If you've ever played golf in England or watched the British Open, you know how much wind plays a role on chip shots.
The golf “chip-and-run” is one of the most important shots to know – not just in the wind – but also for getting close to the hole. This shot gets the ball on the ground quickly to start running and is less affected by wind.
Here's how to do the chip-and-run, why it's so great for consistency around the green:
Once you're around the green, be sure to choose the right club. For a chip-and-run, select a club that gets the ball running on the ground soon after impact; typically, the 8 or 9-iron are good clubs for this shot.
One key to hitting this shot is to position the ball toward your back foot, then open your stance a little. This will promote more of an arm-swing, taking your lower body out of the shot. (With the ball set back in your stance, your hands will naturally be ahead of the ball at address; this gets you into the proper position at impact.)
Your shoulders and arms should move together in one piece. Practice the feel of taking the club back in a pendulum-type motion, with your shoulders controlling the motion. Remember to keep your left arm straight and your legs stable (no body-swaying).
Another very important key is to think “swing length.” The length of the back swing and forward swing is what should control the travel distance of your chip-and-run. Using a specific golf swing length is a much better way to control shot distance than trying to adjust the swing strength, like hitting harder. It's also very important to make sure the length of your forward swing matches the length of your back swing; this will prevent deceleration during the stroke (a major cause of inconsistent chipping). Practice different swing lengths so you get the feel and know the right length to use for each situation on the course.
Using the Chip and Run for Consistent Shots
Golf is all about the short game. Sure, it is a big help if you can hit quality shots with your long clubs, but it is the short game that will determine how successful you are on the scorecard at the end of the day. Without a short game, you really have nothing in terms of scoring ability. Only when you can combine a good short game with some nice ball striking will you have a chance to live up to your potential.
Many golfers focus on putting when it comes to the short game, and putting is certainly very important. However, chipping should not be overlooked in terms of its importance to the game. You are inevitably going to miss at least a couple greens during any given round – and likely many more than that. Your ability save par when you do miss the green is largely going to be determined by how well you can chip and pitch the ball onto the putting surface. Are you able to consistently chip to within tap-in range of the cup? Or, are you constantly leaving yourself 10-foot putts to save par? Obviously, setting up easy par putts is crucial to a productive short game, and you are only going to be able to do that when you chip in a reliable fashion.
For most players, the chip shot that is going to be most consistent is the chip and run. This is a short game shot that stays low to the ground from start to finish, as it is hit only high enough to carry to the edge of the green before it lands, bounces, and rolls out toward the cup. This shot might not look as impressive as a high flop shot with a ton of spin, but it is much more consistent in the long run. Pro golfers will make the highlight reel from time to time with a high flop shot, but they actually prefer to keep the ball down lower whenever possible.
It is wise to think about the chip and run as the foundation of your short game from around the greens. Sure, you are going to need to have other shots in your arsenal that you can pull out at the right time, but everything should build from the chip and run. Once you are comfortable with the technique needed to produce this shot, you can then move on to learning how to play other, more advanced shots in order to widen your repertoire. The mechanics required to hit a good chip and run are simple and straightforward, making this a great place to start when working on your short game.
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.
What is a Chip and Run?
This point was touched on briefly above, but it should be highlighted again for clarity before we move on to the technical points of this shot. Basically, a chip and run is a shot that is barely played onto the edge of the green before it is allowed to run out toward the hole. Rather than chipping the ball most of the way to the hole in the air, and using spin or loft to stop it, you are going to land the ball just on the edge and let it run like a putt. That last point is the key – a chip and run should look just like a putt once the ball is on the green.
Most of the time, you are going to play a chip and run with one of your short irons, although you can even use a mid-iron from time to time when the situation is right. The exact club that you decide to use for your chip and run shots will depend on your personal style and preference, but most players land somewhere between a seven iron and a pitching wedge. Practice time is crucial for mastering the chip and run in large part because you need to learn how to control your distance with a variety of clubs. Having the ability to hit a chip and run with at least two or three different irons is ideal, as that versatility will enable you to use this shot in a greater number of situations.
As you can probably imagine, there are a number of different situations where you may want to pull the chip and run from the bag instead of another chipping option. The following list includes some of the best times for you to think about using your chip and run shot.
