The chip and run is a highly valuable golf shot, but one which has sadly been a little bit overlooked in recent years.

Senior Chip and Run Lesson by PGA Teaching Pro Dean Butler

As nearly all golfers now carry a lob wedge as one of their 14 clubs, many players seem to take the option of hitting their chip shots as high as possible. High chip shots certainly have their place, but not every chip should be sent up toward the skies. In fact, keeping the ball down close to the ground is often the better way to go, and a chip and run is just the shot for the job. In this article, we are going to discuss the benefits of the chip and run, the technique required to use this shot, and more.

While this is a useful shot for players of all generations, the senior set might find it particularly useful as those touchy lob shots get a little more difficult to play. If you find that your touch around the greens isn’t quite what it once was, the chip and run option is a great way to keep your short game sharp as you age. There is no reason you can’t continue to play good golf well into your senior years, but you might need to adjust your methods a little bit to adapt to your new reality. By continually adapting your game and using shots that fit your current skill set, you can have fun on the links and post some good scores at the same time.

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.

Why It Works

Senior Chip and Run Lesson by PGA Teaching Pro Dean Butler

There is a lot to like about the chip and run. When you watch golf on TV, you are sure to see this shot used at least a few times, as it is a simple and effective way to get the ball up close to the hole after missing the green. But what is it about the chip and run that makes it an attractive option? Let’s look at some of the benefits you’ll enjoy when playing this type of short game shot.

  • Margin for error. Perhaps the best thing about the chip and run is the margin for error that comes with this shot. Unlike many of the shots you will play during a round of golf, you don’t actually need to make perfect contact in order to produce a good chip and run. It would be best to make solid contact, of course, but you can get away with a slight miss-hit without too much damage being incurred. Since the chip and run is played with a lower-lofted club than something like a flop shot, you don’t have to be so precise with your impact. Also, the swing you will make is generally shorter than when trying to hit the ball up in the air. That shorter swing makes things easier, as well, as there is not as much room for things to go wrong. If you take some time to go out and practice your chip and run, you’ll likely notice that even your poor shots work out pretty nicely.
  • Remove some variables. Golf is a game of a million variables. If you were to try to count the number of variables involved in even a single shot, you’d likely give up before you got very far. For instance, when playing a chip shot, you need to consider the distance of the shot, the firmness of the turf, the speed of the greens, the lie of the ball, the slope of the ground, and on and on. The list just keeps going. While there is nothing you can do to take some of those variables out of play, opting for a chip and run will keep the number down a bit. For instance, you don’t use spin to stop the ball when hitting a chip and run, so that’s a factor you can ignore. Also, a strong breeze can influence the way a chip or pitch shot flies through the air, but it shouldn’t have much of an impact on a chip and run. Anything you can do on the golf course to simplify the game is a good thing and playing chip and run shots is a nice step in that direction.
  • Deal with tricky situations. Imagine for a moment that you have missed the green short, and the pin is located all the way in the back of the putting surface. Not only that, but you have to take your ball up a ridge in the middle of the green before you will get to the hole. Needless to say, this is going to be a tough shot. As one option, you could try to fly the ball all the way up to that back ledge, using spin to bring it to a stop before it goes over the green. While that is a viable option for experienced and talented players, it’s also quite difficult to pull off. If you don’t practice regularly, it’s going to be hard to execute that type of pitch with any degree of consistency. As an alternative, you could opt for a chip and run. This way, you’d take some of the risk out of the shot by just rolling the ball along the ground up toward the hole. Does that mean this is an easy shot? Of course not – it’s a tough one no matter how you approach it. However, the chip and run method should take a bigger mistake out of play and give you a chance to set up a makeable par putt.
  • A good option under pressure. When you are nervous, it becomes harder to execute the precise swing required to hit a high chip or pitch shot. Those type of shots come with very little margin for error, and you might need a little forgiveness when trying to play well under pressure. This is another reason to think about a chip and run. If you are playing in a tournament or just a friendly match at your club, you’ll want to have an option that you can use when things start to get tight. As long the situation is suitable for the shot, go with a chip and run when nervous because it is more forgiving than other options. Even if the nerves get in your way a bit and you don’t make a perfect swing, you could still come away with an acceptable result.

