The Basic Chip Shot
I’m a believer that golf should be learned from the hole backward. Or if you’ve been playing a while, consider working to improve your scoring from the hole backward. If you can’t putt very well, all your other skills will be somewhat wasted, right? I’ve written a few posts about putting, and hopefully you all have enjoyed them. Today, it’s about chipping, but let’s get there by working from the hole backwards.

On short putts, the most reliable technique is a simple back-and-through stroke, with no hand movement at all. As putts get longer, you find that there will be a very slight hinging of the wrists at the end of the backstroke, and a little “release” through impact. That allows you to have a natural action with a light grip.

When the ball is off the putting surface, and you face a basic chip, think of it as a long putt, but with a different club. Here are my basics:

1. Choose a club that will just loft the ball safely over the fringe, so that it lands on the green where bounce and roll-out are predictable. I marvel at those who will chip the ball to the fringe or collar, then become exasperated when the first bounce is not what they anticipated, so that shot ends up very long or short. For consistency, figure out where the ball needs to land on the green, and then how much roll to allow for after that, to get it all the way to the hole. If you want to carry it only 10-20% of the way, a 6-8 iron is usually good. At the other end, if you want to carry it more than half way to the hole, you might opt for a pitching or gap wedge. It only takes a little experimentation to learn this basic piece of the puzzle.

2. Your basic chipping posture is somewhere between your putting set up and that for a half-wedge . Knees should be flexed, and your upper body should be bent over from the hips so that your free-hanging left arm puts your left hand clear of your thigh. Your front foot should be pulled back from the line a little, but your hips and shoulders are square to the intended line, parallel to the actual path of the ball. Notice where your naturally hanging left hand position is, as that determines a lot. I’m a believer that in most golf shots, you want the left hand to “cover” its address position as it comes back through the impact zone. I’ve written about this a couple of times.

3. Set up with the ball at or just back of the center of your stance. Pay attention to this, as you will find that the open stance might visually throw you off here. Use your naturally hanging left hand as your guide. Gripping the club there, the shaft should have a slight backward angle so that your hands are just forward of the ball. The most common error I see in chipping set ups is that golfers have a severe backward angle of the shaft, which de-lofts the club too much for good chipping. That’s my opinion, anyway.

4. Use a V-E-R-Y L-I-G-H-T grip on the club. This is a feel shot, and a tight grip destroys all sensation of touch, and ruins tempo. I like to feel like my left arm and hand are holding the club with control, and my right hand is taking it back and through with precision and touch. If you are right handed, your eye-hand coordination is firmly established between your eyes and right fingers and thumb. Use this natural “touch” in your putting and chipping as much as you can.

5. The back stroke is almost lazy -- a very simple backward rotation of the body core, allowing the right hand to “feel” the shot all the way. A slight break of the wrists can be allowed at the end of the backstroke, and you should feel the club stop and reverse direction – pause if you have to. But a hurried downstroke is the killer.

6. On the through stroke, the body core leads, with the left arm and hand guiding the path and the right hand determining the touch required to generate the proper force. Do not make an awkward attempt to “accelerate” but just emulate a pendulum stroke – back and through, keeping the hands ahead of the clubhead. Your goal is for the impact position to exactly duplicate your set up position.
And finally, to give yourself the best chance at touch and speed control, pick out the exact spot you want the ball to land . . . and then forget the hole! Focus intently on this landing spot. Your natural eye hand coordination will register on where you are looking, and if you are looking at the hole, you will fly the ball too far and hit your chips long more often than not.

So, there is my guide to a good chipping technique. For those of you who have limited golf season left, go down to the carpet store and get a piece of scrap and order some Almost Golf balls, or set up a net in your garage and practice this. Your scores will improve dramatically for next season.

I’ll be addressing a reader question Tuesday, and giving away another EIDOLON wedge to the winning questioner, so send in your questions via the link below. And next Friday, I’m going to cover the basic pitch shot.

photo source
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[ comments ]
Banker85 says:
i wish i had confidence to use my irons for pitch shots. even my pw makes me think its gonna go too fast and roll off green.
BMcDonald says:
I am one of "those golfers" who only uses a lob wedge to chip. And I'm not a very "good" golfer, but my chipping is always commented on for getting it close. I love how soft my ball comes down, and I have gotten great at predicting my release distances with different swings. The only reason I score well on some holes is because I get it up&down a lot thanks to my chipping.

Before I used a LW I would almost always use a 7 iron, but as soon as I started using my LW I started getting the ball much closer.
Bryan K says:
I must admit, having a lob wedge and having good control of it leads me use it a lot more than I should. In fact, if I'm more than 25 yards from the hole, I use my lob wedge period. Inside of 25 yards, I have too much of a tendency to fluff my lob wedge, and I have to use a standard chip shot. I average 1.8 putts after chip. In my eyes, one should expect a 1-putt after a chip. I take too many two putts after chipping, and that's a spot in my game that sorely needs to be improved.

Of course, if I'd just hit the green in the first place, I wouldn't have to worry about it...right?

I have spent most of my practice time over the latter half of this summer working on my chipping. Yes, it's better than what it was, but it still has so far to go. I feel comfortable chipping with any iron in my bag. However, that doesn't mean I'm good at it.
windowsurfer says:
I start my chips with a little forward press. Good idea?
Excellent article. Simple yet enough detail to get all the points across.
bducharm says:
@windowsurfer - Absolutely, a forward press is a good key to starting the process. Also, this will help get the hands ahead of the ball.
SteveS says:
Terry - In reference to the natural hanging left arm; when I do this my left hand is about in the middle of my left thigh (crease of the pants; so are you saying that's where the club handle starts with the clubhead behind the ball providing the forwrd press? This then means my right hand/arm is brought forward to the handle. Correct?
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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