The putting stroke is distinct from the swing used on full shots. In fact, putting has been called a separate game altogether.
But you can use your putting stroke in other areas. In fact, it's a great way to improve your chipping consistency.
The conventional putting stroke eliminates most hand and wrist action, relying on the arms and shoulders to move the club in a pendulum-like manner. Chipping this way has similar benefits, making it easier to hit the ball crisply with a low trajectory, time after time.
Assuming you already employ an arms-and-shoulders putting stroke, few adjustments are needed to transfer this action to your chips. All you do is:
- Address the ball as you would if putting, but with a slightly narrower and open stance.
- You may grip the club with your full-shot grip, or your putting grip. Experiment to see which feels best.
- Make sure your hands are ahead of the ball, the shaft titled toward the target.
- Take your normal putting stroke, with the hands leading the clubhead and producing a mild downward blow at impact.
The ball will fly low and check gently on landing before rolling toward the hole.
Use Putting Stroke for Consistent Chipping
The short game is really where the scoring element of golf takes place. In fact, the wedges and putter are often called the 'scoring clubs' because they have so much to do with the number you will post at the end of the day. Of course, you still need to hit quality shots with your full swing to set up the short game, but the shots you play from 50 yards and in are going to have the biggest say in your performance. If you can learn how to consistently hit great shots with your wedges and putter, you will be able to score well even on days when you don't have your best swing.
Given the importance of the short game, it only makes sense that you should spend as much time as possible practicing things like putting, chipping, and pitching. The content below is going to focus on chipping – specifically, we will be looking at how you can mirror your putting stroke with your chipping motion in order to produce consistent chip shots. Consistency should always be your goal on the golf course no matter what kind of shots you are trying to hit. Players who are able to produce the same kind of shot over and over again will quickly learn how to play for that shot, and they will then be able to pick targets that allow the ball to finish close to the hole. Your chip shots don't even have to be that pretty – as long as they are consistent, you will be able to make them work.
Copying your putting stroke over into your chipping motion makes a lot of sense for a number of reasons. First, you will be able to use the same mechanics both on the green and around it, meaning you should require less practice time to achieve good results. Think about it this way – every time you practice your putting technique, you will basically be practicing your chipping technique as well (and vice versa). Also, putting strokes are designed to be as consistent as possible, so you should notice that your chipping becomes more predictable as you start to integrate your putting stroke into that part of the game.
One additional benefit is the way your shots are sequenced on the course. Typically, when you hit a chip shot, your very next shot will be a putt (unless you chip in). That means that you are going to be able to use the same basic technique on at least two shots in a row when you miss the green. After hitting a chip up onto the green, you should have a good feel for your short game stroke, so you may stand a better chance of knocking the putt in.
All of the content below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play golf left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
The Basics of a Good Putting Stroke
Before you take the step of trying to replicate your putting stroke within your chipping game, you first need to make sure that your putting stroke itself is in good condition. After all, if your putting stroke is a mess, it wouldn't make much sense to copy it to another part of your game. You don't have to be a great putter to want to replicate your stroke while chipping, but you do need to at least have a handle on some of the basic fundamentals. Once you are confident that your mechanics are sound, you can then move on to working on making changes within your chipping technique.
Below is a list of the basic fundamentals that should be present in your putting stroke.
- Quiet hands. This is really the fundamental that is at the heart of a good putting stroke. You want the putter to be controlled by your shoulders as it moves back and through, while your hands just go along for the ride. It is tempting to get your hands involved in the stroke while trying to 'steer' the ball into the hole, but that is almost always going to be a bad idea. Place your hands on the grip in a relaxed manner and allow the rocking motion of your shoulders to create all the power that you need for the shot.
- Steady head. The short game is all about control and precision, as you don't need much power to hit the ball hard enough to reach the target. With that in mind, do your best to keep your head steady throughout your putting stroke (and your chipping motion, when we get to that point). Your eyes should be fixed on the ball throughout the shot, and you shouldn't look up toward the target until after you have made contact with the ball. Many players fall into the trap of looking up early to see where the ball is going, and they are typically punished with a shot that strays quickly off line.
