle around the cup. The dread disease can strike off the green, too.
The yips – a jittery jab or weak prod causing golfers to miss short putts – afflict many players’ chipping as well. The basic concept is the same. The golfer may attempt to scoop the ball with a handsy motion, or take his eye off the ball too soon, or decelerate his swing approaching the ball.
The results can be thin or topped chips, hitting behind the ball (fat), poor contact which leaves the ball short, or even shanking.
Here we’ll examine the root cause of chipping yips and offer a prescription for curing the problem.
Cause:Lack of confidence – While beginners and high-handicap golfers are most likely to suffer from chipping yips, experienced and accomplished players are susceptible too. All it takes is one or two chili-dips, or blading a ball across the green, to dent one’s confidence.
A lack of confidence creates tension, self-doubt and a tendency to over-think. Instead of stepping up to the shot and hitting the ball naturally, the golfer tries to guide the ball onto the green and toward the target. Stiff arms, wrists and shoulders choke the club and limit freedom of motion. Our habit of hitting chips thin or chunking them becomes that much worse.
Cure: Back to basics – Want some good news? The chipping yips are easier to fix than their green-based sibling illness. Unlike putting, where you must hit a specific target, there’s leeway when chipping onto the green. Depending on the difficulty of the shot, a good result might finish as close as one foot or as far as eight feet from the cup.
More good news: Chipping is arguably golf’s simplest act. The swing is short, shots are typically played with a lofted club, the fundamentals straightforward. Anyone enduring a bout of yips should find the nearest practice green where chipping is allowed – or your own back yard – and work on these basics:
- Set up with feet close together, separated by a few inches, the ball in center of your stance.
- Weight favoring the left (lead) foot.
- Hands slightly ahead of the ball, the shaft leaning toward the target, with the left arm and shaft forming a straight line.
- Your grip pressure should be a 4 or 5 on a scale of 1-10.
- When taking the club back, maintain the triangle formed by your arms, wrists and hands, allowing very little wrist hinge.
- As you swing into the ball, focus on returning the hands, arms and shaft to their address positions – hands ahead, shaft tilted at the target.
Remember, good chipping requires a slight downward blow on the ball, so it’s OK to take a small divot (though we suggest repairing these, especially in the back yard).
While practicing, there’s nothing to get nervous about. Work out your yips between rounds by drilling the fundamentals. Your confidence will return and you’ll wonder how you ever got the chipping yips in the first place.
Golf Chipping Drills
Players often fail to improve due to a lack of practice. The following golf chipping drills are simple and effective ways to improve chipping techniques.
Three Foot Drill
Similar to putting try to get the ball inside a 3 foot radius of the hole. Place tees in the green making a 3 foot circle around the hole. Putts are more makeable the closer you are to the hole. Putting percentages diminish greatly once you start moving back from 3 feet. Practice chipping with different clubs from different locations. The objective is to get the ball inside a three foot radius of the hole.
Chip Shot Alignment and Path Drill
The following golf chipping drill is designed to improve alignment and swing path while chipping. Completing the drill correctly allows the ball to start toward the target.
Begin with two alignment sticks or clubs parallel to each other on the ground about 12 inches away, slightly wider than the club head. Position the alignment sticks in the direction of the target. Place the ball between alignment sticks. Take your normal chipping set up and position your body parallel with the alignment aids. The drill provides an easy way that assures the body and club are properly lined up with the target.
Start by hitting chips with your 7 iron. The ideal chipping motion produces short swings that maintain the club head low to the ground throughout the entire swing. Keep the club head extended down the target line between the two alignment aids. Practice using other clubs that produce more loft with less roll. The use of alignment aids can be transitioned into putting, pitching and even the full swing. The correct path should allow the ball to start straight toward the target.
Common chipping errors produce a poor swing path that cuts across the ball. The club head should travel down the target line and cause the ball to start toward the intended target. If the ball starts left or right of the alignment aids there is a problem with the swing path. Additionally, if the club head strikes the alignment aids there is a problem with the swing path.