- Chipping with plenty of room to work. You will often need plenty of green between your ball and the hole when you use a chip and run. Since the ball is going to run out as a result of having little backspin and little loft, you will need some space to let the ball slow down and come to a stop – hopefully near the cup. Anytime you find your ball sitting in the grass somewhere close to the green while the hole location is on the other side of the green, a chip and run should be your first thought. You may be able to play a chip and run from time to time while short sided, but those will be the exception – typically, you are going to need some room to work in order for this shot to succeed.
- Chipping to a back hole location. When the hole is cut all the way at the back of the green, and you have missed short, playing a chip and run is likely to be your best bet. Flying the ball all the way to the back of the green is a risky bet, as hitting the shot too far and over the green could quickly lead to a bogey or worse. By playing the chip and run, you should be able to take the 'big mistake' out of play while still giving yourself a good chance to get up and in. Also, since most greens are tilted from back to front, using the chip and run is a nice way to get the ball up the hill without having to take a big swing with a lofted wedge.
- Chipping under pressure. One of the best things about playing a chip and run is the fact that it is much easier to execute under pressure than most other kinds of chip shots. For instance, if you are in a pressure spot and you are trying to decide between a high lofted, spinning shot and a chip and run, you should pick the chip and run every time. Going high with your chip shots requires a steady nerve and perfect execution. You might be able to pull it off just fine in practice, but the game gets far more difficult on the course. Keep the ball low to the ground when you are chipping in a pressure situation and the results are likely to be far more positive.
You aren't going to be able to hit all of your chip shots as chip and runs, but you should be able to use this play a large percentage of the time. Keeping the ball down is a great option in the short game, and you shouldn't need too much time to learn how to execute this shot either. In the next section we will get down to business on exactly how the chip and run is supposed to be played.
In addition to the advantages that this shot brings once the ball leaves the face of the club, there are also advantages to picking this shot from a technique perspective. Specifically, the big advantage to this shot is the fact that you get to basically use the same mechanics that you use while putting. With just a few basic tweaks, which will be outlined below, you can take your putting stroke and put it to use when playing a chip and run. Having consistency between your putting and your chipping will make it easier to transition from one to the other, which you are going to have to do several times during the average round of golf.
So, what are those basic adjustments that need to be made in order to turn your putting stroke into a motion that is suitable for creating a chip and run? They are as follows –
- Lean to the left. When you are putting, you should be nicely balanced between your two feet. That is not the case when playing a chip and run. Rather than distributing your weight evenly between your feet, you should be leaning rather significantly onto your left side. This lean will establish a downward angle of attack for your swing path, which is crucial for making clean contact and getting the ball up out of the grass. You shouldn't be leaning so far that you are about to fall over, of course, but make sure a majority of your weight is set into that left side.
- Open your stance to the target. You want to swing slightly from outside-in when hitting a chip and run, so open up your stance at address to make that happen. Not only will opening your stance help you swing across the ball as necessary, but it will also give you a better look at the target – which is always a good thing. You want to get squared up perfectly when you are putting, but hitting a chin and run shot is going to be easier if you stand a bit open to the hole.
- Allow a little wrist hinge. As you should know, it is important to keep your hands quiet while you are putting. The only movement needed in a putting stroke is a simple rocking of the shoulders back and through – everything else should be nice and still. However, when you are hitting a chip and run, you need to allow your wrists to get involved just slightly in order to 'pop' the ball toward the target. Using a strictly putting-style stroke without any hand action usually won't give you the power needed to propel the ball toward the hole. Also, if your ball is sitting down in the grass, you are going to need to use a little wrist action to move the club head through that grass on the way to the ball. By keeping your grip pressure light throughout the shot, you should be able to free up your wrists so that they can pop the ball nicely at impact.
As you can see, none of the changes that you need to make to go from a putting stroke to a chip and run swing are very significant. These are minor adjustments, but each of them is important. Spend some time at your local golf course practicing your chip and run while paying specific attention to each of the three points on the list above. As long as you are focused on practicing the right things, you should find that your chip and run technique quickly rounds into form and this becomes one of your favorite shots to use during every round.