- Balance. Just as is the case with every other shot you hit on the course, balance is going to be a crucial component in your putting stroke and chipping motion. It is far easier to stay balanced while hitting short shots than it is while making full swings, so this is a point that you should be able to check off with relative ease. Make sure your feet are a comfortable width apart at address, and put a small amount of flex in your knees to support yourself. From there, the only thing you need to do is keep your center of gravity in place while allowing the club to rock back and through.
- Rhythm. The tempo of your putting stroke should be as even and smooth as possible from start to finish. You don't want to have any sudden movements while you are putting, as those movements will make it difficult to control the speed of the putt. During your practice sessions, focus on rhythm and then do your best to carry that rhythm over out on the course. Not only will good rhythm help you in terms of speed control, it will also help you battle nerves if you get into a position where you start to feel pressure to make a big putt.
- Conviction. This last point is a mental tip rather than a physical one. However, it applies equally to both putting and chipping, and you aren't going to find success without it. In order to hit good chips and putts, you have to be totally convicted in the stroke that you are making. While putting, that means moving the putter through the ball with confidence, rather than trying to just guide the ball down to the hole. On the chipping side, the story will be the same, as you are going to need to hit down through impact without any sense of doubt in your technique. The best golfers believe in themselves at all times – make it your goal to do the same.
That might seem like a long list of basic fundamentals to remember, but you can master them all by going through the list one at a time. In fact, there is a good chance that you are already doing one or two of those things right currently – so you will only need to work on filling out the rest of the list. Once you feel good about your performance with the putter in all five of these areas, feel free to get started on the process of improving your chipping.
Chipping with a Putting Motion
To get started learning how to chip while using your putting motion, the best thing to do is find a practice chipping green and get started. You will want to hit all of your chip shots at first from an easy lie – meaning the ground should be level and the grass should be cut short. Obviously, you will face more difficult shots than this on the course on a regular basis, but it is best to start easy. Give yourself simple chip shots in order to get comfortable with this technique and you can work up from there.
While you can technically use any of your clubs to chip with a putting stroke, starting off with a nine iron or pitching wedge is a good idea. These clubs have enough loft to get the ball up into the air, but not so much loft that you will have a hard time hitting them cleanly. As you get comfortable with this technique, you can start to mix in some chip shots with your sand wedge or lob wedge, as you will want to be able to reach for them from time to time as well. Also, chipping with low-lofted irons can come in handy when you face a long shot that needs to run across the green, so feel free to practice with five and six iron chips as well.
One of the decisions you are going to need to make when working on your new chipping style is which grip you are going to use to hold onto the club – your putting grip, or your full swing grip? There is no right answer on this point, as some players chip with their putting grip while others do not. The best way to decide for yourself is simply to try them both and see which works best. Set 10 golf balls down in front of you while working on your chipping and hit five with each style of grip. Which group worked out the best? Which felt the most comfortable? In all likelihood, it won't take you long before you settle on the grip that you will stick with going forward.
As you work through your first few practice sessions with the new chipping motion, try to keep most of the technical thoughts out of your head. At this point, you should only be trying to get comfortable with chipping the ball while making a putting motion. There are likely to be struggles along the way, and not all of the shots that you hit are going to be good ones. However, you should get better and better as you go, and you will notice the outcome of your shots start to improve. Once you have gotten over the initial learning curve and are comfortable using your putting stroke to chip, you can then dive into some of the finer details in order to sharpen your performance.
One other point that needs to be made on the idea of chipping with a putting stroke is this – not all lies are going to be suitable for this method. For instance, if your ball is buried deep down in some long rough around the green, you are going to have to use a different approach to hit the chip. Why? Simple – the putting stroke method brings the club into the ball from a low angle of attack, meaning the club will get stuck in all of that long grass. Instead, you need to use your hands and wrists to elevate the club head and hit down on the ball. Chipping with a putting stroke motion is great when you have a good lie, but you will need to also know how to adapt when your ball is sitting down in a tough spot.
It would be great if you could just start using your putting motion while chipping and have great results right from the start. Of course, that is very unlikely to be the case. Most changes that you make in your golf game take time to become effective, so you are going to need to bring along some patience if you want this move to be successful. Only the golfers who are willing to work through the rough patches will be able to come out on the other side with a chipping motion that can be relied on time after time.
