For every chip shot you face during a round of golf, you have plenty of choices available with regard to which club you will use.

Senior Chipping Club Choice Lesson by PGA Teaching Pro Dean Butler

In fact, if you are playing with a full set of clubs, you’ll have 14 to pick from, since the rules of golf don’t restrict which clubs can be used for which shots. Of course, some of your clubs will work better for chipping than others, but it’s a good idea to keep an open mind so you can find the right tool for the job. In this article, we are going to discuss chipping club choice and how you can make the right decision time after time.

The underlying theme of everything we talk about in this article will be preparation. If you are prepared with a variety of options before you head out onto the course, you’ll find that it is much easier to select the right club and play a quality chip shot. On the other hand, if you never practice your chipping or work on using various clubs in different situations, it will be nearly impossible to succeed. Just like any other part of the game, you need to practice your chipping before you can expect it to hold up on the course.

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

Evaluating the Options

Senior Chipping Club Choice Lesson by PGA Teaching Pro Dean Butler

Most golfers wind up with one club that they consider their favorite for chipping purposes. And that’s okay – in fact, it’s a good idea to have one that you favor over the rest, as it will make your club selection process easier (more on that later). However, while it’s good to have a favorite, you do want to have several options available to you for any given chip or pitch shot. Knowing you are capable of using several different clubs will make it easier to pick out the right one for the job at hand.

Let’s take a moment in this section to discuss the various options available to you as a golfer when a chip shot needs to be played.

  • Pitching wedge. This might be the first club you think of when getting ready to hit a chip shot. Most pitching wedges are somewhere around 48 degrees of loft, which allows them to get the ball up off the ground but still send the ball rolling up to the hole after the shot lands. When you have enough room to work with, the pitching wedge is a great choice for chip shots. The one weakness of using this club is the inability to stop the ball quickly after it lands. You aren’t going to be able to place much backspin on your shot when chipping with a pitching wedge, so you’ll need to have enough room for the ball to bounce and roll before stopping. Depending on the type of courses you usually play, you may or may not be able to make your pitching wedge the go-to club for standard chips. If your course has big greens and lacks severe slopes, the PW should work just fine most of the time. On courses with smaller greens or steeper terrain, however, you may need more loft for most of your shots.
  • Gap wedge. In our opinion, this is the club most likely to be the winner for your favorite chipping club. Why? Simple – it occupies a nice middle ground in terms of loft, with enough to get the ball up in the air but not so much that it becomes hard to make clean contact. Typically, a gap wedge will have around 52 degrees of loft, so you should be able to hit many different types of chips and pitches with this one club. If you need to hit the ball higher and stop it quicker, you can open the face just a bit at address. Or, if you’d like to play a lower chip, you can move the ball back in your stance and lean the shaft forward. You’ll be free to make your own decision in the end, of course, but we think there is a good chance that the gap wedge will wind up being your chipping club of choice.
  • Lob wedge. With a lob wedge, you’ll be looking down at somewhere between 58 degrees – 60 degrees of loft. Quite obviously, this is a club that is designed to get the ball up into the air in a hurry. It’s extremely useful to have a lob wedge in your bag but using it as your go-to chipping club might not be the best choice for most players. Unless you are highly adept at making clean contact, you might want to use a club with less loft whenever you can. Hitting a good chip shot with a lob wedge is certainly possible, but you’ll need to be precise with your swing. Even a slight error can lead to a miss-hit shot and a disappointing result. Even if you decide that another club, such as the gap wedge, is your favorite for chipping, you’ll still want to know how to use your lob wedge for those situations when plenty of height is required.
  • A lower-lofted option. Between the pitching wedge, gap wedge, and lob wedge, we have pretty much covered the main options for your chipping needs. However, it’s possible to use any of the rest of your clubs to hit chip shots, and we’ll lump all of those together in this last point. It’s handy to know how to hit a bump-and-run shot from just off the edge of the green when you don’t want to chip but can’t quite use the putter, either. Playing such a shot can be handled with something like a 7-iron, or you can go all the way down to a hybrid or even a fairway metal. It’s a good idea to practice with one of your lower lofted clubs just to get a feel for the speed with which the ball will leave the face. Knowing you can turn to a simple bump-and-run shot will give you a confidence boost when none of your other chipping options seem to be appropriate.

