We are all faced with it several times per round on the golf course. You take an approach shot and land just short of the green. Sometimes in the thick rough, or maybe you are still in the fairway. Either way, you are left with the dreaded chip shot.
It’s no secret the short game is one of the most important parts of the game. In this article, I’ll talk about a chipping technique that I have found helpful. If you are a beginner, or a mid to higher handicapper, this article is for you. I’ll tell you how to chip the golf ball and provide tips for most golfers.
Best clubs for Chip Shots
Short irons and wedges (9-iron, pitching wedge, gap wedge etc.) are the most frequently used when hitting chips. Personally, I prefer to use my pitching wedge in nearly every situation.
You’ll find many golfers who will litter their bag with a lob wedge, gap wedge, 50 degree, 52 degree, the list goes on. I think there is a lot of value in simply picking a club, practice with that club and develop feel with that club.
Unless you are a pro or have countless hours to dedicate to practice, you’ll find sticking to one club will give you more control. You’ll gain the number of repetitions needed in order to get proficient with that club.
Setting up for a Chip Shot
Prior to setting up, you’ll need to evaluate the situation. How close is the pin? How far off the green are you. What kind of lie do you have for your ball?
Close Pin, More Air
Lets say the pin is close to the edge of the green and you only need to chip the golf ball a short distance. You would want more loft to get the ball in the air and land softly. But how do you accomplish that if you are only using one club? Well, simple, you move the ball up in your stance. For right handed golfers, put the ball just inside your left foot.
This will cause you to hit the ball in less of a downward motion, allowing you to get more loft out of your golf club.
Far Pin, More Roll
Now lets say the pin is further away and you have a lot of green to work with. The old bump and run is my favorite in this situation. Again, same golf club, but we want to take some loft off of it. Simply move the ball further back in your stance for more of a downward strike.
Alright, so that covers ball position, now lets talk about our feet and weight distribution. You’ll want to put your feet closer than most shots. You are also going to want to shift your weight to your front foot. Maybe 60% on your front foot. This will help you make solid contact and works both on a longer swing or short swing.
Basic Chip Shot Technique
With your weight forward, simply execute a smooth golf swing while keeping your arm straight. You don’t need to get a bunch of wrist action or get fancy with your left wrist or right wrist. The key is making solid contact, just take a normal shot. Distance control is something you will get used to from both ball positions.
You can almost execute a putting stroke, keeping your upper body quiet. You’ll want to pay attention to the club face based on where the ball is within your stance. If the ball is further back, there is a tendency to hit it with a slightly open face. So you’ll want to account for that. For shorter chips, the ball will be up in your stance and you can open the club face up a bit to prevent pulling it.
Bottom line, keep your upper body quiet, shoulders square, focus on good contact. If you watch Phil Mickelson, you’ll see a great chipper and someone who probably has every shot on the planet in his arsenal. And that’s great, but he spent countless hours developing his game on and off the course for nearly his entire life.
Chipping is one aspect of golf and most of us have a limited amount of time to devote to practice and play. Chip shots, and short game overall, contribute far less to higher or lower scores than tee shots and approach shots. This is why I am an advocate for picking one club and simply adjusting your chipping setup based on the situation.
How to practice chipping?
I would start with the shorter chip shots with ball position forward in your stance. Get a feel for how the ball feels, your weight distribution, how hard you have to swing. Take 5 golf balls and find a green. Pick a target on the green to land your ball and get used to the roll. After a couple of shots, you’ll get a feel for the distance and how hard your need to hit the ball.
Once you get a good feel for that shot, and you are settling balls close to the hole, do some bump and runs. Again, this chip shot has you setup with the ball back in your stance. So pay attention to club face and work on figuring out how far the ball will roll with your swing.
You can, and should, use an alignment rod. Especially when you are practicing the same shot over and over again. An alignment rod will help you maintain a consistent stance and prevent your mind from taking over when things aren’t going towards the pin. For example, you may think your alignment is correct, so you start compensating with your arms or shoulders.
Once you have a good feel for both chip shots, hit randomly. I have been using the chipping techniques described above for quite some time, so my practice is mostly randomized. If I start to struggle with one shot or the other, I’ll spend more time on it until I resolve the issue. Then shift back to random practice. Before I golf, I usually take 3 balls to hit. I’ll randomly toss them off to the side of the green. I’ll chip from wherever they land, varying my target. Making sure I need to get some up in the air, some lower shots to get a feel for roll.
Over time, you’ll get a good feel for how the ball reacts off the ground when it is forward or back in your stance. You’ll also want to spend some time finding various ground conditions. Chipping out of thicker rough is much different than the fairway. So spend some time getting a good feel for it.
Common Mistakes When Chipping
Chipping can be hard, hitting the ball thin and shooting it over the other side of the green can be very frustrating. Ensuring your weight is forward can help prevent the common mistake if hitting the ball thin.
Reading the green and actually going for the hole. Some golfers with up to a chip shot and get an idea for distance and general direction, but they don’t fully evaluate the green. You should be trying to put the ball in the hole!
Some golfers do not play consistently with the same golf ball. Every golf ball has its own performance characteristics. Some have more spin than others. Constantly switching can be detrimental to your game.
Once you get used to distance control with a particular ball and club, you’ll find that you can be much more consistent. I have done a lot of research on golf balls and talk about the importance of consistency in my post on golf balls for beginners.
The golf industry would love for you to buy every chipping club they make. You don’t need a different club for every chip shot. You don’t need a fancy golf swing for every aspect of your short game.
Is there a place for them? Absolutely! IF you have the TIME to devote to learning and developing all of those different golf shots. But honestly, I just don’t think it is necessary to have an arsenal of wedges for every chip shot.
Some golfers will massively open their feet up, you need to a bit, but find a comfortable position. Make sure your weight is forward! Feet closer together. You’ll find chipping to be much simpler when you do this.
Getting too fancy with your arms and too much wrist action can lead to duffs and thin hits. Regardless of ball position in your stance, you’ll want to push your arms a bit forward and maintain that posture through your swing.
A critical factor when taking chip shots is planning where your ball hits the green. Chipping the ball in the hole should be the goal. Pick your spot and swing to hit that spot. Let the rest take care of itself.
How many time have you walked up to a chip shot and ran through about a dozen different swing thoughts? Right arm, left arm, grip, swing this way, swing that way.
Then when you go to execute, your mind starts worrying that you wont swing the club correctly. When you actually do take your swing, you hit the ground behind the ball. You just mind F’d yourself before you even took the swing.
Don’t do that. Trust your preparation. Trust your landing zone, your green reading, your assessment on distance. Trust it all and just go execute the chip.
When I golf, I like to chip with one club. I simply move my ball position to get more or less roll. It has worked very well for me and I highly recommend it!
You may be interested in learning how to hit the golf ball further.
Good luck on the course!