Up and Down Drill
The term "up and down" refers to holing a putt in as few shots as possible following a chip or pitch shot. The phrase is commonly used to express saving par or making a birdie. Getting up and down is crucial to shooting low scores and typically includes one shot off the green and one putt. The up and down drill is designed to simulate a more realistic practice sessions. In addition, the drill combines your putting, chipping and pitching skills to improve your overall short game.
Visit the practice green, drop a ball and hit a chip shot. Next, grab your putter and attempt to hole the putt. Focus on hitting the chip shot close to the hole and give yourself an opportunity to make the putt. Switch locations frequently and add variables with good or bad lies. Practice with a variety of clubs and learn the correct carry distance with roll for each club. Add goals to the drill such as getting up and down a specific number of times in a roll or a percentage of attempts. Finally, turn the drill into a game, such as a match play competition with a friend. The up and down drill is easily one of the best golf chipping drills around and should dramatically improve your short game.
Golf Chipping Techniques
The perfect round of golf might allow you to hit every green in regulation and one putt every green for birdie. Realistically, you miss several greens in regulation and the ball ends up in the strangest and most difficult areas around the green. The fun begins during the struggle to somehow save par and keep a great round alive. One of the most important techniques is the "chip shot." During a round of golf chipping can make or break your score.
The chip shot is a low running shot around the green. The ball travels only a fraction of the way in the air and the majority of the way on the ground. The chip shot is commonly referred to as a "bump and run." The main objective is to get the ball rolling like a putt. Make the same swing with a variety of clubs and the loft will produce a shot with a slight change in trajectory and cause the ball to roll a different distance.
Chip Shot Set Up
Begin the set up with your feet only about 6-12 inches apart. The narrow base works for the chip shot since you only use a short arm swing. Bigger swings require a wider base that maintains balance throughout the swing. In an effort to maintain balance and create a downward angle of attack, position the majority of your weight on the front leg and foot.
Bend your knees slightly while leaning forward at the hips. The correct forward lean creates the correct spine angle. Allow the arms to fall straight down below your shoulders and grip the club tension free. The left shoulder should start higher than the right shoulder. An important part of the chip shot is the "triangle" that you form between your shoulders and arms. A comfortable position for your hands should be approximately six inches away from your left leg. Grip down on the club. Gripping down will make the club shorter and easier to control. The hands should grip the club slightly forward of center, however, there should be a distinct forward shaft lean at address. The ball should be positioned off the inside of the right foot.
Chip Shot Swing
The golf chipping motion is similar to the putting stroke. The chipping stance positions the majority of your weight on the front leg and foot. Similar to the putting stroke, there should be no movement with the lower body. Initiate the swing with your arms and shoulders. One of the basic fundamentals of the chip shot requires the weight to remain on the front leg and foot.
The hands stay low while the arms swing back and forth, similar to the pendulum motion of the putting stroke. In fact, the arms and shoulders create a triangle in the set up that stays perfectly together during the backswing and forward swing. The hands are already positioned slightly forward of the ball. Therefore, the idea is to swing the arms without moving the wrists during the swing. The arms swing toward impact with the hands leading while the club head lags behind. The ideal impact position produces a stable body, straight left arm and flat left wrist. After impact the arms continue to swing forward. The hands and club head should remain low during the forward swing after impact. Try to swing the club head down the target line for as long as possible. The club should travel toward the intended target for the ball to start straight.
Maintain a firm left wrist and allow the club head to lag behind the hands at impact. Do not allow the wrists to flip through impact. When properly executed, your wrists will not hinge during the backswing. The wrists will only hinge when the club reaches waist high and hands begin going up in the backswing. The golf chipping motion is a shorter swing. Always accelerate through the entire shot. Flipping your wrists through impact will tend to decelerate and hit up on the golf ball.
