Of course, we focus a lot on driving and putting. The driver and the putter are the glory clubs in golf – everyone wants to drive well and putt well. But no golfer in the world goes through a round without having to play a chip shot somewhere on the course. We never play that perfect round where we are just in the ideal spot all the time, so being able to chip is essential.
Here at AMERICAN GOLF, we have come up with a few chipping tips and things to avoid that can hopefully nail down the technique and mental processes that we need to learn how to chip well.
If you're looking at how to chip for little pitch shots when you're close to the green this drill is a favourite of pro golfer Andrew 'Beef' Johnson. This dill focuses on club face alignment since many new golfers bring the club into their body and turn too early rotating their shoulders and hips too much resulting in you being unable to square the face of the club in time when you hit the golf ball, meaning you'll end up having a variety of bad shots hitting it fat or chasing it and hitting it thin.
This drill will focus on the positional work of the club. Place a club directly behind the ball pointing where you want the ball to go, leaving enough space for you to swing the club. Swinging straight back making sure when you practice that you can still see the club face over the shaft, this enables you to practice a good, straight take away and now every time you swing you will have a pendulum motion.
If you keep your weight on the left side making sure, with a straight drawback keeping the club in a good position on top of the ball. Now when your club returns to the ball the face is square giving you a nice clean contact with the ball and the follow-through is a lot easier.
This drill will likely make you feel very odd when you're swinging like you're almost over-exaggerating the swing. once you become comfortable with this you will improve your contact with the ball and your chipping. This is a great drill if you're on the course or at the range to improve your chipping around the green.
If you're still thinning it or fatting it, check your distance from the ball if you're thinning your chips you may need to stand further away, and similarly if you're fatting the shot you may need to stand slightly closer. Finding the right balance
Short-range chip shots
Pitches of 20-30 yards are what we call short-range pitch or chip shots as we will have to get the ball in the air. A pitching wedge or a sand wedge are good clubs for these shots as they have the right amount of loft to get the ball into the air.
First of all, at address we want the ball in the centre of our stance. Then we need to adjust our body position so that we are leaning slightly towards the target, therefore our weight is ahead of the ball. We also want to grip our hands further down the club than for conventional iron shots so that we can gain more control.
Now for these chips or pitches, we are not looking to do a full swing. It may be a half-swing or a three-quarter swing depending on how far we want to hit the ball. But we want to be smooth and relaxed. That means keeping our lead wrist (our gloved hand) flat otherwise we can change the club face, making it too open and inadvertently changing the shot we are going to play.
We want to take the club back and then imagine that we are almost throwing the ball to the target as we come through the down swing to hit the ball, finishing chest-on facing our target.
Avoid thin or chunky chip shots
Because chip shots are quite delicate by nature, there can be a fine line between success and failure. And hitting a bad shot can give us a feeling of frustration and embarrassment. We feel frustrated if the ball only goes a few yards or embarrassed if it flies miles beyond our target. Our playing partners don’t know what to say or where to look.
The two dangers in chipping are being too thin or too chunky. Too thin is when we lean back on a chip shot as if we are using our own body position to create loft to get the ball in the air. The end result is we don’t get our body in the right position at the point of contact and we thin or scull the ball along the floor and do not get it off the ground at all.
The other familiar fault is when we are too chunky. As chip shots don’t require much power, we often try to be too delicate. Sometimes that means our swing gets slower as we reach the ball, rather than keeping it at the same rhythm and our club digs into the ground rather than goes through it and we make a heavy, or chunky contact and the ball finishes well short of our intended target.
Mentality why pitching or chipping
We all need the technique necessary to play a good chip. But we also need a good mental approach. The very best players think they are going to chip the ball into the hole, or if not, very close. By thinking so positively, they stand over their shot in a relaxed and confident manner. If we can feel confident in our technique, we can stand over the ball confident and relaxed. When we are all like that, it is more likely that we will hit a good shot.
When we worry about a chip shot, we have a tendency to over-think and certainly to worry about what could go wrong. And when we do that, guess what happens? Something usually goes wrong because we get tense and not everything is as free as it should be. That’s why being positive and confident is a key ingredient in how to improve our chipping.
Visualise the shot
When we stand on the putting green, we usually have a look at the lie, assess the slopes and the speed of the green and visualise the direction we want the ball to follow on its way to the hole.
Well, that is exactly the same process we should have with a chip shot. Our first thought needs to be, ‘Where do we want our ball to land?’ Are there any slopes on the green that we need to go up or down? Is the green soft and slow or firm and fast, thereby changing where is a good place to land the ball? These are all factors that we should consider as we stand over the chip as visualisation is a good method to factor into our attempts to chip well.
One of the things about being a good chipper is that it makes us competitive players. If we get in a tricky position, we have a chance of rescuing a hole by doing a good chip and a putt. In matchplay, that can mean halving or winning a hole when it looks like we are going to lose it. In strokeplay or whatever individual game we are playing, it can mean saving one or two shots, by getting a four instead of a five or a five rather than a six or a seven.
Good chipping (if finished off with a good putt) helps to build confidence and momentum during our round that we can take onto the next hole which can hopefully rub off onto our longer game.
Practice, practice, practice
Now we all want to hit booming drives. But a professional golfer would tell us that it’s more advisable to spend time working on our short game. That is where we can knock so many shots off our rounds.
Hitting chip shots is not something that is physically demanding, so hitting 15-20 chips will not tire us out. Good chipping is about finding the right tempo and feel. Practise can make perfect because we can learn how a good chip feels off the club - smooth and rhythmical.
We can find 10-15 minutes ahead of a round or a quiet half-an-hour on some other occasion. We may even be lucky to have enough space in our garden to do some chipping. With practice, we have the chance to create a scenario whereby a chip is a shot to enjoy taking on rather than one to dread.
About the Author
Adam is a freelance news and sports journalist who has written for the BBC, The Sunday Post, The I, The Times, The Telegraph and more. He has been writing about golf for nearly two decades and has covered 13 Open Championships and two Ryder Cups. Not only does Adam cover golf, but he has played golf for as long as he can remember. He was a member at Northenden Golf Club for around 25 years until his children arrived and his last official handicap was 11, although on any given day his form fluctuates anywhere between eight and 18.