When selecting the type of shot you will use to deal with any given situation on the golf course, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons. Obviously, you want to choose the shot with the most to offer and the fewest drawbacks. These decisions can be tough, which is why it helps to know in advance the strengths and weaknesses of all the shots you can select. We hope this section has shed some light on chip and run shots, and we hope the information will help you be more decisive in your short game moving forward.

The Basic Technique

Senior Chip and Run Lesson by PGA Teaching Pro Dean Butler

It can take a long time to learn a new golf shot. Some include rather difficult techniques to master, and only those who are dedicated enough to work consistently on their games can pick up these challenging shots. However, some other types of shots – such as the chip and run – are not nearly as hard to learn. As you will see in this section, the technique required is pretty simple, and it actually builds on something you already know how to do.

At the heart of your chip and run technique is going to be your putting stroke. While the chip and run is obviously not a putt, you are going to use the same basic method that you use while on the greens with the flat stick in your hands. By starting with your putting technique and making a few minor adjustments from there, you can be up and running with this new short game shot.

  • Stand a bit taller. Most likely, the club you use to hit a chip and run is going to be a bit longer than your putter, so it makes sense to stand a bit taller at address. Your stance for this kind of shot isn’t particularly important, but you do want to be leaning just slightly toward the target, and you should be standing open to the target line by a few degrees. This position will help you get a good view of the target, and it will make it easy to swing through the ball freely. In the end, while it does make sense to stand taller, the key here is your comfort. Find a position that makes you comfortable and gives you the confidence necessary to hit quality chip shots.
  • Hit down through impact. When putting, you will probably swing the putter on a level plane through the ball, or you might even hit up slightly. With a chip and run, however, you should hit down slightly to make it easier to achieve clean contact. Trying to help the ball up into the air by scooping it through impact is a bad idea and will almost certainly lead to trouble. The club you are using has loft built into its design, so you don’t need to give the ball any help to get it off the turf. Swing down on a shallow angle to clip the ball nicely and send it on its way. We mentioned in the previous point that you should be leaning slightly toward the target at address, and this is where that setup position comes in handy. By leaning toward the target, you’ll naturally create the downward angle you are looking for and hitting down through the shot should seem like a breeze.
  • Quiet hands. This is where a chip and run is exactly like a putt. Rather than letting your hands get involved in the swing, you are going to move the club back and through with your shoulders. It’s the rocking motion of your shoulders that will give the club the energy it needs to send the ball toward the hole. By keeping your hands quiet, you will maintain a simple technique and make it easier to come away with a positive outcome. If you already do a good job of keeping your hands quiet on the putting green, simply copy this approach over to your chip and run and you should feel comfortable right away.
  • Don’t peek! Our last point is one that you can apply to most of the shots you play on the course. While swinging the club back and through, you might be tempted to peek up and see where the ball is going to go. Don’t do it! By looking up, you are likely to pull your shoulders up out of the shot, and you may not make clean contact as a result. Also, watching the ball as it travels at the start of the shot isn’t going to do any good anyway, so you’ll be gaining nothing in the end. The ball is going to go where it is going to go whether you are watching it or not. During practice, train yourself to keep your eyes down while hitting the shot and carry that habit over onto the course.

While the technique used to play chip and run shots is quite simple, you still can’t take it for granted. Without practice, you won’t have the comfort or confidence needed to execute these kinds of shots on the course. Make it a point to hit at least a few chip and run shots during each practice session so you can gradually grow your ability to handle this important shot.

