Your short game can make or break a round of golf, so it’s important to know what you’re doing around the greens if you hope to score well. Watch any professional golf event and you’ll see every player using a variety of shots in order to get the ball close to the hole. If your game doesn’t have at least a fraction of that ability, then you’re adding unnecessary shots to your score every time you go out on the course.
In my experience, the chip shot is one of the least trusted short game shots by amateur golfers. In my opinion it is much easier than a full golf swing. It seems like a shot that should be fairly simple for most golfers, but once you step up to it, there are so many things that can go wrong. I’ve seen golfers get stuck chunking or blading chips constantly. Or, maybe they make good contact, but fail to hit the golf ball the correct distance.
Whatever it is that you struggle with, know that it can be fixed quickly and you can soon be using your chipping technique to get your ball close to the hole, so all you have left is a nice little tap in.
What is chipping?
You’re probably familiar with the word “chipping,” but do you know what it is? It tends to be a word that’s used by amateur golfers to describe pretty much any short game shot. That’s fine, it’s just not correct and for us to move forward in this article, we have to get on the same page. A chip is not what you’d hit (I hope) when you’ve got 30 yards to the pin and a pond in between you and the green. That’s a pitch shot and we talk about that in this article about how to hit pitch shots.
Go here to learn more about the differences in chip shots and pitch shots.
- A Chip Shot should be your go to shot when you’ve missed the green. It’s a higher percentage shot most times compared to a pitch.
- Chipping Technique is almost identical to Putting with a few minor setup changes.
- You can hit chips shots with a variety of your clubs. Practice with wedges and higher lofted irons.
A chip shot is one where the golf ball is hit with a low trajectory, stays fairly low to the ground and rolls for most of its journey. This often makes amateur golfers a little nervous. If you didn’t grow up playing true links-style golf where the wind howls constantly, you’re probably more comfortable flying the ball as far as possible and allowing the spin to stop the ball. You might be wondering, why would I want the ball to roll (when I’m not on the green) when I could have it fly in the air? Good question. We’ll address that in the next section.
For now, all you need to know is that chip shots are the shot between a pitch and a putt. It’s got more power and height than a putt, but less of both than pitch shots. There’s more spin than a putt, but less than a pitch.
Bottom line is to hit chip shots over pitch shots where you can.
Why is chipping important?
Allowing the ball to roll on the ground does a couple things. First, it gives it the best chance to go in the hole. A ball in the air can’t go in the hole. Sure, you can fly the ball directly into the hole, but it has to come down to ground level to do that. Rolling a ball on the putting surface allows it to travel around the green, covering more ground where it could find the hole.
If you haven’t noticed, golf is all about distance control. And it is much easier to control the distance of a chip shot than a pitch shot. When a ball is in the air, it’s more difficult to judge how far it’s going to travel because there are fewer points of reference along its route.
Think about it like this, would you rather putt or pitch when you’re on the green about 10 feet from the hole? If you answered, “Pitch” you might want to give up your clubs because they’re just going to cause you pain. Of course, every golfer is going to putt a 10 foot putt. It’s just easier to do. It’s designed to get the ball in the hole easier than pitching it from that distance. Same thing with chipping.
Chipping is an important skill for any golfer because everyone misses greens. A missed green means you’re going to have to either pitch or chip to get the ball close and save par (or bogey). Without the skill of chipping, you have to find a way to putt or pitch in a less-than-ideal situation. It’d put more pressure on yourself to execute a shot that doesn’t fit the situation, meaning a high likelihood of shooting higher scores.
When to Chip the Golf Ball
As we mentioned above, the chip shot is in between the putt and pitch shot. It has similar elements to both, but is unique in its own way. So, because it’s between those two shots, you typically chip when it’s too long to putt and too short to pitch.
You also want to observe the ground conditions. Since chips spend a lot of time on the ground, you’ll only want to chip when the grass is short between you and the hole. You also want to make sure that, when you’re chipping, there aren’t any other obstructions on the ground like a bunker. When chipping, you want the ground to be as predictable as possible. If you can’t safely predict what the ball will do when it rolls on the ground, you’ll want to pitch.
A good rule of thumb is to putt if you can, but if you can’t putt, then chip, if you can’t chip, then pitch; in that order. The reason for that is that putting is the easiest, chipping next, and pitching last.
How to Hit a Chip Shot
Now, let’s talk about how to actually hit a chip shot. Oddly enough, your chipping technique is not that drastically different from a putting stroke but is very different than your pitching technique.
