When chipping, do you often pop the ball up and watch it finish well short of the hole?
Do you ever hit it chips fat or thin, or even top the ball?
If so, you're trying to help the ball into the air with a scooping action using the wrists – the opposite of sound chipping technique. Like iron shots, the clubhead should be traveling slightly downward at impact. The club's loft will provide all the lift you need.
Here's how to cure your chipping woes:
- Standing with the feet close together (6-12 inches) and the ball midway between them, set the clubhead behind the ball, square to the hole or target line.
- Move the hands (and the club's handle) slightly toward your left pocket. A good checkpoint is to have the back of the right hand even with your zipper.
- Make a short backswing, with little or no hinging of the wrists, so that the triangle formed by the arms and hands remains solid. Be careful not to tense up.
- Hold this position as you swing through; at impact, your hands and arms should mirror the address position.
With practice, this method will feel natural – and your chips will fly and roll consistently toward the hole.
Hit Down to Stop Scooping Chip Shots
In golf, it seems that some things never change. Chipping has long been one of the most-difficult areas of the game for the average golfer to conquer, and that is still the case today. Despite countless articles, books, lessons, and more all aimed at improving chipping skills, most amateur golfers just can't seem to get over the hump in this important area. In order to post good scores, you absolutely have to be able to consistently chip the ball up to the hole, so improving on this part of your game should be a top priority.
There are a number of reasons why golfers struggle with hitting good chip shots – one of those reasons simply being that most players fail to practice this part of the game. Another reason, however, is the fact that the average player doesn't understand they actually need to hit down on the ball to get it to pop up into the air. It is somewhat counterintuitive – naturally, you would think that you need to lift the ball up into the air to get it off the ground and on the way to the hole. That is not the case. Hitting down through your chip shots, just like you should be hitting down on your full iron shots, will enable the ball to pop up nicely each and every time. If you do only one thing right with your chip shots, make sure you are hitting down through the ball.
In order to hit down through the ball, you have to have the right mechanics in place in your chipping technique. Without the right fundamentals in your chipping motion, it will be nearly impossible to hit down on the ball time after time. Good technique is the foundation of pretty much everything in the game of golf, and that certainly applies to the short game. Take the time in the practice area to build up a great chipping motion and you will be able to rely on it time and again to get you out of trouble.
No golfer hits every green in regulation, so chipping is something that you should be expecting to do in each round that you play. Mistakenly, most golfers spend the majority (if not all) of their practice time launching drivers on the range, and they may roll a few putts before they call it a day. Ignoring the chipping aspect of the game is a huge mistake, and it is one that is certainly going to cost you strokes every time you tee it up. Most golf courses have some kind of short game practice area where you can hit some chip shots, and even spending five or ten minutes in that area during each practice session will go a long way toward improving your overall game.
All of the instruction 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.
Setting the Stage
As mentioned above, it is important that you use good fundamentals in order to hit down on the ball when chipping from around the green. Those fundamentals actually get started before the club even goes into motion. If you can create a solid address position that puts your body and the club in the right place, you will make the job of chipping the ball cleanly much easier. The ideal address position for chip shots is different from the position you will use for a full swing, so it is important that you take some time to learn how to create this kind of stance.
Each of the three points below should be present in your chipping stance –
- Leaning to the left. This is the most important point of all when it comes to the chipping stance, and it is a significant departure from your usual stance. When you set up to make a full swing, you want your weight to be balanced nicely between your two feet. However, when chipping, you want to shift that weight largely onto your left leg. Leaning left at address will make it much easier to hit down on the ball since you will have already established a downward angle before the club even begins to move. Your weight should remain stationary throughout the actual chipping motion, so make sure you start out with at least 60% of your weight stacked on top of your left foot.
- Shaft leaning left as well. Along with your weight leaning left, the shaft of your wedge should be leaning to the left as well. This is another setup point that will make it easier for you to hit down on the ball. The shaft needs to be tilted toward the target at impact if you are going to hit down, so you might as well start out with it in that position. If you get the shaft leaning left at the start, all you need to do in order to hit a solid chip is move the club back and through with a simple rock of your shoulders.
