Two Options on Uphill Chip Shots, Golf Swing Tips

When your ball rests on an upslope just off the green, you can play either a high or low shot depending on the situation. But you must be mindful of how your stance and swing pace will affect the ball's flight or you could be in for a surprise.

Any time you're playing uphill, including full shots from the fairway, the ball will tend to fly higher because, in effect, the slope adds loft to the club. Therefore, if you want to chip the ball high from an upslope, simply assume a normal stance and lean with the incline so that your shoulders are parallel to the ground.

In these cases, you'll want to swing a touch harder than you think is necessary to account for the extra loft. And whatever you do, keep your hands a little ahead of the ball at address and impact, which will prevent you from scooping the ball into the air.

Conversely, let's say you need a chip that comes off low and rolls to the target. Here's what to do:

  • Use a lofted club, i.e. pitching or sand wedge.
  • Assume your normal chipping stance, then lean slightly into the hill. Your left (lead) knee should flex more than the right.
  • Your hands are ahead of the ball, de-lofting the clubface.
  • Make your usual chipping stroke. Your club may contact the turf after the ball, but that's fine.

The ball will come out low and possibly “hot,” with very little backspin. Compensate by swinging a little more softly than you normally would from the same distance off a level lie.

Options on Uphill Chip Shots

Options on Uphill Chip Shots

In most situations, chipping uphill is an easier task than chipping downhill. When chipping downhill, you have to worry about the ball running away from you and past the hole, possibly even off the green entirely. It takes a delicate touch to place the ball near the cup when chipping downhill, especially on fast greens. On the other hand, you have some margin for error when chipping up a slope. The slope of the ground will help you stop the ball, meaning you don't have to have such great touch to hit a good shot. As long as you strike the chip solidly, you should come away with an acceptable chip that leaves you with an easy putt for your up and down.

Of course, just because chipping uphill is easier than downhill doesn't mean you have nothing to worry about. Every golf shot you encounter on the course can go wrong in one way or another. Even the easy shots require your full attention to ensure that you don't make a silly mistake. As you might expect, it is pretty easy to come up short on uphill chip shots, as the slope can 'eat up' your shot if you don't strike it just right. Also, the ground you are chipping from will likely be sloped when chipping uphill, meaning you will need to adjust your technique appropriately to be successful. You should be happy to be chipping uphill instead of downhill, but you should still not take this kind of shot for granted.

In this article, we are going to present you with a number of options to consider when chipping uphill. As is always the case in golf, you can choose to play this kind of shot in a number of ways. It is never a good idea to lock yourself into only one kind of shot for any given situation on the golf course. You should always have an open mind, and you should always have as many shots as possible in your bag to pick from. By expanding your repertoire during practice, you can pull out precisely the right shot at the right time during your rounds.

The key here, of course, is practice. You aren't going to be able to simply read this article and then head out onto the course to put the various shots to use. Golf is too hard for that kind of approach, so you will need to invest some time practicing your chip shots if you expect them to be successful time and time again. Improving your chipping is one of the fastest ways to improve your scores, but nothing comes free in golf. Plan on practicing your short game with regularity if you have aspirations of improving your play in the short and long term.

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.

Three Basic Options

Three Basic Options

While it is good to have options for the various shots you can play on the course, you can run into trouble when you have too many choices in your mind. Too many options can lead to indecision, and indecision is never a good thing on the golf course. So, in the case of an uphill chip shot, you should limit yourself to three basic choices. In nearly every case of having to chip the ball uphill, one of the three shots listed below will be the right selection.

