Three Keys to a Better Chip Shot

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Rick Smith

As a golfer, there is nothing more frustrating than to hit a long drive down the center of the fairway, strike a solid iron shot just off the edge of the green and then after analyzing the lie, slope of the green and the distance to the flag, you blade the chip over the green or lay sod over the ball. Now, you are not only frustrated, but you have to hit the chip all over again! If youre looking to save more than a few shots a round, let's get to the facts you need to know for proficient chipping around the greens.
 
There are many methods on how to chip a golf ball. One of the biggest problems that I notice when teaching amateurs is their conceptual misunderstanding on how to execute a chip shot, which in turn leads to improper chipping technique. In a majority of my students I see many of the same chipping faults, which include:
  • Improper setup / body position
  • Incorrect use of wrists
  • Poor angle of approach to ball


Improper Setup / Body Position
I am a firm believer that chipping the ball well stems from the proper setup. Conceptually, many amateurs have the idea that they need to help the ball into the air when executing a chip. Thus, they set up with the ball forward in their stance, their spine angle is backwards (leaning back behind the ball) and a majority of their weight is on the back foot. This type of setup is detrimental to producing a good chip because it does not allow a descending blow on the golf ball, which is a must.
 
Good chippers have many common attributes. Because the chipping motion is such a small swing, there is not enough time for the weight to transfer to the forward foot; thus, it is important to pre-set the impact position at address. Good chippers set up with the ball positioned back of center in their stance, the hands and the shaft are angled slightly forward of the golf ball, a majority of the weight is placed on the left foot and the spine angle should be approximately two inches ahead of the ball. This type of setup promotes a descending blow, which is necessary to be a good chipper.
 
Incorrect Use of Wrists
Another common denominator in poor chippers is very tight or rigid wrists. This problem may be caused by misunderstanding the proper chipping technique. Many have heard the saying, Chip like your hands are in casts. This analogy is a detrimental move towards making a descending blow. Very rigid wrists will usually promote a stiff wristed takeaway on the backswing, which then results in a flippy scooping motion through impact.

Good chippers have a little hinge or play in the wrists in the back swing. Their grip pressure is light and remains that way throughout the chip. As the club approaches the ball on a descending angle, the left arm and the club should form a straight line at and through impact.

Poor Angle of Approach
Once again, it is very important to emphasize that improper technique will lead to inconsistent chipping. As I mentioned earlier, many of my students try to scoop or help the ball in the air when they need to understand that actually hitting down on the ball makes it go up. A scooping technique will cause their body to tilt back through the swing or more simply put, they swing the club from low to high, which in turn creates the result of either blading the chip or hitting it fat. Here, the poor results create a keep the head down and body still concept in the golfers mind, which is absolutely the wrong chipping technique.
 
Good chippers have a swing that tends to go from high in the back swing to low in the follow-through. They let their eyes and body turn or pivot to the target, which gives them that nice straight-line relationship with the left arm and the club. The end result is a solid feel at impact.

These are a combination of ideas that create an ideal condition for making a consistent chipping motion and solid contact. If you can chip the ball solid every time, you can be much more effective in your distance and trajectory control.
 
Lastly, I believe it is useful to use many clubs when chipping, and I also encourage students to use their imagination. The best chippers in the world are very creative.
 
Dont miss Rick Smith on The Golf Channel Academy LIVE during Tune Up Your Game Week ' Saturday, January 26 at 6:30 PM/ET.