To repeat this section's introductory theme: You must strike down on the ball to hit crisp, controlled chip shots.

That means keeping the hands ahead of the clubhead passing through impact, rather than flipping the wrists in an attempt to lift the ball into the air.

This basic drill can be practiced in your back yard:

  • Drop a ball to chip, and place another one about nine inches behind it directly on the target line.
  • Take a normal chipping stance – feet close together, ball in the center, a little extra weight on your left (lead) side, hands slightly forward, shaft leaning toward the target.
  • Now chip the object ball without hitting the one behind it on the backswing or downswing.
  • This drill forces you to pick the club up somewhat abruptly, then bring it down onto the back of the ball. If you lean to your right side at any time, the clubhead's path will be too low and strike the wrong ball. If you flip the wrists, same thing.

    Be careful not to pick up the club too quickly with the hands. You want to keep the hands fairly quiet on shorter chips, using an arms-and-shoulders swing.

Crisp Chip Shot Ball Behind for Descending Blow

Crisp Chip Shot Ball Behind for Descending Blow

The skill to chip the ball close to the hole on a consistent basis is an extremely valuable tool to have in your golf bag. Even the best ball strikers miss greens from time to time – usually a few in every round. If you are currently in the category of beginning golfer, you might find that you have to chip on nearly every hole throughout the day. By learning how to chip the ball properly, you can quickly lower your average score. Working on your chipping may not be quite as exciting as hitting a driver, but you will be amazed to see just how quickly your scores can come down when you improve in this area.

In this article, we are going to provide you with the information you need to hit crisp chip shots. Of course, all we can do within this article is give you some helpful tips – it will be up to you to actually practice these techniques in order to improve. Nothing comes free in golf, and that is especially true with regard to the short game. If you would like to shoot lower scores, and you would like to have your game be more consistent from round to round, finding time in your schedule to work on your chipping should be a top priority.

Chipping is so important because it helps to keep your scorecard as 'clean' as possible throughout every round. Birdies are certainly fun, but the biggest key to playing well is keeping bogeys off of your scorecard. Those who can chip the ball properly will usually stay away from bogeys because they can get out of trouble after a poor shot. When you combine quality chipping prowess with the ability to make short putts, bogeys are going to be few and far between. Every golfer drops a shot now and then, but you can take your scoring performance to a new level when you master the art of the chip shot.

It should be mentioned that there is a significant creative element included in chipping. Yes, you want to be able to execute solid mechanics when hitting these shots, but mechanics will only get you so far. You need to have the creativity to picture the proper landing spot, and you need to adapt to the lie as well. In the end, only a blend of mechanics and creativity is going to lead you to excellent chipping results. Embrace the fact that there is as much art as there is science in the area of chipping and your game is going to take a big step forward.

All of the content included 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.

The Value of a Descending Blow

The Value of a Descending Blow

In the title of this article, we mentioned the concept of a 'descending blow'. If you aren't familiar with that term, it means exactly what you would think – the club is going to be moving downward through the ball at impact. By hitting down on your chip shots, you can gain a number of advantages which will help you to leave the ball closer to the hole. Although it is a topic for another article, it should be mentioned that hitting down on the ball is also important when hitting full swing iron shots.

So what exactly do you have to gain by hitting down on your chip shots? The following list will highlight the key benefits.

