Chipping Golf Tip: Hands Lead Clubhead

Do your chips shots often come up well short of the hole? Do you tend to hit behind the ball, or catch it thin?

There's an easy way to cure these chipping errors: Keep your hands ahead of the clubhead.

That goes for the setup, backswing, impact and follow-through. With the hands leading the way, you'll create a downward, trapping action at impact and prevent the wrists from flipping – a major cause of chipping problems.

Just follow these basic steps and your chipping will improve in no time at all:

1. Stand with your feet about 6” apart (more or less).

2. Position the ball in the center of your stance, or slightly right of center (for a right-handed player).

3. With the clubhead behind the ball, move your hands a couple of inches toward the target, just enough so that the shaft leans forward.

4. Take the club back using your arms and shoulders, with little or no wrist action.

5. Try to return the arms, hands and club to the exact same position at impact as they held at address.

6. Keep the hands ahead of the clubhead after striking the ball.

Learn this method and your chips will be crisper with more spin and control.

Chipping Golf Tip – Hands Lead Club Head

Chipping Golf Tip – Hands Lead Club Head

Are you one of the countless golfers who becomes filled with fear a soon as you step over the ball to hit a chip shot? Chipping is one of the most challenging areas of the game for the average golfer to conquer, yet it doesn't have to be that way. In fact, chipping can be quite simple if you are able to master a few basic mechanics. Most golfers ignore chipping to instead work on their full swing and their putting, and the results speak for themselves. Being able to chip the ball close to the hole on a regular basis is one of the most important skills you can develop, so take the time to learn how to chip and your game will never be the same.

The idea of the hands leading the club head is not something that is unique to the chipping portion of the game. You should be trying to get your hands in front of the club head at impact on the vast majority of your shots, with the rare exceptions including greenside bunker shots and flop shots from the rough. By getting your hands past the club head at impact, you can create a downward angle of attack, which is great for helping you to make solid contact and impart backspin on the ball.

Many amateur golfers try to help the ball in the air by 'scooping' with their hands at the bottom of the swing – this is a mistake which will only lead to trouble. As the club approaches the ball, your hand should continue to move toward the target without hesitation. It is easy to get nervous at this point in the swing, which can result in your hands slowing down and the club head passing them right before contact is made. It takes confidence to keep your hands moving all the way through the shot, so you will have to be dedicated to your chipping motion if you are going to find success.

Once you learn how to chip the ball consistently, you will find that the entire game opens up in front of you. No longer fearful of missing the green from time to time, you will be more confident when playing approach shots from the fairway. Players who are consistent performers in the chipping phase of the game will be able to aim directly at flags because they know they can get up and down should they happen to miss the target. A poor short game around the greens can lead to conservative play with your irons, which can lead to conservative play off the tee. Simply by improving your chipping, you can open up everything else and begin to play the game with the kind of aggressive attitude necessary to shoot low scores.

All of the content 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.

The Ideal Impact

The Ideal Impact

Prior to learning how to make a quality chipping motion, it will be helpful to understand what the perfect impact position looks like while chipping. If you have a clear vision in your head of where you are trying to put the club at impact, it will become easier to actually arrive at that position. In golf, everything boils down to impact. It doesn't matter what kind of moves you make during your swing, as long as you arrive in the right spot to send the ball toward the target.

Following is a list of points that should all be 'checked off' as part of your chipping impact position.