Following is a list of potential problems that could pop up while making this change to your chipping game, along with some tips for making the necessary corrections.
- Hitting the ball fat. This is probably the most-common problem that will be experienced by players who are using a putting stroke motion to chip. Since you are coming in from a flat angle of attack, the club head will be dangerously close to the ground as you approach impact. If you happen to bottom out the swing just a bit early, you could wind up chunking the shot and leaving the ball short of your target. To avoid this outcome, make sure you are leaning slightly to the left at address, and then keep your weight in that position throughout the shot. By leaning a little left before starting the swing, you will be setting up a downward angle that you can use to hit down through impact. As long as you keep your body steady during the swing, this simply adjustment should make the fat shots a thing of the past.
- Hitting the ball thin. Just as a flat angle of attack can lead to fat shots, it can actually lead to thin shots as well. If you catch a chip shot thin, you will likely send the ball shooting quickly across to the other side of the green. Again, the answer here to to set your weight into your left side at address. The downward angle that is created by that kind of setup will make it easy to hit down and you should clip the ball cleanly time after time.
- Poor distance control. At first, you might find that you are struggling to control your distance as well as you did before with your old chipping method. There are two issues at work here, and the first is simple practice time. After making a technique change, it is going to take some time before you get comfortable enough to control your distance nicely. Also, you may need to move the ball up in your stance slightly to get a better feel for the ball coming off the face of the club. If you play the ball back in your stance, it will likely come out quick and with little spin – meaning feel will be at a minimum. Move the ball up beyond the middle of your stance and then work on fine tuning your touch.
- Lack of spin. If you are used to chipping the ball with plenty of hand action, you are almost certain to notice a drop in spin rate when you take your hands out of the equation. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it can limit your options in terms of the variety of chip shots that you can hit. For instance, if you need to stop the ball quickly to get to a tough hole location, you might not have the spin rate to make that happen. If you would like to get some extra spin from time to time, the best thing to do is add a little bit of hand action back into the shot. By hinging your wrists going back – and then unhinging them coming forward – you can spin the ball and stop your shots quicker. You won't want to hit all of your shots like this, but it is a good skill to have in the bag when needed.
The problems on the list above are all common issues that are dealt with by people who attempt to chip with a putting motion. Don't let these minor problems stop you from sticking with this method, as all of these issues have resolutions as long as you are willing to put in the necessary practice time to take care of them properly. Once your technique has been refined and the appropriate adjustments have been made, you should see some of the best chipping of your life in the near future.
The Mental Side
Even with perfect technique, you are still going to need the right mental approach if you wish to hit great chip shots all day long. There is an important mental component to chipping, which is unfortunately overlooked by the majority of average golfers. In order to reach your potential around the greens, you will need to make it a point to pay attention to the mental game keys below.
- Pick a spot. This is the key to the mental side of chipping. Prior to hitting any chip shot, you should have a specific spot on the green picked out where you are going to attempt to land the ball. This spot should be selected based on the slope of the green, the speed of the green, and the amount of spin that you expect to have on the shot. If you can consistently pick out a good spot, and then hit that spot with your shot, you will become an excellent chipper.
- Relax. For some reason, chip shots tend to make many average golfers rather anxious. Now that you have solid technique on your side, there is nothing to be nervous about. Do your best to relax and clear your mind prior to hitting a chip shot, so that your talent and preparation can shine through.
- Drop the temper. When you are chipping, there is a good chance that the previous shot you hit was not a good one. After all, it missed the green, which is why you are chipping in the first place. However, there is no sense in carrying over your frustration from the previous shot into your chip shot. Leave your anger behind and simply focus in on hitting the best shot possible from wherever you happen to find your ball.
Chipping is an essential part of the overall skill set you need to play good golf. If you can't chip, you can't score – it really is that simple. With that in mind, it will be worth your time to learn how to use your putting stroke to chip the ball close to the hole. Once you have the technique down and you learn how to control your distance, you might find that chipping isn't nearly as scary as you once believed.