This article is in response to a question from one of you about having the right objective when you are faced with a chip shot you deem “makeable”. Phillip asked:
Here's another question that I faced twice this weekend - when you are chipping and have what seems to be a very makeable chip, whether it be due to distance, read, etc., would you suggest approaching the shot any differently (I do know that the goal of all chips should be to hole them, just like all putts, but some this seems more likely than others)?Well, Phillip, first of all, I disagree that your goal on all chips should be to hole them. To me, most of the time your goal should be to leave yourself the best putt following the chip. For example, if you are chipping to a hole position where you just do not want to be above the hole, your goal should be to leave yourself a putt from below it. In many cases, a 5-6’ uphill putts beats the heck out of a little 2-3 footer downhill and across the slope.
First of all, you are chipping because you missed the green. Unless you are a very low handicap player, your first goal must be to minimize the potential damage of that miss. I like to approach all chips from the standpoint of “where do I want to putt from after this chip?” If the green is very flat, it really might not matter. But if you are playing greens like we have at our club, there is usually a better side to putt from. Those little downhill sliders . . . 3 foot putts that are lightening fast and have several inches of break . . . very often leave you a 5-6 footer coming back, or worse. It’s not unusual to see a routine chip that gets away a little turn into a three-putt double bogey pretty darn quickly.
But yes, there are times when you have a short distance chip that you just see the line and feel like you can make it. But I don’t really think there are any changes you make in your technique at all. What I think you do have to do is “grind” on the line and speed like you would any putt you are trying to make. Fill your eyes and mind with the exact hole location. See the path the ball will take all the way to the hole. And “see” it dropping in for an uplifting chip-in.
That’s how I see it. Anyone have something else to add?
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I think it was the Pelz Short Game Bible that said instead of "aim small, miss small" aiming at the hole, take the pressure off and imagine a six to ten foot circle you want the ball to finish in, leaving yourself a make-able put of five feet or less.
I think of chipping goals as the same as putting goals. You should want to make every putt (or chip), regardless of length or difficulty, but should make your attempt in such a way that you leave a very easy putt if you miss. That being said, I probably need to adjust my target goal of missing the hole by 3 feet or less (it's a goal, not a reality) as I probably don't think enough about the degree of difficulty of the ensuing putt. I should probably target something more like 4-5 feet below the hole to 1 foot above.
When i chip, i try to make sure i'm hitting it well enough to have a chance to go in. I don't try to make it, but at the least it needs a chance.
joe jones says:
There are certain players that think they will make every chip. I call it the Ray Floyd attitude. Gary player was the same on sand shots. I have to believe that that attitude is what made them the best at those shots. If you think it will go in more often than not it will happen. I had that attitude for years but for some reason it has left me. Now I play to get the shot to the correct position for the putt. I remember years ago someone asked Ben Hogan why he had only 2 holes in one in his career. He said that he thought it was because he never aimed at the pin but tried to hit the ball to the best position to putt. He was known for his course management but had a unreliable putting stroke that got worse as he aged. Playing the percentages was his way to combat his putting short comings.
Use the force.
On most "makeable" chips, I'm using a different technique - I'm putting! Putt from off the green whenever you can. I think that there is more chance to make it with putter in hand. And, as many short game sages say, your worst putt is always better than your worst chip.
Quick Brown: Somewhat disagree, at least for me personally. I would much rather chip than putt from off the green in most situations. Certainly, if only a foot or two off in the fairway or fringe grass I'll putt, but I see people use putters from four feet into greenside rough, or 15 yards out on the fairway, just because they don't trust their chipping. That, in my opinion, is just dumb. Learn to chip. Practice a little and you will be surprised to see how much more control you can have by chipping.
QuickBrown: Sorry, that sounded like I was implying that you were dumb and should practice. I meant, those that putt from four feet into the rough or 15 yards off the green. I certainly did not mean you.
Agreed Doug--the ridiculous putts from off the green have got to stop. The basic chip is your friend not something to be feared. It wants to help you. It is very much like its cousin the basic putt stroke except with the ball back in the stance and your weight leaning towards the target.
I actually agree with Quickbrown here. as long as I'm not in the rough, meaning I'm on fairway length grass, and withing 5 feet of the green, I'm putting. I can chip pretty well, but putting is more predictable. The only time I won't chip in that scenario is if the ground between my ball and the green is funky (sprinkler, weird dips or lumps) then I'll chip because I'll have a tough job predicting where the ball will end up. Just as you would practice chipping, practicing putting through fairway grass will help you become better at it and understand the feel and necessary speed increase to judge.
joe jones says:
I guess all of the pro's that putt from 30-40 feet off the green in Scotland, England and Ireland are a bunch of jerks. The only problem with that theory is IT WORKS. If the approach or surround areas are smooth and not too long, I will use a putter most of the time. I play with some guys that have great chipping game and they marvel at how close I get from anywhere with my putter. Different strokes for different folks.
I think Doug is talking about when people elect to hit the putter because they are freaked out by chipping.
Matt McGee says:
If I were playing on the courses where the pros putt from 40 feet off the green, I would, too. The approach on some of those holes is in better shape than some of the greens on public courses I play. That being said, I always look at the path my ball has to take if I use the putter. If it has a legitimate chance of following the line I send it on, then I'll putt it. If not, wedge the sucker.
Getting back to original topic, it seems at though scoring-type shots put the mind in different places, and perhaps that's the nature of the question. First, if I'm in a good spot to hole the chip, I'm really focused on the line - and if I'm in a good spot, then it's probably straight. In this case it's easier to do what birdieXris says and make sure the chip is firm. Of course this can backfire going uphill at times. However, as in lag putting, the goal might just be to insure getting in in two. Now, if you're in match play, or conversely in a scramble, then the decision may be obvious - you need to sink it, or getting in in two wins it. Otherwise the mind can be divided. It's almost like the brain has a function/structure to make an exact fit, and another structure/function for getting close. That's why it's so hard to be right on and just a foot long every time (then the target line and pace often go around the hole). It's just too bad that "getting close" often means being a tad short.
If I'm chipping, I am thinking about sinking it; If I'm putting I am thinking about sinking it; If I am 150 yards out, I am thinking about sinking it; Par 3 tee shot, sink it. I am thinking every approach shot whether long or short is going to drop. Some do, most don't, but by golly I am going for it unless I am stymied.
I think the current statistic is that PGA pros miss 90% of the putts from 10 feet or more. I suspect the statistic is similar for chipping from 10 feet or more. A realist will try to make most every putt or chip but understands that a miss is most likely to occur. Knowing that, one should plan on where the best miss will be and incorporate that into the process.
You can improve your chances by 33% if you get past the hole
You can improve by another 33% if you go past the hole on the high side
If you do these two things - that is 66% more likely to go in the hole than when you started.
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