  • Hands in front of club head. Of course, since this one is in the title of the article, it should be no surprise to find it on the list. Getting your hands out in front of the club head at impact is critical because it will allow you to create a downward angle of attack through the shot. Hitting down on your chip shots makes it easier to avoid the grass behind the ball, meaning you stand a better chance of making clean contact. Also, by hitting down, you should be able to create backspin, which will enable you to chip aggressively at the hole while using that backspin to stop the ball quickly. If your hands are behind the club head when you make contact, it is very likely that the outcome of the shot will not be a good one.
  • Weight on left side. This is a point that goes hand in hand with the first point on the list. If you have your weight on your left side, along with keeping your hands in front of the club head, you should have no trouble at all hitting down through the ball. Many golfers get into the bad habit of leaning back to the right as they chip – likely in an effort to help the ball into the air. The ball doesn't need any help getting into the air, as the loft of the club is going to take care of that part of the shot for you. Stay left to promote a downward angle of attack and trust that the ball will pop up onto the green simply by hitting down confidently.
  • Eyes on ball. This point should apply to each and every shot that you hit during the course of a round. Your eyes should always be looking down at the ball at impact, because it is much easier to hit something when you can actually see it. Pulling your eyes up off the ball can actually hurt your mechanics, as well, because your entire upper body is likely to move when your eyes come up. Therefore, keep everything down and focused on making solid impact by fixing your eyes on the ball throughout the chipping motion – and especially at the moment of impact.
  • Flat left wrist. In addition to having your hands in front of the club head at impact, you should also have your left wrist in a flat position. Keeping your left wrist flat through the hit will maintain the proper position of the club face, meaning you will be far more likely to actually hit the ball in the direction of the hole. It is tempting to use your right hand more actively throughout the chipping motion, but a simple rock of the shoulders and a slight pull by your left arm should be enough to get the job done. By keeping your hands quiet and your left wrist flat, solid contact will be rather easy to achieve.

The four points covered above represent the highlights of the impact position when chipping. If you get a chance, ask a friend to record your current chipping motion on video so you can watch it back for yourself. What do you see? How are you doing on these four points when you freeze the video at impact? Most likely, you are getting off track on at least one of these points, if not more. By working on these basic chipping fundamentals, you should be able to quickly improve both your performance and your confidence. Once you are able to say that you can successfully hit on all four of these points at impact with every chip shot, you will be well on your way to a vastly improved short game.

Setting Up for Success

Setting Up for Success

One of the best ways to make sure your hands lead the club head at impact is to start with them in that position in the first place. That means that when you stand over the ball at address, your hands should already be slightly out in front (closer to the target). It is always a good idea to have your address position replicate your ideal impact position, so keep that goal in mind when taking your stance. If you can stand over the ball with your hands closer to the target than the club head, you will have a far easier time finding that very same position at impact. This kind of setup will simplify your chipping motion, and simplicity is a great thing in the world of golf.

While you are working on building your chipping stance, keep in mind that you need to be comfortable as you stand over the ball. Since you don't have to make a big, powerful swing like you do on a full shot, it isn't as important to be in an athletic stance. Instead, you should be in a position that allows you to stand comfortably while swinging your arms back and through the shot. For most people, a comfortable stance will include keeping the feet relatively close together, with a slight bend in the knees. Of course, you still need to be leaning gently toward the target, and your eyes should be down on the ball. As you are practicing your chipping stance, think about whether or not you would be able to hold that position for a long period of time. If the answer is yes, then you should feel confident that you have creating a solid chipping stance which will serve you well shot after shot.

The ability to repeat your stance is another important piece of the puzzle, and that aspect basically comes down to practice. If you put in the time to practice your stance (along with the rest of your chipping motion), you should be able to repeat that stance over and over again. Improvement in this game never comes without practice, so you can't expect to replicate something on the course that you have only done once or twice in practice. Take some time out of your regular practice routine to work on this part of the game and your consistency will benefit in the long run.

One last point that should be made related to your setup is the grip pressure that you use to hold onto the club. Chipping the golf ball doesn't require very much speed from your swing, therefore you don't need to hold onto the club very tightly in order to maintain control through the hit. In order for the club to swing freely through impact, make sure you are keeping a light grip around the handle of the club as you make your chipping motion. Too much tension will make it hard to feel the proper distance for the shot, and it will also make it more difficult to achieve solid contact. Light grip pressure is always a good thing in the short game, and it even has benefits in the long game as well (as long as you can still control the club). Add light grip pressure to your 'to-do' list while chipping and your hands will have a great chance to do their job effectively.

Hitting Down on a Lofted Club

Hitting Down on a Lofted Club

Many amateur golfers struggle to get their hands in front of the club head because they think they need to help the ball get up into the air. This is a point that was touched on earlier in the article, but it deserves more attention because of its importance to your success in the short game. Understanding why you want to hit down on the ball – and in turn, why your hands should be in front of the club head – will help you to have confidence when you have to execute this technique on the course.

