How to Correct Inconsistent Golf Chips

Chipping may well be the least-practiced skill in golf. Think about it: How often do you work on your short game? And for how long?

That's one reason so few golfers are adept at this (relatively) simple task. It's also why they seldom put good chipping rounds back to back. Some days, a golfer happens to have a feel for the club and the greens. When it's not there, neither is his short game.

There's absolutely no reason that chipping shouldn't be one of your strengths, a skill you can count on no matter what state your swing or putting stroke are in. Here are a few ways to bring your chipping up to speed and keep it polished for the long haul.

  • Hands ahead of the ball: We've said it elsewhere on this website and we'll reaffirm it here – chip shots are nothing more than miniature iron shots. The same concepts apply to both swings, starting with your hands being ahead of the ball at address and impact. Maintaining this relationship will prevent you from flipping the hands and scooping the ball, while producing a solid strike with ample backspin.
  • Narrow stance: Always address basic chip shots with your feet just a few inches apart at the heels. This promotes a steeper angle into the ball for maximum control.
  • Maintain the triangle: Imagine a triangle formed with three points – where the hands meet the grip, plus your left and right shoulders. The idea is to keep this triangle intact as you swing back and through, which prevents the hands and wrists from becoming overactive. Too much wrist action leads to inconsistent distance control, an issue you can eliminate by mastering a one-piece motion.
  • Practice, practice, practice: Ignore the short game at your own risk. Sure, it's more fun to blast drives on the range, and arguably more important to keep your putting fine-tuned. But put in just 10-15 minutes of chipping per practice session and you'll be amazed at how well it translates to your rounds. If your course doesn't allow chipping on the practice green, stake out a small space in the back yard where you can drill the fundamentals.

It's incredibly easy to develop and maintain a deadly chipping game. Set aside a sliver of time to practice, and consistency will come.

Every golfer knows the feeling.

How to Correct Inconsistent Golf Chips

On the first hole, you miss the green and hit a beautiful chip shot to set up a short putt for par. On the next hole, you miss the green again – only this time, you hit a terrible chip that doesn't even find the putting surface. Another chip and two putts later, you've made a double bogey. What happened? How could you chip so nicely on the first hole only to have it go so wrong on the next? We are going to tackle that issue in this article.

First of all, we need to state the obvious – golf is a game of inconsistency. Even the best golfers in the world and up and down performances, which is why so many different players win tournaments throughout the course of a season. Golf would not be the incredibly challenging game it is without the element of inconsistency. So, if you simply hit a poor chip from time to time, there really isn't much to say. That's golf, and it's always going to be a part of the game.

However, if your performance varies wildly from hole to hole and you hit just as many bad chips as good ones, clearly something needs to be done. In this article, we are going to talk about how you can work toward more consistent performance with regard to shots played from around the green. While it's not possible to take the poor results completely out of your game, it is possible to work toward more consistent outcomes. We hope the advice below will help you do just that.

All of the content in this article is based on a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.

Signs of Trouble

Signs of Trouble

It can be difficult to know when inconsistency is just part of the game, and when it is something to actually worry about. For instance, if you hit two or three bad chip shots during a single round – along with several good ones – is there something inherently wrong with your technique, or did you just have a rough day? It's hard to say for sure. So, rather than looking exclusively at results, we want to encourage you to look for signs that something may be wrong with your chipping game. Looking at this from a process-based perspective, rather than a result-based perspective, should help you take a clearer view of the issue.

You may want to think twice about the current status of your chipping game if you notice any of the signs below.

