A true golfer knows the importance of practicing to perfect the short game. The key to scoring well relies heavily on the ability to get up and down when a green is missed.
In fact, a scratch golfer only hits the green in regulation about 58% of the time or 10 of the 18 chances given per round. Having a reliable, consistent chip shot in the bag will help increase your chances of getting up and down to save par and reaching lower scores. This begs the question: how to chip in golf consistently?
The most important part of a positive result in chipping is making good contact with the ball. Without it, distance and spin will be impossible to predict, leading to a long and difficult putt.
Here’s a step-by-step breakdown for how to chip in golf so you can save par more often:
First, it’s important to understand the proper style of chip that leads to consistent results. While it may be tempting to pull a Phil Mickelson and use your highest lofted wedge to hit flop shots off tight lies, sticking to a bump-and-run type shot has a much higher rate of success.
This lower trajectory style of chipping gets the ball on the ground sooner, running towards the hole like a putt for the majority of the distance. Simplifying the shot type eliminates a lot of risky variables that tend to result in poor ball contact and unreliable outcomes.
Around the greens, it’s best to use a gap or sand wedge (typically lofted between 50-56 degrees) for an ideal ball flight. Using a wedge with some bounce will help the club glide under the ball easily and avoid the risk of digging the leading edge into the ground, causing a chunk.
Setup is the Foundation for Consistent Chip Shots
Once you’ve selected the proper club, focus can shift towards the mechanics of the swing. Consistent chip shots are built on a solid foundation, which begins with setup.
When addressing the ball, your feet should be relatively narrow in width (about hips-distance apart) and aligned slightly open to the target (to the left of the target for a right-handed golfer). Having your feet open to the target allows the body to rotate through the shot with ease. Your hands can also move more easily through the impact zone with this openness.
The ball should be positioned slightly back in the stance to create a lower trajectory ball flight that will roll out.
Another aspect of the setup that lowers the flight is weight distribution. Weight should be split 60% on the front leg and 40% on the back leg. Having the weight favor the target side creates stability in the body for solid contact and rotation.
With weight distribution and ball positioning delofting the shot, this allows a neutral positioning of the club shaft. No further than the left inner thigh is a good position for the hands to reduce the risk of the leading edge of the face digging into the ground.
Lastly, open the club face to expose some of the bounce and make sure the shoulders are level with one another.
Chip Shot Mechanics, Less is More
Once that solid foundation has been built through setup, it’s time to talk about the mechanics of the swing itself. To begin the backswing rotate the shoulders, arms, and hands together while keeping the club face in a straight line with the hands.
Maintaining the triangle created by the arms and shoulders is a good sign of proper rotation.
Once the hands have reached the back leg, gradually begin to hinge the wrists and open the club face (less is more here). The weight distribution should remain the same throughout the backswing, favoring the front side.
The length of the backswing, as well as the speed at which you move through the shot, should vary depending on the distance of the shot, but can be guided through practicing at different distances and experimenting with swing lengths. Typically, stopping the hands about hip height should be enough to give the power necessary for the ball to roll out.
The downswing should be initiated by the shoulders, with the hands following close behind. The two should be moving in sync with one another to guide the clubface to clean contact with the ground and ball. Much like the backswing, the weight should remain stable on the front leg which acts as a pivot for the rest of the body to rotate around.
Chip, Don’t Flip
Flipping the hands too much is a common mistake golfers experience, as if they’re trying to help “scoop” the ball up in the air. However, the club face should never pass the hands throughout the downswing, doing so can lead to thinning the ball and overshooting the target.
A helpful drill to cure this avoidable mistake is to hold an alignment stick in your grip extending beyond the grip end of the club towards you. The alignment stick will make it impossible to flip your hands, doing so will cause the stick to hit you in the side.
Taking multiple practice swings making sure to avoid hitting your side with the stick will promote the proper feeling of having the club lag behind your hands and arms.
Holding that lag through impact will increase the predictability of impact and likely improve your proximity to the hole from around the greens.
Sweeping the Grass
Perfect contact on a chip shot can be described as the club sweeping the grass itself. Having too much ground interaction will lead to chunking the ball.
When taking practice swings, listen for the sound of the club grazing the grass. This develops a golfer’s feel for where the clubface needs to be.
Chip Shot Follow Through
The follow-through. Yes, it occurs after impact, but it’s still an important element that can affect the outcome of the shot tremendously.
After impact, the club head should remain in line with the lead arm. Your upper body should continue to rotate, taking care to not “decelerate” and finish on the front side with the majority of your weight.
The club should travel on a path that is in line with the feet, which were, and should still be, open to your target.
Depending on the distance of the shot, waist-high is typically a good position for the hands to end in.
Stable + Repeatable = Reliable
A great short game, like a sound full swing, comes from creating a stable and repeatable motion. Keeping the mechanics simple makes it easier for the body to repeat, which is key to finding consistent results on the course.
Changes made to this stock chip shot swing are gradual and occur on a smaller scale compared to other shot types, like a flop shot. With practice, you can learn to trust this option as your stock chip shot under pressure, or when encountering unfavorable circumstances.
Flop shots and other scenario-specific short game shots should only be brought out after they’ve been proven in practice and you have a good understanding of the wide range of places you can apply that stock shot.
Typically used when you have plenty of green to work with for the ball to roll out, it can also be used on short-sided chips.
Picking a spot in the fairway before the green to land your chip and knock some of the distance off the shot before the ball releases to the hole can be helpful when you don’t feel comfortable hitting a higher flop shot landing on the green.
A big part of mastering the short game is having the creativity, imagination, and confidence to think outside the box and use techniques in unique ways that most disregard as a viable option.
Chipping from Tough (Rough) Lies: Exceptions to the Rule
While the standard shot we’ve described is useful in most situations, there are certain circumstances that require a different technique and shot type.
For instance, a buried lie in the rough or sand, a forced carry over a steep ridge or bunker, a chip into the grain, or a ball resting on top of fluffy rough each require different approaches and precise adjustments to pull off successfully.
The ability to assess your lie and factors that will affect the outcome of your shot is critical to guiding your decision-making process. When these situations present themselves, it is important to know the different ways a shot can be manipulated.
Trajectory (height), spin, and speed are common alterations golfers make to change shot type. These can be manipulated in a variety of ways. Swing length, swing speed, degree of wrist hinge, openness of the club face, ball position, release pattern, weight distribution, and club selection are just a few of the adjustments elite-level golfers fine tune and constantly consider when facing a shot around the green.
A way to practice creativity is simply to choose a target, drop a few golf balls, and hit different shot types (low/high, running out, stopping quickly, etc.). Be diligent in your pre-shot routine to decide, and visualize, exactly what style of shot you want to achieve. That way, you’ll be able to rate the success of the shot after seeing the outcome.
After several practices, it’ll become apparent which shot is most reliable and which ones need more work. The best way to become a better chipper overall is through trial and error.
Don’t be afraid to experiment! You never want to try a shot in competition you haven’t given yourself in practice, so make sure you see as many situations as you can think up!
Next time you find yourself making inconsistent ball contact or unable to hone in your distances when chipping, revisit these fundamental suggestions to knock a couple of strokes off your score next round.