Chipping 101

I have heard many people say that their short games depend upon feel and imagination. On a good day it's brilliant; on a bad it's terrible. Much of this perception is because the players have yet to be shown how to control the ball over shorter distances, using just a few simple techniques.

Working, even with PGA players, has shown me that many good players who hit the ball long and can hit greens in regulation could score so much better, if they would only work sufficiently diligently to make their short games equal to their long ones. I see lots of touchy-feely shots that are hard to judge consistently, even from top end players.

The role of the chip shot in a golfer's arsenal is to be a low-running ball that has little air time and maximum time on the ground. A rule of thumb to achieve optimum scores around the green is:

When you can, putt. When you cannot putt, chip.

When you cannot chip, pitch. This is because of the increasing number of moving parts required to make each increasingly-longer shot and, too, the increasing length of the swing to achieve each longer shot.

To build a really-solid short game is about finding out how to use your imagination to choose the correct shot and proper ball-flight action sufficient to get the ball close enough to one-putt.

The Chip Shot

By definition, this is an arms-only motion, as is putting. By that I mean there is no wrist cock involved, and the lower body is motionless, as in a putting stroke. The bending and straightening right arm is the only power source required.

There are two ways to move the club. One is to pull the club through the ball, which is a swinger's motion. The other is to push the club through the ball in a hitter's motion. As there are so few moving parts to this shot, the latter is very easy to master, especially if you are used to using a piston push type of putt. This is the stroke option that we will be concentrating on in this article.

Gripping For Chipping

Gripping the club, we can use a putter's grip or a finger grip. If using the latter, we need to chip with the heel of the club lifted slightly off the ground ñ to avoid catching turf. This requires that we set the ball up in the rear of the stance with an effectively-delofted clubface. Maintaining normal hand position near the target side thigh (as per previous articles), we can get into a good chipping position by setting up as per a pitch or full swing shot and simply then moving our right foot in line with the ball. From here our spine angle needs to change slightly, having it tilting slightly towards the target, so that our head is in front of the ball. Put another way, the spine will not be leaning away from the target. Weight will favour the target side leg.

Now when the club is raised, you will notice that it comes away from the ground steeper than in a pitch shot, which helps raise the club and allows a steeper descending blow cleanly to the ball. The length of swing is short. There is no need for a long swing in what is a short-distance shot.

It is important to think about where the low point of your swing is at this point. With the ball farther back in the stance, the low point is still under your left shoulder, but it is also deeper into the ground. If your chipping motion finds your club head, just post-impact, way up in the air, then you are scooping the ball up rather than hitting down on it, and this can lead to the scalded -rabbit ball, zooming across the green or the high-flying ball that goes high but short of the hole.

Think 'steep up' and 'steep down' into the ball, maintaining a rigid left wrist and bent right wrist that was crafted at setup. The goal here is to drive the club head down through the ball to let the loft do its work. Generally we set up in a 'y' formed by the left and that shape does not have to change.

The First Drill

The first drill to use is a piece of 2×4 wood placed about 10-15 cms behind the ball. If we set up correctly and have lifted the club back without using our wrists to move the club head, the entire 'y' is shifted in one piece, and thusly there is no way to hit the wood. If you strike the wood, work out which part of the 'y' was wonky! Since it is a tiny motion, this is relatively easy to spot. On the downswing, if the 'y' remains in tact, and only the arms have moved, then the wood will be easily avoided, and a crisp down-stroke will be delivered to the ball.

If you have hit the wood on the downswing, check to see if you are flipping your hands. There, the bent left wrist scooping will increase the radius of the initial 'y' and so clip the wood. The other way the left wrist gets bent out of shape is if it the initial bent right wrist is used to try and scoop the ball. Yes, this too is a symptom of chili dipping, and whether you dig deep or scoop depends upon the bad timing and the loss of the initial setup.

So learn not to hit the, wood and push down all the way through to low point (yes all the way to your left shoulder) and, yes you, will take a small divot even in a chip! The bounce of the club stops you from digging to China, so do not be worried about going too deep.

At the end of the stroke, the club shaft can remain in line with your left arm with the head really quite low to the ground still. If the head is way up in the air, that's an indicator of a scoop action or your attempt to help the ball into the air.

Hit down and out on the ball, and the ball will pop up with backspin on it, fly a short distance, then land, check up, and run. Each club in your bag from LW to 3 Wood will chip a different distance. Make the same stroke with each, and you will see very quickly that instead of changing swings, it's easier to change clubs per the given distance.

Remember, the role of the chip is a low-running shot with most of the ball's time spent on the putting surface, not in the air. That is a pitch shot.

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