Most golfers love ripping 250-yard drives down the fairway. But it's the short game
that really cuts strokes off your scores. It also helps you slash your golf handicap
down to size. Unfortunately, the short game is one phase of the game that players
often neglect to practice. The end result is a lack of confidence in this area, as
demonstrated by many players who come to me for golf lessons.
One key to short game success is proper technique. Many golfers don't know the
proper technique for chipping, pitching, or putting. This lack of knowledge hurts their
short games. The other key is confidence. The more confident you are in your short
game, the more likely you are to make the kinds of shots you need to minimize your
scores and lower your golf handicap.
This article addresses both keys to the short game. In it we provide golf tips on
chipping correctly and a couple of drills designed to make practice more interesting.
This information helps generate the confidence you need to improve your chipping
and lower your scores and golf handicap.
Fundamentals of Chipping
A chip shot is a flat approach shot that hits the green and rolls to the flag. Its use
varies depending on the situation, but like a good pitch shot, a good chip shot saves
strokes when executed properly. It's ideal when you're on the green's collar or even a
few feet away with no obstacles between you and the flag. The key to the shot is
selecting a spot on the green and hitting it, letting the ball role to the flag.
You can chip with either an 8 iron or a 9 iron. Take a slightly open address position,
with your weight forward. Position the ball closer to your back foot. And place your
hands in front of the ball, which "hoods" the clubface, giving you the loft of a 7 iron.
Also, grip down on the club 4 or 5 inches for more control.
You can also chip with a lofted wood, as Greg Norman did in the 1994 Dubai Desert
Classic. The sole of a lofted wood is flat, making it almost impossible to stub the
clubhead into the ground behind the ball. Instead, the club glides across the turf. Thus.
you can loft the ball onto the putting surface and let it run to the hole.
Keys to chipping:
1. Set yourself at address
2. Grip down on club
3. Aim for a spot on green
4. Hinge wrist at takeaway
5. Hands lead in hitting zone
6. Keep wrists firm through impact
7. Follow through on shot
Address the ball with a slightly open stance, since that gets your hips out of the way,
and gives you a good view to the target line. Now, pick out a spot on the green where
you want the ball to land. Aim to strike the ball just above the ball's equator with the
leading edge of the clubface. And hinge your wrists slightly during takeaway.
Strike down on the ball crisply, with your hands leading the shot through the hitting
zone. Keep the wrists firm through impact. And make sure you don't turn your wrists
over during follow-through. Returning the hands and arms to where they were at
address helps produce ball-and-turf contact. And stay relaxed and loose throughout
Approaches To Chipping
Two schools of thought dominate the approach to chipping, both of which I cover in
my golf lessons. Some people prefer to use their favorite club, opening the blade to
add loft and turning it down to decrease loft. Depending on the shot they either hit the
ball harder or softer. This approach works some but not for others. For those players,
it's too complicated and has too many variables to take into account.
Other players prefer taking the same swing but changing clubs. In this case you can
use anything from a 5-iron to a sand wedge. Take a slightly open stance but position
the ball slightly right of your stance. Choke down on the longer clubs for better
control. The backswing is about the same length on all the clubs. If you use this
approach, keep in mind that the higher the lofted club you use, the more spin on the
ball. Spin can be difficult to control.
Set two parallel rows of tees six inches apart on both sides of the target line. Place a
ball between the rows of tees but toward the beginning of the rows. Swing the club
between the tees, striking the ball and keeping the clubhead moving on a line toward
the target for at least the length of the rows of tees.
Play the ball slightly toward the back in your stance. Practice using just your left had
(for right-handers) to hit down on the ball. Use a punching motion and keep the wrist
firm throughout the shot. If executed properly, this drill teaches you to trap the ball
with a descending blow, rather than scoop the ball away.
Both drills improve your chipping. Practice them diligently. Make sure you vary the
distances of the shots for better results. Try hitting some from the rough as well. The
key there is not letting the grass interfere with the shot.
The chip shot isn't as dramatic at shot as a 250-yard bomb. But it can be just as
satisfying, and more useful, if you execute one well. More importantly, learning how
to chip well will shave strokes off your golf handicap.