What is a chip if not a miniature iron shot? The basic idea is the same: to strike the ball with a slight downward blow. Therefore, the chipping setup is a scaled-down version of the address position for irons. Here's how it's done:
- Stand with your feet close together (6-8 inches between the heels).
- The feet should be square or slightly open to the target line.
- Flare your left or lead toe out slightly.
- Play the ball in the middle of your stance, or slightly right of center.
- Your hands should be ahead of the ball and the shaft tilted toward the target. Ideally, they'll return to this position at impact.
As with iron shots, ball position determines the height of your chips. For a lower shot that runs farther on the green, move the ball back (right) in your stance. To play a higher, quicker-stopping shot, play it closer to the left heel.
Proper Golf Chipping Setup
If you can't chip, you can't score. That might sound harsh, but it is the truth in the world of golf. There is no way of getting around the fact that chipping is an incredibly important part of the game, and it plays a bigger role in scoring than most players understand. You are going to miss greens when you play golf - even the best players in the world miss greens in nearly every round - meaning you will have to chip the ball successfully if you are going to keep your score on track. Getting up and down from around the green is basically like turning a bogey into a par, and those saves are what will help you wind up posting a score that you can be proud of at the end of the day.
Unfortunately, despite the importance of this part of the game, many players never really give it the attention that it deserves. Spending time working on their full swing and their putting, plenty of golfers ignore chipping - and the results show that neglect out on the course. Chipping is hard, and the only way to improve is through consistent practice. It is certainly possible to get better at chipping the golf ball close to the hole, but it isn't going to happen by accident. Put in the work, refine your technique, and you can look forward to a future of many more par saves from around the green.
To lay the groundwork for a good chipping game, you need to put yourself in a proper stance each and every time you hit one of these shots. Hopefully you already understand the importance of a good stance in your game, no matter what kind of shot you are trying to hit. Whether it is a full swing, a chip, or even a putt, placing your body in a good position over the ball is one of the most important things you can do on your way toward a successful shot. It is a little mundane to spend time working on your chipping stance, but serious golfers will be willing to invest the time because of the tremendous payoff that can come along down the road.
The next time you get a chance to watch golf on TV, take note of how well most of the players chip the ball. This is a point that is glossed over most of the time by casual fans and even by the TV commentators, but the level of the chipping on Tour is truly remarkable. When a quality pro golfer misses the green and draws a good lie, you can count on them pitching the ball up close to the hole nearly every time. In fact, it is really only a bad lie that can stop a player with a good short game from getting up and down. When chipping from short grass, professionals will get up and in the vast majority of the time, and they will probably hole out once in a while as well. Even if you never quite rise to the level of professional golfer in terms of your short game, watching these players sets a great example for what is possible when chipping and pitching.
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.
Follow the Rules
There is plenty of room for individuality in the game of golf. No two golf swings look exactly alike, as each and every player has to figure out how to get the ball to the target with their own method. Certainly there are some common components between golf swings, but each one is somehow unique in its own way.
When it comes to chipping, there is room for personal style and creativity as well. However, there are also some hard and fast rules that need to be followed, and several of them have to do with the stance. You need a good stance in order to perform consistently from around the green. A good stance can be defined as one that is comfortable for you while still following the basic rules outlined below. If you can make sure that all of the points on the list below can be located in your chipping stance, you will be a step closer to creating a solid short game.
- Leaning left. This is the number one key when it comes to the chipping stance. If you can set up with the majority of your weight on your left foot, you will have a much easier time chipping the ball cleanly than if you are leaning right (or even if you are balanced). You want to hit down into your chip shots with a descending blow, and that task is going to be much easier if you set a downward slope by leaning toward the target in your stance. You don't want to put 100% of your weight on the left side, obviously, but you should be at least at 60% if not closer to 75%. Practice setting up with a left side lean until you are able to find a weight distribution that works nicely for you.