  • Avoid the grass behind the ball. This might be the most important benefit of all when hitting down on your chip shots with a descending blow. By swinging down, you will be able to avoid much of the grass behind the ball as you approach impact. This is not a big deal when chipping from a fairway lie, of course, but it is crucial when playing out of the rough. Allowing grass to be trapped between the club face and the ball will make it nearly impossible to control your distance successfully, making a descending blow one of the key ingredients to quality chipping. While it will never be easy to chip out of the rough, you can make the task a bit easier by swinging down on a descending plane.
  • Add spin to your shots. Another critical benefit of hitting down on the ball is adding plenty of spin to your chip shots. Backspin helps you to stop the ball quickly after it lands on the green, making your shots easier to control overall. It is okay to use a bump-and-run chip shot for some situations, but a chip with backspin is essential when you have little green to work with – or when you are playing down a slope. If you are able to successfully combine a descending blow with clean contact on the middle of the face, you should see your ball stop rather quickly after landing on the green. It should be noted that the golf ball plays a role in this equation as well. Even with the right technique, you will also need the right golf ball in order to stop your shots promptly.
  • Make clean contact. It is simply easier to hit the ball cleanly when you hit down from above. If you try to drag the club into the back of the ball along a low plane, you are likely going to catch some turf on the way in. Such a mistake will make it hard to control your distance properly. By hitting down, even when you have a good lie, you can become rather consistent with your ability to strike clean shots. Chipping is all about controlling your distance, and a solid strike is the first step in that pursuit.
  • Consistency from fairway to short game. As was mentioned above, you need to hit down on your iron shots in order to play well from the fairway. So, if you are already hitting down with your full swing, why not keep it going and do the same in your short game? Having consistency between these two phases of the game should help you to perform better overall. While there are obviously technical differences between hitting long shots and chipping the ball, there are a number of similarities as well. Specifically, the position of your hands and wrists at impact is going to be nearly the same no matter how long the shot may be. Learn how to hit down on the ball with your full swing irons and carry that through to your short game as well.

You need to know how to hit down on the ball when chipping – it's just that simple. No, you don't have to hit down on every single chip shot you hit, as there is plenty of room in the game for a bump-and-run style chip as well. However, you do need to have the descending blow technique somewhere in your bag, as it is likely to be called for at least once or twice in every round. Learn this shot during upcoming practice sessions and have it ready when you find yourself in need of a solid, spinning chip shot from around the green.

Setting Up for a Great Chip

Setting Up for a Great Chip

It is easy enough to understand that you need to hit down on the golf ball when chipping. That is not a complicated concept, so you should be able to grasp it without any further explanation. However, simply understanding that you need to hit down is not enough to actually execute this technique. For that, you are going to need some specific instruction. We will get started on that instruction here by covering the main keys to a quality chipping stance.

The stance you use before hitting any golf shot is important, but it is especially important that you setup correctly when chipping. Since the chipping motion is so short and quick, there won't be time during the swing to make any adjustments or corrections. If you are off track to begin with, you are going to stay off track all the way through the shot – and the shot will be a failure in the end. To make sure your setup is going to lead you down the right path when chipping, refer to the points below as you practice.

  • Place the ball behind the middle of your stance. This is the first key to watch for as you take your address position. When hitting a 'standard' chip shot where you expect to strike down through the ball, you need to have the ball placed behind the center of your stance. It doesn't need to be back near your right foot, but it does need to be at least an inch or two to the right of center. Why? Simple – placing the ball back in your stance is going to let you hit down on your shots with ease. Since there is no body rotation to speak of in the chipping motion, you won't be able to hit down if the ball is placed to the left of center. This works when hitting a full iron shot because of your body movement, but you aren't going to be moving while chipping. Set the ball just behind the center of your stance, remain stable through the swing, and hit down with confidence.
  • Lean toward the target. Many amateurs miss on this point, which is why so many players struggle to chip the ball properly. When taking your stance, be sure to set more than half of your weight onto your left side. You don't want to be leaning so severely that you can't hold your balance, but you do need to set a noticeable lean to the left. By leaning left, you will be able to swing down into the ball naturally just by rocking your shoulders back and forth. If you were to hit a chip shot by rocking your shoulders without leaning to the left, you would sweep the club across the top of the turf while it moved level with the ground. That kind of technique works for a bump-and-run, but it is not going to get the job done when trying to hit down through impact.
  • Use an open stance. When hitting full shots, you almost always want to get into a square position over the ball. By standing square, you make it easier to swing the club back on a good line, and you will be able to get oriented with your target properly as well. With that said, you can toss out that kind of thinking when you get close to the green. Instead of standing square to the target, it is best to set up in an open stance while chipping. Rather than swinging straight down the line, you actually want to swing across the line from outside to inside. This type of motion would lead to a slice in the full swing, but it will work beautifully while chipping. The ball will pop up out of the grass with ease when you hit across it, and the shot should have even more backspin as well.

The three points above highlight the main keys to formulating a proper chipping stance. If you can hit on all three of these points – the ball behind the middle of your stance, your weight leaning left, and your stance open to the target – you will be well on your way to excellent performance around the greens.

