You won’t just need power to shoot low scores, you’ll also need finesse and touch. Here’s how to chip a golf ball properly.
Golf is a game of many shots, all of which require a robust understanding in order to card low scores. Everyone loves to bust out the driver (and of course the tee ball is also important) but if you really want to lower your scores you need to hone your prowess around the green.
The art of chipping is relatively simple as far as technique and motion are concerned, and yet in spite of that, it is also one of the areas of the game that players struggle most with.
Today we will be taking a closer look at the art of chipping to ensure that you get better at one of the most important aspects of the game.
First, what is chipping?
Good point. If you are new to the game there is a chance that you might not even know exactly what chipping is.
The term is often enough used broadly to describe any shot hit from within thirty yards of the green. However, this is not necessarily the most accurate description of the shot.
Chipping actually generally refers to shots from the fringe, or directly on the side of the green. In fact, the distance between the ball and the hole is often similar to that of what you would experience if you were actually on the green. Generally speaking, you will be working with a distance of between ten and fifty feet.
The trajectory is also fairly similar to that of a putt (or at least as similar as a shot with a lofted club can be). Generally speaking, a chip shot is never going to get higher than your knees, (though that can be subject to change depending on the distance of your shot) and once your ball actually lands on the green you want to make sure that it finds a line that will take it to the hole.
To accomplish this, you will also want to make sure that you read the green the same way that would for a putt. Due to a lot of variables, it is difficult to get the chip shot accurately rolling on line with the same consistency that you would achieve with a putter but making the effort to do so is a simple way to save a lot of strokes around the green.
The standard for the quality of a chip shot is also similar to that of the putt. The same way you expect to get the ball in the hole in two strokes or less once you make it on the green, so too do you want to put yourself in a position to make your next putt after hitting your chip shot. In order to accomplish that, the goal should always be to get your ball within three feet of the hole.
Often enough, this does not happen. Why? Faulty technique, and lack of practice. Let’s take a look now at how you can work to change that to get better chipping!
How to chip a golf ball
What club should you use?
The first thing to decide upon before you hit your chip shot is what club to use. If you have little experience in this department you may be surprised to see how many different options there are for something that seems like it should be an otherwise straightforward shot.
Depending on your lie you may use a wedge, a short iron, or even a wood. Let’s take a closer look at the circumstances in which each will become appropriate.
The wedge is a good way to play over an unfavorable ridge or hill. Obviously, the wedge is going to yield a trajectory that is considerably higher than the other choices on this list. This trajectory makes the ball land a little bit more unpredictably, but if well-executed you should still find success with this shot.
The wedge is also perhaps the most versatile in terms of lie. You never want to have to hit a shot that is buried in the rough but if you do, the wedge will probably be a little bit easier to use than the iron or wood.
The iron is going to feature a trajectory very similar to that of the putter. The ball will most likely rise briefly from the face of the club, and then roll most of the way to the hole. Due to the nature of this shot you are probably going to find the best possible success from a good clean lie.
The iron is a good traditional option for the chip shot, and due to the similarity it holds to the putting stroke, it is also one of the most accurate options to use.
You can also use this shot from any distance that you are comfortable with. While I did mention earlier that the wedge is a good way to play around hills, the truth of the matter that the chip shot is very much a matter of personal preference. Feel free to use your short iron from any position that you are comfortable with, but be aware of the fact that the further you are from the green, the more trouble you may encounter from this technique.
Wood or hybrid
The wood or hybrid is a less common technique that you won’t necessarily see used often. Why? It’s hard to say really. It is actually a very reliable technique but it does require some practice and if you aren’t experienced with this method it makes sense why you wouldn’t reach for a wood the next time that you find yourself needing to hit a chip shot.
The wood definitely does have its limitations. You certainly do not want to have to hit the ball very hard with the wood, as that could lead to the ball taking off a great deal more than you wanted it to. Woods also have very little loft so they aren’t a good club to use from the rough.