Finding the Right Opportunities

Senior Chip and Run Lesson by PGA Teaching Pro Dean Butler

Knowing how to hit a chip and run – or any other type of shot, for that matter – is only as useful as your ability to use it in the right situation. If you fail to pull this shot out of the bag at the right time, it isn’t going to matter that you have the technique down pat. With this section, we’d like to help you identify the right opportunities for a chip and run. There are some circumstances on the course which are just perfect for playing this kind of low chip, while there are other times when you’d be better off going a different direction.

  • You need some space. As you should understand by now, you aren’t going to be stopping this kind of shot quickly by using spin. The whole point is to let the ball run out, so you will need enough space to execute that plan. If there isn’t much room between your ball and the hole, it might not be possible to use a chip and run effectively. As you gain experience, you will get more comfortable with predicting how far the ball is going to run out, and you’ll be able to decide whether or not you have enough room as a result.
  • A good lie is required. If the ball is sitting down in some deep rough, you probably won’t be able to use a chip and run effectively. Sure, you can play a shot that runs out once it lands on the green, but you will likely need to use a high-lofted club to get the ball out of the long grass. A true chip and run is one that is played from a clean lie using relatively little loft to bump the ball on its way toward the cup. Generally speaking, you should only consider a chip and run when your ball is sitting on short grass, or when you have a good lie in short rough.
  • Downhill can be trouble. We won’t go so far as to say that you can’t play a chip and run when the green is running downhill toward the hole, but it’s going to be tough to control such a shot successfully. Without using backspin to slow the shot down, you will have to get the speed just right to avoid having the shot run away from you and off the other side. This type of shot will be more manageable when playing on slow greens – if the greens are fast, you’ll almost certainly want to use some spin to help you bring the ball to a stop.
  • A clean path. This last point might be a little obvious, but we really can’t wrap up this section without bringing it to light. In order to play a good chip and run shot, you’ll want to find an opportunity where there is a clear path between your ball and the hole. It’s one thing to have a good lie, but if you have some rough terrain between your ball and the hole, playing the shot along the ground really isn’t going to work.

Are you going to be able to use the chip and run for all of your shots around the green? Of course not. Golf courses feature a variety of types of terrain and obstacles to deal with, and some are friendlier to the chip and run than others. As long as you are comfortable with the technique required to hit a chip and run, you should be able to find plenty of opportunities to put this shot to use.

Other Options

Senior Chip and Run Lesson by PGA Teaching Pro Dean Butler

Golf is not a simple game. If it were, you’d be able to use your chip and run shot for all of your needs around the green, and that would be that. Of course, that would make for a rather boring game, so it can be seen as a good thing that you need to have so many shots in your arsenal. When a chip and run shot isn’t going to do the job, consider turning to one of these other options.

  • Standard chip shot. While there is no exact definition of a standard chip shot, most golfers would agree that this is a shot that flies partway onto the green before bouncing once or twice and rolling out toward the hole. Usually, some backspin is used to help the ball stop, but there will still be quite a bit of roll out on this play. Club selection for a standard chip shot can range anywhere from a 9-iron or PW on up to a lob wedge.
  • Lob shot. When you need to stop the ball quickly and can’t rely on spin to do the job, you’ll turn to a lob shot. This is a short game shot where the ball is sent high into the sky, so it can come down softly on the green and move only a short distance after it lands. You can get out of a lot of trouble with this type of shot, but it is not the easiest shot to execute. You need a good lie, a highly-lofted wedge, and plenty of practice to make this one work.
  • Chip and check. The last alternative on our list might be the most impressive to watch, and the hardest to execute. When you have a good lie and at least a little room to work with, you can attempt to play the ball aggressively up toward the hole while using spin to stop the shot quickly. If you are going to use this shot, you need to have enough speed through the hitting area to impart a high rate of spin, and you need to make clean contact with the ball.

For senior golfers, and players of all ages for that matter, the chip and run is a highly useful shot. Work on your technique so you can consider this one of your go-to short game shots moving forward. As you find more and more chances to use the chip and run, it’s likely that your percentage of up and downs will improve, and so too will your scores. Good luck!