Planning Out Your Chip Shots

Planning Out Your Chip Shots

Since you are so close to the green, and to the hole, when chipping, you might think that there isn't much planning which needs to go into these shots. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, it could be argued that you need to plan your chip shots more carefully than any other kind of shot around the entire course. If the ball is going to wind up next to the hole for an easy tap-in putt, you have to spend some time and mental energy planning out the shot in detail. Without the ability to accurately plan your chip shots, it won't matter how good you become at hitting down into the ball – your short game will still far short of expectations.

The first step in planning a successful chip shot is reading the lie of the ball. Many golfers go wrong right off the bat, as they choose a club immediately before even analyzing the type of shot they will need to hit. Club selection will be handled later – for now, your main concern is checking out what kind of lie you have in the grass. A good lie is one where you have a clean path for the club to approach the ball, such as when the ball is sitting in the fairway. In this situation, you should be able to place plenty of spin on the shot. If you have a lot of grass behind the ball, however, as when you are in some long rough, adding spin to the chip will not be an option.

Once the lie has been analyzed, take a general look at the path you have to negotiate on your way to the target. You aren't going to pick a specific landing spot just yet – at this point, you are only taking an overview of the shot. Do you need to carry the ball a significant distance to land it on the green, or can you play a low shot? Also, are there any major slopes which will play a role in the chip? It should only take a moment or two to review the shot in general terms.

At this point you are now going to select a club for the shot. You have taken a look at the lie, and you have a basic idea of the path you are going to take to the hole, so it should be easy to choose a club. Obviously, chip shots which need to fly through the air will be played with sand wedges and lob wedges, while lower shots can be played with nine irons and pitching wedges. It is important that you are comfortable chipping with at least two or three of your different clubs so you can always be ready for whatever situation you may encounter.

You now have the right club in your hands and it is time to pick out your all-important landing spot. To do so, you need to read your chip shot in the same way that you would read a putt. Take the side to side break into account, as well as the elevation which will be gained or lost on the way to the hole. Combine your read of the ground with your plan for how much height and spin you are going to use, and you should be able to settle on a specific landing spot. Once you step up to the ball and take your stance, the landing spot should be the only thing on your mind. Execute a great swing, hit that spot, and the rest will take care of itself.

It would be a shame to waste your newfound ability to hit your chip shots with a descending blow. Rather than just chipping the ball in the direction of the hole and hoping for the best, take some time to plan out your chip shots carefully and you will see a major difference in the outcomes you achieve.

Playing from the Sand

Playing from the Sand

In many ways, a shot played from a greenside bunker seems extremely similar to a chip shot out of the grass. After all, both shots are played within close proximity to the green, and both are usually played with lofted clubs. However, despite the surface similarities, these are actually shots played with dramatically different techniques. As it relates to the discussion we are having in this article about using a descending blow, you can pretty much forget everything you learned here when you step into a bunker. To blast the ball out of a greenside bunker and onto the putting surface, you actually need the slide the club under the ball on a very shallow plane. Hitting down into the ball while in a bunker is unlikely to work, so take some time to learn the proper bunker technique separate from your standard chip shot.

To help you get on the right path with regard to bunker play, we have provided three basic rules for explosion shots below.

  • Make a big swing. Unlike when chipping, you are going to need to make a large swing if you are going to blast the ball out of the sand and onto the green. The sand under the ball provides significant resistance, meaning you need plenty of club head speed to get all the way through the shot.
  • Hit behind the ball. You aren't actually trying to contact the ball cleanly when playing from a greenside bunker. Instead, you are trying to hit behind the ball, and the sand is going to do the job of lifting the shot out of the trap. This is a difficult concept for many amateur golfers to understand. Spend some time in a practice bunker until you can trust this technique.
  • Expect some spin. Most greenside bunker shots come out with a fair amount of spin on the ball. If hit properly, the ball will bounce once or twice before the spin takes effect and brings it to a halt. Of course, the amount of spin you get will vary based on the ball you use, so it will again be important to practice so you can learn about your own spin rates.

Chipping is one of the most important parts of the game, yet it is commonly overlooked by the average golfer. If you are willing to invest some time in your own chipping ability, it is likely that you will gain a significant edge over your playing partners. Good luck!