  • A bump and run. This is a chip shot where the ball barely leaves the ground before landing and rolling out the rest of the way. When you don't have to carry the ball far before landing on the green, this will usually be your best bet. Just bump the ball a couple of yards in the air, land it on the green (or even on the fringe), and let it run out nicely to the cup. This is a reliable way to chip the golf ball because it comes with a large margin for error. Even if you miss-hit the shot slightly, you should still come away with a decent result. This is a shot which is used by everyone from beginners on up to the top players in the world, so make sure it is a part of your arsenal. While it can work when chipping downhill in some circumstances, this shot is particularly suited to uphill chipping because the slope will do the job of stopping the ball in a timely manner.
  • A chip and check. If you watch any golf on TV, you have certainly seen this one before. You are going to chip the ball approximately halfway to the hole in the air before using backspin to bring the shot to a sudden stop. When played correctly, this shot will bounce a couple of times after it lands, and then the backspin will kick in and the ball will quickly settle down. This shot looks impressive to those watching, and it can be effective when playing uphill because the slope will add even more stopping power to the spin. There are a couple of drawbacks to this shot, however. First, you need a good lie in order to get the spin on the ball, so don't try this method if you are playing from the rough. Also, it takes a steady nerve and solid fundamentals to hit the ball cleanly. Any degree of miss-hit is going to lead to a poor outcome. Make sure you are consistent with this shot in practice before ever trying it on the course.
  • A flop shot all the way to the hole. Most of the time, you are going to use your flop shot when playing downhill. However, the flop can come in handy from time to time even if you are playing into the slope. Usually, this shot will be called for when you have to get over an obstacle or hazard before landing the ball on the green and stopping it quickly. For instance, if you need to chip over a bunker and uphill to the green, hitting a flop shot might be your only chance to get the ball close to the hole. Sure, it is risky, but that is the price you have to pay for putting yourself in this position in the first place. As is the case with the option above, you will need to practice your flop shots in advance if you are going to consider them a viable option during a round.

As you are trying to decide which shot you should use for your uphill chip, you should work your way through the list above in order from top to bottom. If possible, it would be best to use a bump and run. If not, you should move down to the chip and check style of shot. Finally, if the other options simply aren't going to work, you can turn to the flop shot in a pinch. Remember, golf is all about managing risk, which means you want to play the least-risky shot in any given situation. Do your best to keep the ball low to the ground when around the greens, and only look up higher into the air as necessary.

Getting a Read

Getting a Read

You probably think first about reading greens when you are putting, but you also need to do a good job of green reading when you are chipping the ball. It is important to read the green for all of your chip shots, but it is especially key when selecting the bump and run option. Since this kind of shot spends most of its time running along the ground, the slope of the green will have plenty of opportunity to influence the direction of the ball. If you fail to get an accurate read, your shot could easily end up well off line – even if it is struck properly.

So how do you go about reading a chip shot? The following points should set you off in the right direction.

  • Read the side-to-side break. You always want to start with this basic element of any read. Is the ball going to break to the left, or to the right? This is probably the first thing you think about when putting, so starting here when chipping is a good plan. If you can't tell which way the shot is going to break while standing behind your ball, walk up and stand behind the hole for another perspective. It is often this look which will help you determine exactly what kind of slope you are dealing with.
  • Check out your landing spot. This is not a very important point when playing a bump and run, but it is a key to focus on when carrying the ball farther onto the green. The slope of the ground where you plan on landing the ball is going to greatly influence the bounce and roll that takes place on the end of the shot. Are you landing the ball on the upslope, or is the green still flat in that section before it starts to slope up? Obviously, landing the ball on the upslope is going to lead to a smaller bounce and shorter roll out than if you are landing the ball on flat ground. It is a good idea to walk up to your landing spot so you can feel the ground under your feet before finalizing your read. You might think you can see the spot good enough from behind the ball, but taking a moment to walk up will eliminate any doubts you may have in the back of your mind.
  • Closely examine the area around the hole. The ground immediately surrounding the hole is the most important part of the topography to examine when preparing for an uphill chip. Since you will be able to hit the ball with authority as it travels up the hill, you won't need to worry as much about the break in the early stages – the ball will be moving too quickly to take much break. As it slows down around the hole, however, the break will become more influential. You should read the entire shot from start to finish, but it would be wise to pay particularly close attention to the ground surrounding the cup.

If you already know how to read greens when putting, you can directly apply that knowledge and experience to your chip shots. With just a little bit of practice, you will be ready to read your uphill chip shots accurately enough to give yourself all of the information needed for a successful shot.

Finding the Right Balance

Finding the Right Balance

Most golfers feel relaxed and comfortable when preparing for an uphill chip shot, as they know that this is one of the easier shots in the game. You don't have to use the deft touch needed on downhill chip shots in this situation, so you can feel free to be aggressive with your swing. In fact, if you have a good short game, you might be thinking about making the chip shot rather than just getting it close. It is good to think positively, of course, and you should have as much confidence as possible before any shot in this game. However, you need to strike a balance between confidence and over-aggressiveness. If you are too aggressive with this kind of shot, what was once a good position can quickly turn into a problem.

