Mastering the golf chip shot is something we duffers should do very early in our golfing journey. Why? One area of every golfer’s game where it is easy (after you practice and master the technique) to cut strokes from your score is chipping. For those who are beginners, chipping a golf ball is done close to the green with a “chipping” club. Especially designed for chipping and pitching, the wedge is a club designed to loft the ball onto the green. Their are sand wedges, lob wedges, and chipping/pitching wedges, with varying degrees of pitch. Ask your club pro to recommend one for you to start with. Once you master that one and you gain more experience, you may want to consider adding other wedges to your bag.
When chipping, you want to get the ball onto the green as quickly as possible, and let it roll. In other words, think “minimize flight, maximize roll time”. Pitch (or loft/lob) shots are just the opposite — you want them to land “softly” with little roll.
Learning how to chip it closer to the hole is not difficult but does require practice and an entirely different swing compared to hitting a tee shot. So with this in mind lets go over a few tips on how to chip it closer.
Mastering the Golf Chip Shot
The stance for a chip shot is much tighter than normal with your feet closer together, and most of your weight transferred to the foot in front of the ball. The position of the hands needs to be slightly ahead of the golf ball and your ball should be pointing in a direct line of the sternum. The chipping stance might look a bit odd but when properly set-up your body and club are leaning in a forward position. This allows the swing to be very compact and reduces the chances of blading the shot. Keeping your hands ahead of the golf ball allows the head of the chipping wedge to do what it is suppose to: pop the ball up so it rolls towards the target.
Before actually hitting the shot select a spot where you want the ball to land and consider how much force is required to hit this spot. Also take into consideration the condition of the green. Is it wet and slow, or hard and fast? For wet greens, the chip will need to be hit with a little more force, because the ball won’t roll as much. I like to put more loft on my chips when greens are wet. I do this with the intention of landing the ball slightly short of the hole, letting the spin then roll the ball near or into the cup. The opposite is true for very fast, hard greens.
During the actual backswing, downswing, and follow through keep your eyes on the ball, and your hips should rotate slightly. This is important to chipping well as your arms, wrists, and shoulders do not flex but your lower body, the hips, actually carry the swing through the shot. It sounds like you should be all tight and tensed up but the key to proper chipping is to stay in the right form and stay relaxed. You try to keep everything in a straight line, and let the slight turn of the hips create the follow-through.
This can best be visualized from the following description given in an article on the Golf Channel’s WorldGolf.com website:
• The clubface does not open or close during the stroke – it “looks” at the ball during the stroke.
• The hands remain passive during the stroke, no flipping of the wrist – a kind of “dead hands” feel.
• At the finish the target side arm and clubshaft should remain in one line – not two!
When the head of the club makes contact with the ball your hands need to still be forward of the ball, just as when they were before beginning the backswing. At this point your body weight still has not shifted or moved still being just as it was when you addressed the ball. Any variations in this form and the chip shot will turn out less than expected. The chipping stroke is a short swing/stroke done for maximum control of the club and ball.
One last thing: once you have mastered chipping with your wedge, start practicing chipping with your other clubs as well. You should ideally get to the point where you choose your chipping club by the distance left to the green, just like you do your fairway clubs.
Chipping well is one way to quickly lower your scores and when done well, it is a lot of fun. Especially when you chip the ball into the hole! If you practice mastering the golf chip shot enough, that will happen to you, just like it did for Tiger on #16 this past weekend in the Memorial Tournament.
As the old saying goes, “Luck favors the prepared.”
How’s your chipping game? Please share any thoughts below with our other readers.