There are plenty of ways to hit a chip shot, and it’s good to have as many options in your arsenal as possible. As you practice, be sure to use a variety of clubs and see if one sticks out as a favorite. With any luck, you’ll be able to identify one favorite along with a couple other options that you have enough confidence in to use on the course.

The Role of the Lie

Senior Chipping Club Choice Lesson by PGA Teaching Pro Dean Butler

The lie of the golf ball always plays an important role in every shot you hit. One of the biggest mistakes amateur golfers tend to make is underestimating how much the lie is going to impact the shot at hand. If you don’t account for the lie correctly, you may wind up surprised with how the ball behaves after it leaves the club. By assessing the lie first before you do anything else, you can use what you learn to help you choose the right club for the job.

As a general rule of thumb, you are going to want to use more and more loft as the lie gets worse. Let’s walk through an example so you can understand this concept clearly. Picture your ball rest on a flat lie just off to the side of the green. The ball in on fairway-length grass, and you only have to chip it a few feet in the air before it can land on the green and run the rest of the way to the hole. In this kind of situation, you are free to pick virtually any club in your bag to play the shot. Since the ball is sitting cleanly on the short grass, you don’t have to worry about the lie interfering with what you are trying to do. This is why it is such a relief when you miss a green but see the ball come to rest on short grass instead of down in the rough or in a bunker.

Now, let’s change the scenario a bit. You are in the same flat spot next to the green, but now your ball is resting is light rough rather than on the fairway. In this scenario, you’ll want to rule out your lowest-lofted options, as those clubs will have trouble making clean contact with the ball in the light rough. So, you probably won’t want to try a bump and run with a hybrid, long iron, or anything like that. However, since the rough is light, you should still be able to use a nine-iron or pitching wedge if you so choose. Of course, you could always opt for more loft and use a gap wedge or lob wedge to send the ball toward the target.

Finally, we are going to change the situation one more time and present you with a lie in the deep rough. The grass is rather thick around the ball, and the blades of grass are a few inches tall. In this situation, only your most-lofted club will do. You want a club that can cut down through the grass effectively with a strong leading edge, and that’s your lob wedge. Also, you need maximum loft to pop the ball up out of the grass as cleanly as possible. These kinds of shots are always difficult even with the right club in your hands, but they are downright impossible if you don’t use enough loft.

At this point, you should have a good understanding of why the lie of the ball needs to influence the club you select for a chip shot. With a good lie, pretty much anything is possible, so it will be up to your own personal preferences and your read of the situation. As the lies get worse, however, you’ll want to add loft to make it easier to extract the ball properly and move it up toward the hole. In practice, don’t fall into the trap of placing your ball in a perfect lie over and over again. That just isn’t what’s going to happen on the course. Instead, give yourself all kinds of poor lies and learn how picking the right club in the right situation can help you to be successful.

Creating a Process

Senior Chipping Club Choice Lesson by PGA Teaching Pro Dean Butler

Do you currently have a process for picking the right club for each of your chip shots? Probably not – and that’s okay. In this section, we are going to outline a step by step process that you can use during your rounds to help you settle on the right club each time. Of course, you are free to alter this process if you so choose, to make sure it fits your needs and preferences nicely.