- Open stance. This is one point that is missed by most average golfers, which is one of the reasons most players struggle to hit down on their chip shots. By standing with your feet open to the target line, you will encourage the club to swing on an outside-in path. This would be bad news for a full swing, but it is a great thing when trying to hit a chip shot. As the club comes into the ball from outside-in, it will swing down on a steep path that enables it to miss most of the grass which is sitting behind the ball. Also, that path will help the ball to take as much backspin with it as possible onto the green. By placing plenty of backspin on the ball when chipping, you will gain control over the bounce and roll of the shot. Simply turn your stance open slightly to the target line at address and your chip shots will suddenly feel quite a bit easier to execute.
It shouldn't take much time or effort to learn how to build the stance that is outlined by the three points above. If you can get your body in a position that is leaning left, while the shaft is also leaning left and your feet are open to the target, you will find that chipping is not quite as hard as you may have believed. Even without making any further adjustments to your technique, you will enjoy improved performance just by playing from a better stance.
The Mental Hurdle
Getting set up in the right way to hit down on your chip shots is a good start, but that isn't the only change you are going to need to make. In order to hit down regularly, you will also need to change the way you think about chipping. As it stands currently, you probably think about picking the ball up and scooping it into the air. Instead, you now want to think about hitting down on the ball and allowing the loft of the club to move the ball off of the ground. This is a difficult concept for many golfers to grasp, but you are going to need to trust it if you ever hope to reach your potential as a chipper. The loft of the club will get the ball off the ground – you only need to hit down cleanly and let physics do the rest.
In order to build up the trust you need to use this chipping method on the course, you need to first spend plenty of time practicing hitting down confidently. Set aside a block of time during your upcoming practice sessions to do nothing but hit down through chip shots one after another. Pretty soon, you will realize that you can trust the ball to come up off the ground every time, without fail. It is one thing to understand this concept, but it is another thing to see it in action, so every repetition that you complete in practice will be one step closer toward trusting this kind of chipping out on the course. Pretty soon, with enough practice, you won't even have to think about it – you will just naturally hit down on the ball knowing that it is going to come up off the ground and head right toward the target.
Part of building up your trust in this style of chipping is picturing each shot before you actually hit it. As you stand behind the ball getting ready to chip, picture your club going down through the ball, and see it popping up off the face of your wedge and heading toward the hole. If you can picture each shot in vivid detail, you will have a much better chance of actually executing that shot when the time comes to hit the ball. Visualization is a tool that is used by most of the best players in the world, but it is rarely put to use by the average golfer. Practice your visualization just like you practice any other part of your game and it will go a long way toward improving your performance.
One last piece of the mental puzzle in terms of chipping the ball successfully is reading your chip shots just like you would read a putt. When putting, most golfers take the time to carefully read the slope of the green in an effort to put the ball on just the right line. Unfortunately, most players don't give the same attention to their chip shots. Instead, they just walk up to the ball and aim for the hole. By taking the time to read your chip, you will not only give the shot a better chance of finishing next to the cup, but you will also make it easier to create a strong mental picture prior to hitting the shot. In addition to the slope of the green, you should also be reading the lie, the ground between your ball and the green, and any wind conditions that may affect the shot.
The mental side of the game is important all around the course, and it is certainly a big part of the equation when trying to sharpen up your chipping performance. You need to have the right thought process in place while chipping, which includes a commitment to hitting down through the ball at impact. It might be difficult at first to trust the ball to come up off of your wedge, but stick with it and you will soon see that hitting down is an easy and effective way to chip the ball onto the green.
Solving the Scoop
Even with all of the information above fresh in your mind, you still may find that you are having trouble getting rid of the 'scoop' at the bottom of your chipping motion. A scoop is when you try to lift the ball off the ground by using your hands too actively in the swing, rather than hitting down and trusting the loft of the club to do the work for you. While it is possible to hit a good chip shot from time to time using a scooping motion, you will never reach a point of consistency without learning to hit down nicely.