However, if you find yourself on the fringe, you can use your wood to great effect, and enjoy a consistency similar to that of a putter.
It is important to remember that the recommendations for these clubs are all relative. While the above-illustrated suggestions are the most traditional spots from which you should use these clubs if you grow more comfortable with one option than another feel free to use it as often as you would like.
You can also feel free to experiment with other clubs in your bag ( i.e longer irons). While these clubs are not traditionally used they are still a perfectly acceptable option if you are comfortable with them.
Now that we have established a firm understanding of your equipment options, let’s take a look at how you can use these clubs to master the chip shot.
The technique for chipping is very similar to that of the putting stroke. However, it is worth mentioning (because this is a very common misconception) that the two motions are not entirely identical.
With the putting stroke, the goal is to keep the arms and hands in the same position as you bring the club back and through. People refer to this motion as the pendulum stroke.
The path that the club head take is, in fact, identical to that of the putting stroke, but the motion is slightly different. While in a putting stroke you want to keep your hands straight and unmoving, the goal here is actually to hinge your wrists a little bit as you bring the club back.
Why? It promotes a motion that allows for the club to strike the ball easily without worrying about hitting the grass behind the ball on your down strike.
As you bring the club back, you will hinge your wrist ever so slightly with the right hand, then you will release the clubhead through the ball on the downstroke.
In addition to allowing the club to make better contact with the ball it also produces a lot of power with very little motion.
Another common notion that players have is that they need to follow through to a point that is relative to how far you took the club back. In other words, if you bring the club back to your right hip on the backswing, you need to follow through all the way up to the left hip on your downswing.
This isn’t terrible advice, but when you get to the shorter strokes it can be a little bit problematic. If you only take the club back a little bit for a given shot, you don’t want to have to stop the club short simply to maintain symmetry. In fact, doing so can lead to inconsistencies.
A better rule of thumb is to follow through as much as you are comfortable with. This will lead to smoother strokes, and as a result, more consistent shots.
As you can see, the motion is actually pretty simple. Anyone can perform a chip shot, but to do so well requires practice. Let’s now take a look at a few tips that you can use to master this crucial stroke.
Some chipping tips for better results
Use your head
All too often I see players simply step up to the ball and smack their shot without thinking. This is terrible for the long ball but even worse for the short game. The first thing that you should think about when you step up to the chip shot is the lie.
Assess the conditions, and use that information to determine what club to use. After you have made your equipment selection pay attention to the line from the ball to the hole.
Is there slope? Which way is the green breaking? Is your shot uphill or downhill?
This information is crucial to getting the ball near the hole.
For the deep rough
If you find yourself in the need of hitting a shot from the deep rough you may not be able to cleanly clip the ball. In that situation, you may need to consider hitting the shot the same way you would a bunker ball. No, you don’t need to do a full swing (as that would no longer constitute a chip shot) but you can focus on hitting ever so slightly behind the ball and allowing the velocity of the clubhead to thrust it forward.
This method isn’t preferable, but then nothing about the deep rough is.
Consider your next putt
Remember that the primary goal of the chip shot is to set up a nice easy putt. Making this happen entails more than just reading the line. You also need to choose a landing spot that you are comfortable with. For example, if you don’t want to deal with a downhill putt you may want to factor that into where you hit your shot.
A good stance leads to crisp chips
For the chip shot you want to maintain a narrow stance, and put most of your weight on your front foot. You will also allow your hands to lean a little bit forward (this is referred to as a “forward press”) and keep your head over the ball. This approach will help keep your contact consistent and pure for good results.
The best thing that you can do to master the chip shot is practice. The more comfortable you get with these shots, the better results you will get.
Lower scores start around the greens and knowing how to chip a golf ball properly is an important part of this. Getting good at chipping isn’t necessarily exciting, and given the choice between practicing the driver, or practicing your short game, most are going to want to bust out the driver.
Just remember that tournaments are won on and around the greens. Practice may be a little bit boring but once you commit to it you can expect lower scores and more stress-free rounds.
Good luck on the course!