Chip Shot Strategy
The chip shot is performed in the rough, fairway or even fringe around the green. The idea is to get the ball rolling like a putt. Many players often make the mistake of trying a difficult pitch or flop shot when you can simply hit a chip shot. The basic idea behind the chip shot strategy is to land the ball as close to you as possible and allow the ball to roll the remainder toward the hole. Each club you select will cause the ball to roll differently based on the loft.
A good rule to follow around the green is putt if you can. If you can not putt, than chip it and if you can not chip than pitch the ball. The pitch or lob shot should be the last resort. Each club requires a progressively bigger swing to finish in the same spot. Since a putting stroke requires a shorter swing than a pitch, there is potentially less that can go wrong. You are playing the percentages by playing the safest and most efficient shot.
The arms and shoulders will produce a similar swing with all clubs while altering the club selection to determine the distance the ball travels. The chip shot strategy is important for each shot so think about where you want the ball to land. Practice the shot with different clubs, and become familiar with where the shot will land, and how far the ball will roll. Knowing how the ball will react once it lands on the green is imperative to hitting successful chip shots. Take advantage of different clubs in your bag, for example 7 iron through lob wedge. As a general rule, the chip shot will travel approximately 25% of the way in the air and roll the remainder 75% on the green. Therefore, if you are facing a longer chip use a 7 iron while a shorter chip shot might require a pitching wedge or sand wedge.
Practice Distance Control
Good players understand the relationship of distance control with a variety of clubs. In addition, it is crucial to learn how the ball will roll after it lands on the green. Place about 6 or 7 tees on the green in a line about 3 feet apart from each other. Now practice hitting to each tee with a 7 iron. Once you control the distance observe how the ball reacts once it lands on the green. Next, move to another club and so on until you have practiced with a variety of clubs. Once you master the ability to control the golf ball your chipping will improve.
Chip Shot Impact
Good players understand the importance of hitting down on the golf ball that produces a shot that launches in the air. A chip is one of the easiest shots to learn the proper sequence of movements to achieve a downward strike on the ball. Most players that struggle hitting the ball in the air flip their wrists through impact. Decelerating or flipping the wrists through impact causes an upward strike on the golf ball. The result is a thin or topped golf shot that rolls across the back of the green.
One of the key aspects of a chip shot, or any shot in golf, is to keep your left wrist firm through impact. This creates a move where your hands lead into the shot so the leading edge of the club head travels down and strikes the golf ball with a downward angle of approach. This creates crisp contact with the ball.
Flat Left Wrist
The correct chip shot impact position maintains a flat left wrist. Avoid bending or hinging your wrists. Make sure your left arm is straight while the club head lags behind your left arm and hands. This prevents flipping your wrists trying to lift or scoop the ball. Allow the arms and shoulders to swing the club while your lower body remains still throughout the swing. Try placing a 6 inch ruler in your glove against the outside of your left hand. The ruler will impede the ability of trying to flip the left wrist through impact. Remember, the hands should always lead into impact while the club head lags behind. This creates the necessary downward angle of attack required to hit the ball in the air.
Extended Shaft Drill
Achieve the proper feeling and movements by taking a broken shaft and stick it through the top of a grip. The club will now extend an extra three feet. Another option includes gripping an alignment stick through the left hand in addition to gripping a club. Grip the club so the extended shaft (or stick) is positioned to the outside of your left rib cage in your set up. Make short swings and hit chip shots while trying to avoid the extended shaft from jabbing your side. When you can swing without the extension hitting your side at impact you have achieved the proper movement of your left arm and hands leading the club head through the shot. If the extension smacks against your left side before or at impact you are guilty of flipping your wrists. Practice the drill until you can hit the shot without the extension touching your left side. The extended shaft drill teaches you to swing with a downward angle of attack and correct chip shot impact position. The drill only permits for a smaller length swing, perfect for a chip shot.
