Chipping Secrets

Written by Gary Buffington, Jr., 20 year Manager of Edwin Watts Golf Shop, Tampa, former academic All-American Golfer at University of West Florida, and former Professional Mini-Tour Golfer offers specific advice and drills for game improvement directly related to what is learned from the Statistical Outputs of the Golf Addiction Statistics Mobile App.  

The Basics of Chipping

A chip is a shot that will often be required by any player, at any level, with any handicap. It is often called “the chip and run,” because the ball only has to be in the air for a few seconds(usually over long grass, sand, wet spots, or mounds) and then “runs” out on the green (like a putt) the rest of the way to the hole! The chipped ball only ever flies10 or 20 feet, and is often played when there is large amount of green to work with. That is, a chip is often used when the ball is expected to fly a minimm distance and run out a maximum distance.This way you can fly the ball just onto the putting surface and let it get on the ground as soon as possible and roll the rest of the way to the hole. Because the chip is in the air for a short time, it eliminates many accuracy and touch challenges that the shot would require if the ball was thron “top the hole” with some type of wedge. The wedge pitch is considered a much more difficult shot that the “chip and run.” There are variables involved with how the ball will roll out, but these do not negate the fact that a “poor chip is usually better than a good pitch.”
To hit the basic ship shot, the feet should be relatively close together to eliminate swaying and encourage slight turning. Close feet also encourages swinging through the ball with your turn. The distance between the feet should only be a few inches (6 inches max). This will get us a better feel to the ground and allow the legs to move slightly during the shot. Contrary to what most people think, the chip should be hit with the legs and knees moving back and through during the swing (but turning, not swaying) . There is a slight coil back and a slight turn through as you hit. But it is extremely slight! We do not want you using chipping with overactive legs and knees, nor do we want totally silent knees and legs! Next, the ball should be played toward the back of the stance, so you can hit the ball first and get a nice descending blow. This will create a fairly low trajectory and allow players to put some top spin onto the ball. The feet should be aligned slightly left to also encourage swinging through the shot. Remember that this nis a chip and run so the rolling ball will take break just like a putt. We have to read some break! The hands should be positioned so that the club is flat on the ground (proper lie angle). The heel should not be up in the air and neither should the toe of the club be up in the air. Lastly, the hands should be slightly forward of the ball at address, up towards your front thigh. This will provide the perfect chipping setup and allow you hit the ball before the ground and have solid shots that roll out well and true.

Never Ever Break the Wrists

Too many amateur players break their wrists when chipping around the green. This is a severe problem that will lead to skulled and chunked chips, and lost strokes. The cocking and uncocking of the wrists is a move that provides power that is not needed on a chip. There are virtually no wrists involved in chipping the ball. Phil Mickelson in his short game book and tapes says to “Cock and Hold the wrists” What Phil means is to cock the wrists on the back swing, but do not uncock on the forward swing. Phil leads with the back of the left hand toward the target and the wrists NEVER uncock. The power is supplied from the rocking motion of the shoulders and the body turn. But this is not a putting stoke with a totally quiet lower body. So, when you are practicing your chipping, feel the sensation that you have broken both arms and they are in casts. If your arms are in casts then you will not be able to break your wrists. This will lead to more consistent contact, closer chips, and more up and downs!

Oh No! This Chip is too far!

When chipping it is important to remember that you only want to fly the ball a short distance. This means that on longer shots, you don’t have to fly the ball further! Players always have the option of switching clubs. This is great because the lower lofted the club, the farther your chips will roll. So, next time you go to the course to practice, get a feel for your distances. Grab some and chip three with your highest lofted wedge. See how far they go. Next, move down to your next highest lofted club and hit it. Try to land these three chips in the same spot you landed the other club. With the lower lofted wedge, the ball should roll slightly farther. Do this all the way down to your five-iron and you will see that there is an increase in roll for each lower lofted club. This will give you a great idea of what club to hit on each distance chip that you face during a round of golf.

Throw Down a Quarter

One of the toughest parts of chipping is determining where to land the ball. If you pick a spot too far, the ball will go careening pastthe hole. But, if you pick a spot that is too short then the ball will never get to the hole. It is extremely important to come as close as possible to hitting your chip in the spot that you planned. If you miss your spot, the ball will not roll the proper distance! This will lead to longer second putts, more three putts, and less up and downs. When practicing your chipping, I recommend a landing zone target. Use a quarter for the landing zone target. A landing zone target allows you to do two things! First off, it will allow you to see whether or not you are picking a proper spot. If you land a ball on the quarter or close to it and it ends up farther away than 3 feet then you have not picked a proper spot. But, if the ball hits next to the quarter and rolls up close to the hole then you know you have done a great job. Second this drill will allow you to see how close you can come to hitting your spot. If players cannot hit their spot consistently, then they will not be able to get up and down as often as they should. Even if they pick the absolute perfect spot, it will not matter unless they can fly the ball there consistently. This drill will help both the planning and physical parts of chipping. Players will learn to pick a better spot, and to hit the ball solidly and consistently enough to fly it there all the time!

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