Reading the Shot
You want to approach your chip and run shots in much the same way you approach your putts in terms of reading the green. Since the ball is going to roll most of the way to the hole, you are going to need to carefully read the slope of the green between you and the cup. Is the ground sloped from right to left, or from left to right? Is the shot uphill or downhill? Many golfers don't bother to consider these factors when chipping, but they are crucial to your success. A good read will give you a chance to place the ball right next to the hole – while a poor read (or no read at all) will make it tough to get up and down at all.
Before making any concrete decisions on how you are going to approach the shot, the first thing you should do is walk onto the green and read the last 10 feet or so of the chip. The end of the chip is the most important part to read, as the ball will be slowing down at this point – meaning the slope is going to have more influence over the movement of the ball. If the area around the cup is relatively flat, you probably don't need to play too much break. However, if there is a significant slope around the cup, you will need to give the shot plenty of margin to turn toward the hole as it slows down. One you have read the area around the hole carefully, you can step back and get an overall read for the slope of the ground between the ball and the hole.
With your read in the back of your mind, the big decision that you need to make before stepping up and making a swing is picking out a specific landing point for the shot. It is crucial that you pick out a specific landing point each and every time you chip the ball – no matter what kind of chip you are playing. The landing point is exactly as is sounds – it is the point where you are going to attempt to land the ball. This point is based not only on the read of the green, but also on the club you are using. A lower-lofted club is going to roll out more than a wedge, so think about club selection in concert with your read to decide on the right landing point. Also, you need to consider course conditions at this time – a soft course isn't going to offer as much bounce and roll, meaning you will need to move your landing spot closer to the hole.
It is really the art of mastering how to pick a landing spot that is going to be your biggest challenge when learning the chip and run. The mechanics of this shot are pretty simple, so you should be comfortable with them after just a little bit of practice time. However, picking a good landing spot takes experience and attention to detail, so you will need to work hard on that skill if you hope to improve. Remember, each and every chip and run shot that you face will be unique, so give them all the attention they deserve. By paying attention to each shot, you will have a good chance to execute nicely and set up a short putt for par.
Before ending this section, it is important to touch in the role that your lie is going to play in a chip and run shot. If the ball is sitting on short grass, such as the fairway cut or the fringe of the green, you will have nothing to worry about. That short grass isn't going to get in the way of your club, so you should be able to hit the ball cleanly without any trouble. On the other hand, if the ball is sitting down in longer rough, you will need to make sure that you hit down aggressively in order to get the ball up and out. Consider using more loft from the rough than you would use from the fairway to help you get the ball up and out – since the rough is going to basically eliminate any backspin that you might get otherwise, you won't have to worry about the ball checking up when played with a wedge. During your practice sessions, be sure to work on your chipping from both fairway and rough lies to ensure you are ready for whatever comes up on the course.
Pin In or Out?
This is an interesting question that is often debated among golfers whenever the ball happens to clank off of the flag stick. When chipping, should you leave the pin in the hole, or should you take it out? While you might currently have a personal preference for this decision, have you ever really thought about why you do what you do? Is there any reason behind your choice, or is it just whatever makes you feel most comfortable?
To make a smart decision, you need to think about the expected speed of the ball as it approaches the hole. If you think you are going to be able to control the speed of the shot without a problem – such as on an uphill chip – you should take the pin out, as it is only going to hurt your chances to make the shot. When the ball is going the right speed, it doesn't need the pin to help it fall in, as it will go in just like a putt. However, if you playing down a steep hill and you think the ball might be racing when it reaches the cup, you will want to leave the pin in as a possible 'backstop'. The pin can indeed help you out when the ball is going too fast, so this is the time to leave it in for assistance. For most golfers, the decision can be just that simple – if you think you can control the speed, take the pin out. If not, leave it in and hope that it comes to your rescue as the ball speeds toward the hole.
The chip and run is one of the most useful shots in golf. Not only is a chip and run a reliable way to get the ball close to the hole, it is also an easy shot to pull off under pressure. Once you learn the basic technique needed to hit a chip and run, you should be able to make this shot a regular part of your game. Most of the chip shots you face during the average round can be handled with this kind of play, so make sure it is always near the top of your options list when you miss a green. Every golfer needs to have the chip and run in their 'bag of tricks', so start working on this technique right away.