  • Difficulty making solid contact. This is where it starts in regard to chipping issues. If you are having trouble making clean contact – regardless of where the chip shots wind up finishing – you should know that something is wrong. Making solid contact is a key component to good performance in this game, no matter what aspect of the game is in question. For chip shots, you need to be able to make clean contact in order to control the distance of the shot with any regularity. When you stand over the ball at address, do you expect to hit the shot cleanly, or do you think you are in for a struggle? Often, your level of confidence alone will tell you all you need to know about the state of your game.
  • The occasional shank. While it is inevitable that you are going to hit some poor shots from time to time in the short game, you shouldn't accept shanked shots as just one of those things that happens in golf. If you are shanking some of your chip shots, it's a pretty safe bet that there is a problem with your technique. The hosel of the club is too close to the ball at impact, and it is making contact with the ball from time to time as a result. You are going to need to correct whatever mechanical error is causing these shanks, as they can have a number of negative impacts on your short game. Obviously, when you shank the ball, that shot is likely to wind up in a bad spot, and you'll lose strokes as a result. Also, the shanks are famous for their ability to get into the head of the golfer, eroding confidence with each occurrence. The longer you let this problem linger, the deeper in your mind it will be embedded.
  • Can only hit one shot. The need for diversity in the short game is greater than anywhere else on the links. If you are going to successfully get up and down at a high rate, you need to have a lot of different shots at your disposal. What might look like inconsistency at first may be nothing more than a lack of flexibility. For instance, you might be great at hitting bump-and-run shots, but you may struggle when it is necessary to hit the ball up in the air. You are only going to be consistent in the short game when you are able to produce a number of different shots, depending on the situation at hand.
  • Failure under pressure. When you face pressure on the golf course, you will quickly learn where your strengths and weaknesses lie. This is not only true when chipping, but it is true around the rest of the course, as well. The parts of your game that break down when the pressure is on are usually those that need improvement from a technical perspective. If you have some flaw in your chipping technique that you haven't yet fixed, it will probably show itself when you have to hit a tough chip in an important situation. When the 'chips are on the table' and you are feeling the pressure, it is your technique that will carry you through. Good technique allows you to rise to the occasion, while poor technique will lead to inevitable failure. If you notice that your chipping problems seem to pop up when the pressure is on, there is probably a mechanical issue that needs to be addressed.

It is best not to let your chipping issues linger, if at all possible. Golf is a game that is built on habits, both good and bad. If you let your poor chipping habits remain in place for a long period of time, they are going to be that much harder to break in the end. Once you determine that there are some underlying issues which are causing you to be inconsistent with your chipping, the next step is clear – get down to work to improve your performance as soon as possible.

The Basic Keys

The Basic Keys

It would not be possible for us to completely fix your chipping technique within the context of this article. For one thing, chipping is difficult and complicated, and we aren't going to be able to pass along all the information you need in this space. Also, since we've never seen you chip the ball, we can't tell you exactly what changes are necessary to improve your performance. Remember, once you've started playing this game, you are never starting from scratch. Instead, you are simply making adjustments to the technique you already have in place.

With all of that in mind, we are going to simply offer a number of tips below which should help steer you in the right direction. These can be considered basic keys to solid, reliable chipping performance.

  • Keep your hands mostly out of the action. When putting, you want to keep your hands and wrists completely quiet from start to finish. You don't want to use your hands in the stroke because doing so would make both the path and the pace of your stroke less consistent. While the story is not exactly the same when chipping, it is similar. You do want to use a little bit of hand and wrist action – in order to set the club and then release it through the ball – but you don't want to go too far. If your chipping motion is mostly hands and wrists, it's going to be hard to consistently produce quality results. Focus on making your shoulders the main driver of the swing while letting your hands and wrists play backup. This might not be an easy balance to strike at first, but you should improve at this task over time.
  • Stand open to the target. One of the simplest things you can do to improve your chipping performance is to open your stance to the target slightly. By standing with an open stance, you will gain a couple of important advantages. First, you will gain a better view of the target at address. Most golfers find it easier to see the target and aim properly when they stand slightly open over the ball. Also, this open stance is going to promote an outside-in swing path, which is a good thing when chipping. Swinging from outside-in will promote a steeper swing and a downward hit, which is exactly what you want on a standard shot. This type of swing is going to help the ball pop up into the air, and it may even help you get a little extra backspin. If you have been having trouble getting your chip shots off the ground previously, simply opening your stance to the target may be the only change you need to make.
  • Lean a bit left. You don't want to go too far with this tip, but it does help to lean just slightly to your left while chipping. For a right-handed golfer, that is going to mean you will be leaning toward the target, which will make it easier to hit down through the ball. Of course, you don't want to be moving your body around during the swing itself, so you'll want to set your weight into your left side before beginning the swinging action. If you go too far with this tip, you'll have trouble holding your balance throughout the swing, so make sure the lean is only a modest one.
  • Commit to the shot. This is a tip which is more mental than physical, although making a mistake here will manifest in your physical technique. Basically, once you get over the ball and decide what kind of chip shot you are going to hit, you need to be 100% committed to hitting that shot. There is no room in the short game – or any part of golf, for that matter – for indecision. If you fail to commit yourself to the shot you have selected, the results are unlikely to be pretty. Most likely, you will slow the club down as you approach impact, and the outcome will be a fat shot that comes up short of the target. Find a way to believe in yourself and the shot you are playing and your level of consistency should take a big step forward.

Believe it or not, simply following along with the four points above can take you a long way toward improved chipping performance on the course. The check list is an easy one to remember – keep your hands mostly out of the action, stand open to the target line, and lean a bit to the left. Blend those three keys with a strong mental commitment to each shot and you will be well on your way.