- Knees flexed. You should have your knees flexed while standing over any golf shot, and a chip shot is certainly no different. Don't worry about getting down into a deep squat, and you may have trouble holding that position throughout the swing. A slight knee bend is enough to do the job, as long as you make sure that you are holding that bend from the time you start the club back until after the ball is gone. You need to 'maintain your level' throughout the chip shot, and it is the flex in your knees that will allow you to do that beautifully.
- Chin up. This is another tip that should be present in all of your stances around the course. As you settle in to your address position, make sure you are keeping your chin up while your eyes look down at the ball. Many amateur golfers make the mistake of pushing their chin down into their chest, and it becomes harder to swing the club freely as a result. Keep that chin up and your shoulders and arms will have an easier time flowing throughout the shot.
- Relaxed grip. You might not think about your grip as being part of your setup, but it should be put in that category. At address, make sure your grip pressure is relaxed and your hands aren't squeezing the club too tightly. There is nothing good about using a tight grip while chipping, as this technique will only rob you of rhythm and distance control on your shots. Before starting the swing, rock the club head back and forth a couple of times to relieve the tension in your hands and create a light grip pressure that you can then maintain throughout the stroke.
The only major difference between a chipping setup and the setup that you should be using for a normal, full-swing shot is the balance component. Rather than an even weight distribution, you are going to be looking for a lean to the left in order to set that downward angle. Other than that, however, solid fundamentals in your full-swing stance should translate nicely in to the chipping game. Take some time out of your practice schedule to deal with this element of your technique and your short game will quickly improve.
It probably isn't a surprise that many of the common mistakes amateur golfers make before hitting a chip shot are the opposite of points seen on our list above. With that said, it is important to highlight these mistakes separately because you may be making some of these very errors in your short game currently. The sooner you can weed out the following three mistakes and replace them with solid fundamentals, the quicker you can begin to count on your chipping as a positive contributor to the cause of shooting good scores.
- Leaning back. This was mentioned above, but it bears repeating because it can be so destructive to your game. If you lean to your right and away from the target, you will be making it nearly impossible to hit a good chip shot. You absolutely need to hit down on your chip shots to strike them cleanly – or, at the very least, you need to sweep them off of the ground with a level stroke. However, when leaning to the right, your club will be moving up through the hitting area, making solid contact a near impossibility. You don't need to help the ball up into the air, as your wedge already has plenty of loft for that job. Set up with your weight nicely into your left side and you will have a far easier path toward success.
- Hunched over. You want to have as much freedom as possible in the way you swing the club back and through the hitting area while chipping. Unfortunately, if you hunch over at address, you are going to have a hard time achieving that freedom within your swing. Maintain a good posture at address, including keeping your chest out and your chin up, and your arms will have plenty of room to swing nicely through the shot. Good posture might not feel as important when chipping as it does with a full swing, but you should be paying attention to all of these little details just the same.
- Squeezing too tight. The opposite of using a light grip pressure, squeezing the handle of the club too tightly will result in a lack of freedom and rhythm in your chipping swing. You need to have great feel around the greens in order to get up and down regularly, and that feel will go away if you hold onto the club too tightly. Many golfers tighten up around the greens simply because they are nervous, and those nerves show in the way of a tight grip. While it might be easier said than done, do your best to let go of your nerves in order to allow your natural talent to shine through. Somewhere inside of you is a golfer who can hit quality chip shots – using a light grip will allow that golfer to come out and play.
If you are currently struggling with your chipping, there is a good chance you are making at least one of the three setup mistakes listed above (if not more). Most players look to their actual swing when they are trying to assign blame for why things went wrong, but often the true root cause of the problem occurs before the swing even starts. Take some time to look closely at your address position over your chip shots and make any changes that you feel are necessary to get into the right spot over the ball.
A Routine Can Help
Even with practice, you might find that you are having trouble getting into the same address position shot after shot when it comes to your chipping. One of the challenges with chipping that you will face on the course is that you might go several holes – or even longer on a good day – without having to hit a chip. Unlike a full swing or a putting stroke, you don't have the chance to use your chipping on each and every hole. For that reason, it is easy to fall into bad habits due to a lack of repetition.