  • Take an overview of the situation. This is always where you should start with every shot you play during a round of golf. As you walk up to the ball, review the lie, the distance to the hole, the slope of the ground, and anything else that might play a factor in the short. This may seem like it would take a while, but as you gain experience, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you can take in a significant amount of information. You don’t even need to be standing near the ball in order to start your overview. In fact, you can start thinking about how you are going to play the shot as soon as the ball comes to rest from the previous swing. Paying attention to all the little details out on the course can make a huge difference in your performance.
  • Pick a landing spot. Now that you have taken in as much information about the shot as you can, it’s time to pick an ideal landing spot. The landing spot you select is going to be based on a long list of factors. You will need to know how firm the turf is, how fast the greens are, what kind of lie you have, and more. Weigh all of those elements and select a spot where you wish to land the ball. This spot will usually be on the green, but you may need to occasionally land a shot off the green and bounce it on if the ground is firm and you don’t have much room to work with.
  • Choose your club. Now we have arrived at the moment when you will select a club to use for the upcoming chip shot. Having already picked your landing spot, you now need to decide which club is going to allow the ball to land on that spot and then roll nicely up to the hole. To be sure, you might need to adjust your landing spot a bit once you select the club in order to make sure everything fits together nicely. It’s important to have complete conviction in your plan at this stage of the game. Once you select a club and finalize your landing spot, that’s it – you don’t want to go back and question yourself as you get ready to make a swing. Make this decision confidently and then move on.
  • Hit the shot. After all the planning and decision making is finished, the only thing left to do is hit the shot. You’ve got your landing spot in mind, so the plan now is to focus only on that spot. Forget about the hole – if you have planned correctly, the ball will bounce and roll up to the hole after you land it on your spot. Perhaps the hardest part about chipping successfully is focusing on your landing spot properly as you make the swing. If you can discipline yourself to stay focused on where you want the ball to land, your rate of success will go way up.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the plan listed above. It might seem like a lot now, but you’ll get to a point where you can work through it in a matter of moments. Of course, you aren’t going to get to that point by accident – you need to practice. When working on your short game, don’t just practice your swing technique, but be sure to work on the preparation part of the equation, as well.

Closing Thoughts

Senior Chipping Club Choice Lesson by PGA Teaching Pro Dean Butler

Golf is a beautiful blend of art and science. To play well, you need to have the mechanics of the swing reasonably under control, in order to hit the ball toward the target without excess sidespin. You can get deep into the science of the game using things like launch monitors and other forms of technology, and you can take lessons to have highly-qualified teachers instruct you on the right positions.

All of that can be very useful, but you should not forget about the artistic side of the game, as well. This is the part where you need to be creative and let your natural ability shine through. Basically, you should prepare yourself in practice to perform well on the course, but when on the course, you should just let it go and play the game the best way you know how. The players who are able to blend the artistic and the scientific tend to be those who record the lowest scores at the end of the day.

So, what does all this have to do with picking a club when chipping? The point here is that you don’t want to get too bogged down in the technical side of chipping the ball up toward the hole. When picking a club, you need to let your inner voice have a say, and you need to opt for the club that gives you the most confidence when standing over the ball. Sure, there are some limits to that kind of thinking – a hybrid bump-and-run from the deep rough just won’t work, regardless of your feelings – but it’s still worthwhile to stay in tune with your mind as you play.

Some of the best short game players in the history of the game have been the most creative. Those players wouldn’t necessarily do things ‘by the book’, but they would get the ball up and down with incredible consistency. If you’d like to tap into your best possible short game anytime soon, you will want to open up the creative side of your mind while around the greens.

At this point, the conversation comes back to the same point that it always does when talking about playing better golf – practice. By practicing your short game, you are naturally going to improve at so many of the things that you need to succeed on the course. You’ll start to read the lies better. You will get comfortable creating different kinds of shots with your various wedges. And, you’ll start to see ways to play shots that you might not have thought of previously. In that way, practice has a way of expanding your creativity, helping you to understand that there are shots out there to be played that you may have never before imagined. Dedicate a significant amount of your practice time to chipping and pitching and the rewards will be significant.

Thank you for taking the time to review this article on how to pick the right club when chipping. While there is rarely one specific club that is the only option for a chip shot, you do need to keep a variety of factors in mind when selecting the one that works best for you. Between considering your personal preferences and the realities of the situation you face, you should be able to put the right club in your hands more often than not. Once you begin to chip more successfully, you’ll find that the whole game opens up and you are able to save par more frequently than ever before. Good luck!