Ever been told you scoop your chips? Hit a lot of chip shots fat? I can tell you why.
One of the most interesting aspects of professional players around the greens is how simple they make even the toughest shots look. The truth is, chipping in on of the simplest shots in golf. Tiger’s chip-in on the 16th at Augusta; he made it look easy, and in actual fact it was. It involved using good technique, touch and a little imagination, and he got the job done. Working on your short game can send your golf game to the next level. Work on incorporating these fundamentals into your chipping, and watch those scores drop.
In reference to grip style, I would recommend using the same grip you usually do for your full swing, or for your putter. A lot like putting, the grip in chipping is very individualized. Use whatever grip you are most comfortable with.
One of the absolute musts in chipping is to choke down on the club, almost to the steel shaft. This will give you added control, as it should help to reduce twisting at impact. It maximizes your feel and also encourages a more upright, descending swing.
Apart from the grip, another important aspect of chipping is to have firm hands and wrists. Ken Venturi was an advocate of firm wrists; he went so far as to place his hands and arms in casts to prove his point.
Like putting, chipping is very particular; these set-up fundamentals however, will give you the best chance for success on your chip shots. Stand relatively tall over the ball; your eyes should be directly over the ball. Your arms should hang relaxed from your shoulders, and you should be far enough away from the ball so that your hands can swing freely beneath your shoulders.
Your stance should be quite narrow; your heels should be about six to eight inches apart. Shift your body weight so about eighty percent of it is on your front foot. This is very important, as it sets the stage for the descending blow into impact that you need for consistent chipping. Aim your body either directly square to the target, or slightly open, whatever feels most comfortable. Some players feel they can see the line better with an open stance, try it out, and make your decision. Either way it doesn’t affect your chipping proficiency.
Depending on the lie you have, you may not want to ground the club as it can get caught on grass during your take-away or possibly disturb the surrounding ground enough to move your ball, costing you strokes.
I strongly suggest using some form of a forward press as it also helps to promote more of a descending blow into impact. A forward press, is the term used to describe when a player purposely moves his hands ahead of the ball (effectively de-lofting the club) before a stroke, to promote a lower ball flight.
What club should I use? That’s entirely up to you and the type of shot you are trying to play. Obviously, the lower the loft on the club the lower the ball will travel and the farther it will roll. Dave Pelz, a renowned short game professional, has done many studies on this. He is a strong believer that the faster you get the ball rolling on the greens the more accurate your shot will be. When the ball gets airborne it hits and lands on the grass; its landing spot is never truly level, causing the ball to jump off line.
For the bump in run I would suggest using anything from an 8-iron to a 5-iron depending on how much rough you have to hit the ball over and how close the hole is. Use this basic guideline to determine average roll and carry distance of a shot.
8-iron: 1/3 air – 2/3 roll
7-iron: 1/4 air – 3/4 roll
6-iron: 1/4 air – 3/4 roll
5-iron: 1/5 air – 4/5 roll
For example, on a 20 foot chip with a 5-iron the ball should travel about 4 feet in the air and roll the other 16 feet.
Make sure the clubface is square at address, and do not fan it open or close it during your stroke. Dave Pelz has proved that changing the face angle promotes inconsistencies in ball flight, spin, and more importantly direction. Keep the clubface facing the target at all times when your chip.
The stroke for chipping is usually pretty rigid with very little movement from the hands and wrists. It is very much like putting in the sense that a rocking of the shoulders is the proper mental image.
Try not to rush the stroke, as it tends to becomes choppy and inconsistent. Instead work on creating a smooth chipping stroke that accelerates through to impact. Accelerating is key; if you don’t accelerate you are in for a whole world of trouble. I see it constantly, an extremely long backswing, then a short choppy follow-through that tends not to make it past knee height. I think it’s a result of the saying “hit down on the ball”, myself. Albeit hitting down on the ball is extremely important (it helps get the ball airborne and gives it spin for control), the follow-through is equally as important.
The follow through is your visual feedback to make sure you are accelerating, the club will rarely get caught up in the grass if you accelerate through it. Remember to finish each-shot, and you won’t have to worry about the dreaded ‘decel’.
Great chippers like Tom Watson & Seve Ballesteros all started with their hands ahead of the clubhead (forward press) and kept them there until after impact. They did this to help make a descending blow into impact, and to quiet the wrists.
The ultimate strategy is obviously put the ball in the hole, but being realistic is probably a better approach. Ideally, you want to get up and down, meaning you leave yourself with a short putt after your chip. The best way to get this done is to use a little imagination. Visualize the chip before you perform it, and try to pick a spot on the green where you want your ball to land. Using this area as a guide simply focus on hitting the ball hard enough to land in this spot, this helps you take your mind off ‘the hole’ and you can concentrate on a much larger and realistic target.
These fundamentals should be incorporated into your chipping routine:
1. Choke down on the club for control.
2. Get your weight on your front foot to ensure a descending blow.
3. Forward press.
4. Have the ball back in your stance.
5. Keep the clubface square to the target line at all time.
6. Try to keep your wrist from breaking.
7. Accelerate through the shot.
8. Keep your hands ahead of the clubhead through impact.
9. Follow-through to ensure consistent results.
10. Aim for large targets rather than smaller ones (the hole).