To avoid this problem, you should work on creating a chipping routine that you perform before each and every chip shot that you hit. This is the same idea as the pre-shot routine that you use prior to your full swing, however it will be customized so that it is specifically beneficial for chipping. Completing your routine prior to every chip will not only help you find the right stance each time, it will also make it easier for you to plan and execute your shots properly.
You are free to create your own pre-chip shot routine as you see fit, but the following step-by-step process is a good starting point.
- As you walk up to the ball, the first step in the process is to read the lie. The lie will determine what kind of shots you are able to hit. For example, if the ball is down in the deep rough, you are not going to be able to hit a chip shot with any kind of backspin. Decide what kind of shots the lie will allow you to attempt, and then move on to the next step.
- Next, take a look at your path up to the hole, as well as the area around the hole. Are there any major slopes between you and the target? Do you have to carry any hazards such as a bunker in order to reach the green? Which side of the hole would you rather be putting from after your chip has come to a rest? There are a lot of questions to consider at this point, but the answers should come to you pretty quickly. Evaluate the entire area on and around the green and decide on the shot that will give you the best chance at success.
- Once you have selected the type of shot you are going to play, take the appropriate club from your bag and stand behind the ball. You should be standing a few feet behind your ball, club in hand, looking out toward the target. At this point, you want to pick out the specific spot where you are going to land the ball. Note – this is not the point where you want the ball to stop, it is the point where you want the ball to land. These are two very different things. You will pick your landing spot based on the amount of roll you expect, how much backspin you plan to use, the slope of the green, the speed of the green, and more. There is an art to picking out just the right landing spot, and it is something that you will get better at in time.
- Before you walk up and hit the shot, take a quick moment to picture the shot playing out in your mind. Since you have an exact landing spot picked out, try to visualize the ball going all the way from the face of your club up to the hole. The more detailed you can be with your visualization process, the more helpful it will be in producing a good shot.
- With all of your preparations done, it is time to get down to business. Walk up to the ball, and take your stance carefully. It is important not to rush at this point, since a poor stance can waste all of the good work you have done so far. Take your time to get into a comfortable and fundamentally sound stance, and place the club head behind the ball. Take one last look at the hole, look back down to the ball, and start your swing.
As mentioned above, feel free to adjust this process as necessary to make it work perfectly for you. While it might seem like these steps would take quite a bit of time to complete, you may be surprised to see how quickly you can move through them after just a bit of practice. With a little effort, this routine will become second nature and you will have no problem keeping up the pace of play while still preparing for your chip shots properly.
In addition to getting your body in the right place, part of a good chipping setup is having your mind in a good place as well. This is where countless amateur golfers come up short when trying to chip or pitch the ball close to the hole. Confidence is incredibly low while standing over a chip shot for the average golfer, and that lack of confidence presents a big problem when it comes time to actually hit the ball.
Confidence is crucial when chipping because the club has to keep accelerating through the ball even on a delicate little pitch. It is relatively easy to keep your driver accelerating through the ball since you are trying to hit the shot hundreds of yards – but that isn't the case with a chip. When the ball may only need to fly a couple of yards through the air, it is easy to get a little scared and back off right at the most important moment of the shot. To swing through and make great contact, you absolutely have to believe in your ability to chip.
You can't fake confidence, so to fix this problem you are going to need to spend plenty of time in the practice area building up that belief in yourself. By hitting good chip after good chip for as long as you would like to practice, you can teach your mind to expect good results. Obviously, you will be nervous out on the course where would wouldn't be nervous during practice, but you can still produce good shots now that you know it is possible. Anytime you feel tight or anxious over a chip shot, think back to the great chips you hit in practice and convince yourself that you are up to the task.
The setup position that you use on the course is important before every single shot, and that includes any chips or pitches that you face. Use the information contained in this article to build a solid address position for your chip shots, and then practice that position until it becomes as natural as possible. The way you chip is going to say a lot about the scores that you are able to shoot, so don't make the mistake of neglecting this important part of the game.