As you stand over the ball with one of your wedges in hand, your mind may be telling your hands and the rest of your body that it is a bad idea to hit down on the ball. After all, since the club face is mostly looking up at you, it doesn't seem possible that you could hit down and still achieve good results. Many players feel like hitting down will either cause them to hit the shot fat, or it will cause them to hit the ball too low and over the target – both bad outcomes. In fact, hitting down on your chip shots (just like hitting down on your iron shots from the fairway), will cause you to strike the ball cleanly time after time.

The biggest hurdle in this case is a mental one. As long as you are setup over the ball with your hands in front of the club head and your weight leaning left, you should have a relatively easy time hitting down on the ball – unless your brain gets in the way. If you allow your brain to send the signal to your hands that you need to scoop the ball off the turf instead of hitting down, your right hand will take over and the shot will be ruined. If you have ever seen another golfer with the chipping 'yips', this is exactly what is going on. They get nervous right before impact, the right hand tries to get involved to push the ball into the air, and all sorts of trouble takes place from there.

To learn just how effective it can be to hit down on a lofted club, you simply need to head to the practice chipping area to try it out for yourself. There is nothing like the repetitions you can get in practice to calm your nerves and provide you with trust in the shots that you are trying to hit. Once you spend some time hitting chip shots with your sand wedge or lob wedge while hitting down, you will see that a lofted club is more than capable of producing quality shots when it is moving down through impact. As you are practicing, watch for small divots out of the turf following each shot. If you are taking just a small little divot after impact, you will know that you are hitting down nicely. However, if those divots get to be too big, your swing has likely gotten too steep and you will need to flatten things out a bit to get back on track.

As an added benefit to hitting down on your chip shots, your full swing will likely improve just by working on the fundamentals involved in chipping correctly. The chip shot swing is basically a miniature version of the full swing, so understanding the right techniques for these shots will go a long way in improving your long game over time. Specifically, you should be hitting down through your iron shots just like you are your chip shots, and you should be taking a little divot after each shots struck from the fairway. At impact, you want to have your hands in front of the club head with an iron in the same way that you need to find that position while chipping.

What to Expect

What to Expect

So, once you are able to hit your chip shots with your hands consistently leading the club head, what should you expect in terms of ball flight? How high will the ball fly, and how will it react when it lands on the green? These are questions that you must have accurate answers to, as this information will allow you to plan your path to the hole successfully. Without a clear picture of how the ball is going to respond in the air and on the green, you will have no way of consistently getting close to the hole to set up a short putt.

In general, you will see the ball come out relatively low to the ground when you hit down on your chip shots. Of course, it is going to come out higher with a lob wedge than it will with a pitching wedge, but a low trajectory is going to result if you are keeping your hands out in front of the club head effectively. Why will the ball leave the club face low to the ground? Simple – as you move your hands further in front of the club head, the effective loft of the club is reduced. What might have started out as a 60* wedge could now have as little as 45* or 50* once you hit down through the ball. Unless you have to hit a flop shot over a hazard like a bunker (which is another article completely), hitting your chip shots on a low trajectory is a great thing.

By chipping the ball low, you will be able to more easily predict the bounce and roll you will get once the ball lands. High chip shots are notoriously difficult to predict, with some landing soft while others will take big bounces beyond the target. Chipping low is more predictable and more consistent, meaning you will get up and down more often. However, you are likely going to put some degree of backspin on the ball – especially when chipping from the short grass – so you need to understand how to manage that spin properly. Over time, you will start to get a good feel for the amount of spin on your chip shots, so you can adjust your aim accordingly.

Visualization is an important part of chipping, as you should be able to picture the ball heading up toward the cup before you actually hit the shot. During your practice sessions, work on your visualization skills by trying to picture the exact trajectory of your chip prior to hitting it. Do this over and over until you are able to consistently match up what you are seeing in your mind with what is actually taking place when you strike the ball. Good golfers develop this skill over time, and it pays off in a big way out on the course.

In the scheme of golf techniques and mechanics, putting your hands ahead of the club head when you chip is actually one of the easier points you need to learn. This is a simple technique, and you can make dramatic progress on it within just a couple of practice sessions. Once you have reached the point of being able to put your heads ahead of the club head at impact while chipping, your short game is sure to be vastly improved from days gone by.