Another chip shot drill requires you to alter your grip. Take a left hand low grip, similar to those who putt with a reverse grip. A right handed golfer will position their right hand on the top and left hand low on the grip. This grip position will allow you to feel a swing that restricts the flipping motion through impact. The reverse grip teaches the correct chip shot impact position with the flat left wrist. Practice with the left hand low grip and then switch back to your normal grip. This drill helps many amateurs learn the proper downward angle of attack.
Fall Back Move
Inconsistent contact is often the result of shifting the weight back to the right leg and foot or flipping the wrist at impact. Practice setting up with the right foot back behind the left foot and on the right toe. The weight is 100% on the left leg and foot. Now practice making a few swings back and through. Any attempt to shift weight back to the right side will result in a loss of balance and falling over. The next step is to focus on the correct chip shot impact position with a flat left wrist at impact to assure the proper downward angle of attack.
Golf Chipping Tips
Have you ever walked up around the green only to find your ball in a sitting down in the rough only a few yards off the front? Poor club selection could easily turn this bad situation into a disaster. When the ball is sitting in the front of the green with a perfect lie you can basically hit any club. However, when you are 1 yard off the green with the ball sitting down in thick rough your options have been severely limited. Unfortunately there is no club, shot or swing that magically performs from every lie. Experience plays a big part in hitting these difficult shots. The key and best golf chipping tips for all these shots is the proper fundamentals and the downward angle of attack necessary for every shot in golf.
Golf Chipping Tips from a Bad Lie
If the ball is sitting down in rough select a club with more loft such as a pitching wedge or sand wedge. Digging down with such a short swing is extremely difficult with a less lofted club like a 7 iron. The additional loft allows the club to swing down and pop the ball up from the thick lie.
Nothing can be more frustrating than finding your ball in a divot just off the front of the green. While the situation is not what you want you still have the full selection of any club in your bag. Again, go back to the basic chipping fundamentals. Keep your weight forward, body still, flat left wrist at impact and swing through the ball. If you swing down on the ball you should have little problem popping the ball up and rolling it toward the hole.
Golf Chipping Tips on Sloped Greens
The undulations on the green add another element of difficulty. The goal is to pick the appropriate landing area and allow the ball to roll toward the hole. Unfortunately, there are several variables on each green that present a unique challenge such as slope and speed. Try using a club with less loft when facing an uphill shot so the ball rolls out a little more. On the other hand, use a more lofted club when facing a downhill shot. Hopefully the backspin and softer landing will allow the ball to roll slowly down the slope.
The firmness and speed of the greens are another concern. Faster and firmer greens might require chip shots with more lofted clubs to off-set the quick speed. Firmer greens tend to roll faster and break more. Slower and softer greens need chip shots with less loft so the ball will create the necessary roll to reach the hole. Softer greens and tend to roll slower and break less.
When facing a sloped green use the slope to funnel the ball down to the low side of the hole. Realistically you will not make many chip shots. Therefore, give yourself the best opportunity by planning for a straight or uphill putt. The worst thing you can do is hit a nice chip but leave yourself with a tricky downhill putt that breaks either direction.
Think Like a Pro
The chip shot is a relatively easy shot to learn and execute. Amateurs often develop a poor plan, if any, and land the ball too close to the pin. The ball ends up rolling well past the hole. Professional players manage to get up and down a very high percentage of time. One of the basic golf chipping tips is to understand what club to hit and how it will roll once it lands on the green. Professionals make a repetitive swing and allow the club to do the work. They successfully analyze the shot and take the best course of action. Essentially, they pick where the ball should land and pick the club to land the ball on that spot. For example, take a simple 30 yard shot from 2 yards off the front of the green. There is a sprinkler head on the line 1 yard in front of the ball preventing a putt, therefore, the player must hit a chip shot. Some players prefer to think of the shot as 90 feet rather than 30 yards. Both are acceptable, it comes down to personal preference. The player might select a 7 iron and determine the landing spot by walking off about 7 ½ steps, assuming each step is a yard. Since the ball reacts the same, the player just needs to land the ball 7 ½ yards away and the ball should stop around the intended target.