Any list of golf’s scariest shots must include the slick, downhill chip with little green between you and the flag. Try as you might to avoid hitting your ball into such a spot, you’ll inevitably face this frightening scenario from time to time.
Just ask Tom Watson, who conquered this very situation on his famous chip-in at the 1982 U.S. Open. While Watson’s short-game mastery is beyond the reach of most of us, you, too, can learn to handle these delicate shots with aplomb.
First, survey the shot as you would any drive or approach, identifying where you don’t want to leave the ball. Most times on a downhill chip, the worst result is failing to get the ball onto the green. Hitting too far is generally preferable, because you’ll have an uphill putt coming back. For that reason, it’s important not to get too “cute” or greedy with the shot; trying to be ultra-delicate or hole out is more likely to cause a mishit.
If your ball lies just off the green on short grass, the putting-style chip is a great method for hitting a shot that lands with a soft, dead thud and trickles toward the cup.
When you’re in the rough, follow these steps to produce a short, soft-landing chip:
- Using your highest lofted wedge, set up with a narrow stance, playing the ball in the middle or slightly back and the clubface open a touch.
- Your hands should be ahead of the ball, with a little more weight on the left foot than the right (for a right-hander).
- Make a short backswing and bring the club down sharply into the ball.
- Focus on keeping the clubface open through impact (not letting the right hand roll over the left).
- You need little if any follow-through, since the goal is to pop the ball up and just over the edge of the rough.
One good tip is to feel as though the back of your left hand is leading the club into and through impact.