When chipping uphill, you don't have to do much to stop the golf ball. The slope is going to do most of the work for you in terms of stopping the shot, so as long as you strike the ball cleanly and hit it on line, your chances of success will be good. But what if you hit the shot too hard? Even uphill shots can get away from you if the swing is too big and the ball leaves the club face with too much speed. If this mistake is made, not only will you hit the ball past the cup – but you will also be left with a difficult downhill putt coming back to save your up and down.

You can see how this scenario can easily get out of hand. An aggressive uphill chip shot which runs four or five feet past the hole can leave you with a nasty return putt. And, if that putt misses, the ball may roll out a few feet to the point where you are going to have another difficult task in front of you. Suddenly, instead of getting up and down in just two strokes, you will have used at least three, and be in danger of running the total to four. This is a downward spiral that you need to avoid at all costs.

As you prepare to hit your chip shot, evaluate the area around the hole to determine how aggressive you want to be with the shot. If you run the ball a few feet past the cup with your chip, what kind of putt will you have remaining? Not all slopes are created equal, so read the green behind the hole and decide if it will be worth the risk to run the ball up there in an aggressive manner.

Remember – there is nothing wrong with intentionally leaving the ball a bit short to give yourself an easy up and down. The old golf saying of 'never up, never in' certainly doesn't need to be followed in all circumstances. While you aren't going to make your chip shot if you decide to play it safe, walking away with a par is never a bad outcome. As you decide how to proceed, take all factors into consideration. For instance, do you have a good lie? Are you feeling a bit nervous? If anything seems 'off' before hitting the shot, take the safe route and leave the ball under the hole for a simple putt.

Ultimately, the way you approach your uphill chip shots should depend largely on your personality and your overall style of play. If you are a naturally aggressive player, it makes sense that you would play aggressively on these chips shots, as well. If you are a more conservative golfer, however, there is nothing wrong with sticking to that approach. You need to be true to yourself in this game if you are going to have success.

The Uphill Bunker Shot

The Uphill Bunker Shot

To this point, we have talked about chip shots being played from the grass. But what about uphill short game shots played from the sand? These are an entirely different animal altogether, so you will need a plan which is unique to this situation. Where uphill chip shots are some of the easiest short game shots you can encounter on the links, playing an uphill bunker shot is actually a significant challenge.

When you find yourself down in a bunker with a long, uphill path to the hole, you will need a plan. Use the following points to create that plan, and then take on this kind of shot with confidence.

  • Avoid placing spin on the ball. When you add spin to a greenside bunker shot, you can stop the ball almost immediately. That can be a great thing in some situations, but it is not ideal when playing uphill. You are already going to have difficulty flying the ball all the way to the cup, so you don't want it stopping right when it lands. You would be better served to play a bunker shot which lands on the green and then takes a couple bounces toward the hole. To make sure you don't impart too much spin, do your best to hit at least a couple inches behind the ball in the sand. This will keep the club face safely away from the ball, and you will be likely to get the bounces you need. Of course, hitting behind the ball in the sand is going to take speed out of your swing, so you will need to be aggressive through the hitting area in order to get the shot out of the trap successfully.
  • Aim beyond the hole. This is a mental trick which can help you to make a big enough swing for the situation at hand. As you stand over the ball and view the path to the hole, picture the shot flying at least a few feet past the target. Then, when you make the swing, you will be more likely to swing hard enough to get all the way up there. Most amateur golfers leave this kind of shot short of the target. By tricking yourself into aiming beyond the stick, you may be able to be one of the few who can get the ball up to the hole.
  • Use less loft. To get the amount of roll out you need to reach the target, it may be a good idea to use a bit left loft for this shot. Instead of using your normal sand wedge, consider moving down to a gap wedge. The difference in loft between those two clubs is only a few degrees, but that slight difference can be important in terms of how far the ball will roll once it lands. Of course, you still have to make sure you get the ball out of the bunker first and foremost, so only try this plan if you are sure the lower-lofted club can clear the lip of the trap.

Playing short game shots uphill is almost always better than having to play down a slope. However, it would be a mistake to take these kinds of shots for granted. You need to have a plan with these shots just as you do any others you face throughout the day. We hope that the information provided in this article will help you conquer your uphill chip shots with ease. Good luck!