The first thing you want to do is bring your feet a bit closer together than you would a full shot. Try the same width as your putting stroke.
The next thing you’ll want to do is start with a little more weight on your lead foot. For many golfers this will allow you to hit down and through the ball a little bit easier. Weight on the front foot = consistent contact.
Ball position is critical in chip shots. As you step up to the ball, place it a little bit back in your stance closer to your back foot, again to help you get a slight amount of forward shaft lean and allow you to hit the ball with a descending blow. If you play the ball forward in your stance, you could end up struggling with consistent contact. This is a very common mistake I see.
Your grip on the chip should be the same as your full swing, but you can also use your putting grip if that’s more comfortable. Because the ball position is back in your stance and your weight is slightly forward, you’ll probably notice that your hands are slightly forward, but not too much. This is the forward shaft lean you are looking for and is created by having the correct ball position.
Once you’re ready for the shot, swing the club similar to a putt. Your wrists stay pretty silent and you want to rock back and forth with your upper body and shoulders. Let me repeat that, no wrist hinge in chip shots! The fewer movements, the better.
As you swing, allow gravity to swing the club head back and forth, don’t force it or try to swing it with your muscles. Gravity will allow the club to naturally accelerate through the ball, which is a good thing. Let gravity and the leading edge of the club strike the ball and do the work! Too many amateur golfers struggle when they decelerate through the ball, which leads to chunking or hitting the ball thin (aka blading the shot).
Judging the speed or distance of the shot is one of the more difficult parts of the chip. As I’ve said in other articles on putting, most people have pretty poor depth perception even at a short distance. That means standing behind a shot and guessing how hard it needs to be hit in order to get it close generally won’t work. So, before you hit the shot, view the chip from the side and take a few practice swings while looking at the distance of the chip from that angle. This helps you get a better idea of how far it actually is.
To calculate how far to land your chip, make sure to read our article on the Rule of 12 chipping method.
Another trick you can use is to stand next to your ball and swing your dominant hand back and forth next to your side. Imagine you’re holding a golf ball in your hand and trying to underhand toss it close to the hole (including roll). However far you need to swing your arm to do that is about how far back you need to swing the club in order to chip it close.
What Club to Use on Chip shots
Now, you might’ve noticed that you’ve got a pitching wedge in your bag and there’s a shot called a pitch. You can pitch with a pitching wedge, but you can also chip with a pitching wedge. Don’t be afraid to use a different club. In fact, you can chip with just about every club in your bag if you want.
The key to picking the right club is in how high you want the ball to get and how much spin you want in your shot. More spin on your shot will make it stop quicker once the ball hits the ground for the first time and it won’t roll out as much.
At some point, you’ll probably chip with all your irons, but, for the most part, I recommend getting really familiar chipping with your 9, 8, and 7 iron. Since the wedges have more loft, these shots will come out lower than your wedges and will roll out a little better. If you’d prefer the height of a longer iron, you can definitely use a lower lofted club as well. Unless you are a really skilled avid golfer, I would advise against using a sand wedge or lob wedge on a chip shot when you are starting out.
It’d help to take a practice session and just go through your entire bag learning how each club responds when you chip with it. The more familiar you are with each one and how the height and spin responds to a chip swing, the more creative you can be when you’re on the golf course.
Drills for Better Chipping
Now, let’s talk about some drills that you can practice to dial in your chipping action and gain confidence.
1. Hula-Hoop drill:
For the first drill, you need 3 or 4 hula hoops.
- Place them on a practice green at different distances.
- Then, practice chipping to each of them to control your distance.
- Don’t just hit a bunch of balls at one and then move to the next.
- Instead, try rotating and never hitting two shots of the same distance twice.
Always have a goal before each shot, though, so you know whether you’ve been successful or not.
2. Extended shaft drill
For this next drill, you’ll need one snow pole, alignment rod or alignment stick.
- Shove the stick into the hole in the butt of your club on the grip. This will make it so that your golf club is significantly longer than it normally is.
- Hit some shots with the shaft extended like that. The pole should start resting against your front side.
- Then, when you hit the chip shot, it will move away in the backswing and back to your side in the down swing and follow-through.
What this drill is doing is keeping your wrists silent and not allowing you to flick or lift at the ball. If the extended shaft hits your front side hard, that means your wrists are too active.
There you have it, everything you need to know about hitting the perfect chip shot. Practice some of those drills and you’ll soon be sticking your chips close to the hole, lowering your scores, and having much more confidence in your game because you can get out of a difficult situation easily. Follow these chipping tips and you’ll become a great chipper in no time.