The scooping action that you are trying to eliminate stems from the back of your left wrist. If you are having trouble with the scoop, you should look there first for signs of trouble. At impact, your left wrist should be flat as you move through the ball. When your left wrist is flat at impact, you can be confident that you are hitting down properly (as long as you set up in a good position with your weight leaning left). However, if you are scooping, you will most likely find that your left wrist is cupped at impact, meaning the club is working up away from the ground as it hits the ball. This is a serious problem, and it will likely cause your chipping performance to suffer.
Since it can be hard to see the position of your wrist while you are hitting a shot, ask a friend to take a video of you hitting a few chips in order to get a good look at your hand action through impact. Pause the video at the moment of impact so you can see for yourself what your left wrist is doing. If it is flat, you are good to do. If not, you have some work to do on the basics of your technique.
Should you find that you are chipping with a cupped left wrist, the best course of action is to practice some one-handed chip shots. Take your right hand off of the club at address and chip a few shots up onto the green with just your left hand. Since the club will feel heavier in your hand without the right hand there to help, you will probably find that you are forced to keep that left wrist flat just to maintain control of the club. It will be up to your shoulders to move the club back and through, and it should be easy to hit down after just a few tries. Hit as many left hand-only chip shots as you need until you are confident that you can keep your left wrist flat at impact.
The one-handed practice method for chipping is a great way to learn the right motion at impact, and it is also a good way to get back on track if you lose your way. Should you find that you start to get back into the old habit of scooping the ball, simply hit a few one-handed practice chips to get your feel back and you should be good to go. In golf, you never 'conquer' any one part of the game – playing well requires constant maintenance on all aspects of your game for as long as you consider yourself a golfer.
Reading Your Lie in the Grass
In addition to making a good motion and picking a good target line, you also need to read the lie that you have in the grass if you are going to hit good chip shots. Making things even more complicated, unfortunately, is the fact that there is actually one type of lie where you don't want to hit down through the ball. Only when you know what kind of effect your lie will have on the shot that you are playing can you effectively pick the right shot for the right occasion, time after time.
As you already know, there are a variety of grass types and lengths that you will encounter on the golf course. While it is impossible to cover all of the various lies that you could draw around the greens of your favorite course, three of the most-common chipping lies are listed below, along with the best way to conquer them.
- Fairway-length grass. This is the easiest lie to deal with, because there is no grass behind the ball to worry about. If your ball is sitting on the fairway, or on the fringe of the green, you can basically pick any kind of shot that you prefer without worrying about the lie getting in your way. Unless the ground is extremely soft, in which case you will want to protect against hitting a fat shot, you should be able to take your favorite chipping club and swing with confidence. Drawing a fairway lie for a chip shot should be considered a good break, and you should take advantage of that break by getting the ball up and down in two strokes.
- Medium rough, sitting down. Most typical golf courses don't include particularly long grass, so the average player doesn't need to worry about chipping from deep rough very often. Most courses, however, do include some measure of 'medium rough', meaning you will frequently have to chip onto the green from this type of lie. When your ball is sitting down in the medium rough – meaning the ball is on the ground with grass around it – you need to hit down confidently and expect plenty of roll out after the ball lands. The grass behind your balls means the shot isn't going to have very much backspin, so you shouldn't expect it to stop quickly on the green. Pick a landing spot for your chip shot that allows for plenty of room for the ball to roll up to the hole, and hit the shot with confidence so you can be sure to get out of the rough and onto the putting surface.
- Medium rough, sitting up. This is actually one of the most difficult situations you can face when chipping. Most amateur players get excited when they see the ball sitting on top of the grass, but you would be better off with the ball sitting down. When the ball is on top of the grass, hitting down as you normally would will cause the club to go under the ball, and your shot will come up short. When you 'flub' a chip shot that comes up short of the green, it is usually because the ball was up on top of the grass. If you draw this kind of a lie, the best course of action is to flatten out your swing plane so you can pick the ball cleanly without hitting down into the turf. This is a difficult shot to execute, but it is your best bet when dealing with this challenging situation.
Scooping your chip shots is never going to be a successful way to play shots around the green. You need to hit down on almost all of your chip shots (depending on the lie), and good fundamentals is the best way to make that happen. Use the information provided above to fine tune your chipping technique and you should be able to hit down confidently after just a few practice sessions.