The chip shot, which may seem like a little, unglamorous type of shot, is the foundation on which you can significantly improve your short game. Technically and literally speaking, you hit a chip shot when you’re close to (but off of) the green.
When we say “close”, we’re talking within 10 feet of the green. A chip shot is shorter than a pitch shot. With a chip shot, you literally chip the ball off the old block like you’re carving a wood chip. A pitch shot is more like throwing the ball up in the air — pitching it from farther out.
You refer to chip shots in feet; if you’re talking yards, you’re talking about a pitch. In this article, we show you how the chip shot is a hugely important skill to have and tell you how to play the shot effectively.
Discovering The Chip
Chip shots are shorter than pitches and stay mostly on the ground. Chips are also easier than pitches, or at least they should be. With the proper technique, you can chip the ball close enough to the hole to tap the ball in . . . unless, of course, you sink that chip!
Chips are played around the greens with anything from a 5-iron to a wedge. The basic idea is to get the ball on the green and rolling as soon as you can. If you get the ball running like a putt, you have an easier time judging how far it will go.
Looking At The Characteristics Of Chip Shots
The following are the general characteristics of the chip shot:
- A chipped ball doesn’t have much loft.
- The ball pops off the club, making a chipping or flicking sound.
- The ball streaks through the air but not in the arc of a high lob. It flies in a low, tight manner, propelled more forward than up.
- The ball covers only a short distance in the air. It should spend 20 percent of its duration in the air and 80 percent on the ground.
A chip is the best way to keep the ball low, keep it on the ground, and get it rolling as soon as possible. You have a much better chance of getting the ball close to the hole if you roll it as opposed to hitting it through the air.
You can lower your scores this way because judging the distance of a shot rolling on the ground is easier than estimating a shot that flies through the air.
Choosing The Chip Over The Putt
A chip shot is the next best thing to putting because of the amount of time the ball spends rolling along the ground (and you don’t always have the luxury of putting the ball). Consider using the chip shot when you miss the green with your approach shot and you’re almost close enough to putt.
Although you face occasions when you can use the putter from off the green, you also encounter plenty of situations when putting your ball isn’t strategically wise:
- Your ball may lie in longer grass around the green.
- Your ball comes to rest between a bunker and the green.
- Your ball must travel over a hill before it reaches the green.
- Your ball may be only a few feet off the green, but the hole may be a long way from your ball.
Evaluate your situation. On most courses, fairway grass gives way to an apron of longer grass that circles the green before you get to the fringe of shorter grass.
If you have 20 feet between your ball and the hole and you want to try to putt, the chances of your 20-foot putt rolling through the fairway, over the collar, and finally onto the green and close to the hole aren’t nearly as good as your chances of chipping it over that grass, landing it on the green, and letting it roll close to the hole. Chipping is often the best-case scenario for accuracy
Choosing Your Chipping Tool
The club you use to chip the ball determines how the ball flies and rolls. If you’re close enough to the hole to use a chip shot, you don’t need to loft the ball into the air for a long time, so grab a less-loftedneed to loft the ball into the air for a long time, so grab a less-lofted club to play the shot.
As long as you follow the fundamentals of execution, what club you use is a matter of preference. But keep in mind that hitting a chip shot with a highly lofted club reduces your chances of getting close to the hole.
Getting a less-lofted clubface solidly on the ball at contact is easier, and a less-lofted club creates more roll after the ball lands on the green.
Players enjoy the highest percentage of success with a 7- or 8-iron. Those two clubs have less-lofted clubfaces, making them more accurate chipping tools, and they roll the ball nicely.
The image below illustrates this concept.
You can use those clubs for every chip, no matter how many feet lay in front of you, by simply taking a longer backswing. Though we suggest that you practice with as many clubs as you can, if you forced us to pick, we’d say the best club to chip with is a 7-iron. Plus, choosing a 7-iron and sticking with it helps remove one variable from the chip shot — club selection.
Practice, and only practice, makes you better. Try all sorts of clubs for these shots. Sooner or later, you develop a feel for the short game. We can’t stress this point enough: Use as many clubs as possible when practicing! Observing how different clubs perform in different situations is one of the secrets of a successful short game.
Contemplating The Chip
You’ll likely need to chip at least once every time you go out on the course, so you need to know what you can achieve when you employ the chip shot. After you understand what you can accomplish, you can plan a strategy to meet your goals.
The following sections help you reasonably evaluate what you can do with the chip and plan your shot.
Chipping goals And Expectations
For every golf shot you hit, you should have both goals and expectations for the result. Knowing the difference and how to push and prepare yourself for each shot allows you to start lowering your scores — and your blood pressure.
What do you want to accomplish with each chip? What do you consider an acceptable result? A reasonable expectation?
Setting a goal: Go for the green! An ambitious goal for yourchip shots is that you chip every one close enough to the hole to tap in or need only one putt to finish the hole.
Granted, you can hole a putt from anywhere if you get lucky, but a chip shot that results in a nice, comfortable, short puttis a great success and should be a goal you aspire to.
Meeting your expectations: An easily attainable expectation for your chip shots, with reasonable practice, is that you hit the ball onto the green every time.
Regardless of how close the ball is to the hole after your chip, you should expect to get the ball onto the green and hit no more than two putts every single time.
Mapping Out A Chip-Shot Strategy
Because a chip shot shouldn’t cover much distance through the air, and because you use a less-lofted club such as a 7-or 8-iron, you want to run/roll the ball most of the way to the hole.
The ball should pop over the grass between you and the green before rolling out. So you have to calculate the length of the shot, the speed of the green, and the direction the ball will roll after it lands. See the shot in your mind before you play it.
The quicker you get the ball onto the ground, the more it can roll to the cup. You should try to roll the ball for about 80 percent of the distance it travels.
If your ball rests 20 feet from the hole, and you choose to chip the ball, you should try to land the ball about 4 feet in front of you to make it roll about 16 feet.
Hitting a Solid Chip Shot
Simply put, hitting a chip shot is a matter of physics. The following list breaks it down into easy steps. You can use this list as checklist for your setup and your chipping practice.
- Take out your club of choice.
- Pick a suitable spot where you want to land the ball.
- Stand close to your target line.
- Keep your weight in the center of your stance.
- Open your front foot and shoulders toward the target so that you can virtually face the hole.
- Grip the club lightly.
- Draw the club back low to the ground, keeping your wrists firm and turning by rotating your shoulders.
- Keep your legs and lower body still and out of the swing.
- Swing the club back along the target line and then forward through the ball.
- Watch the ball hit the spot and roll toward the hole.
Your first task is to pick an intermediate spot where you want to land the shot. The ultimate target, of course, is the hole, but first you have to deal with the initial 20 percent of the shot that flies through the air and lands on your target.
Pick a spot about 2 feet onto the green. From that spot, I like to visualize the ball rolling the rest of the way to the hole. Visualization is a big part of chipping. Try to picture the shot before you hit the ball. Then be as exact as you can with your target. Don’t aim for an area. Try to hit a blade of grass! You can’t be too precise.
You consciously determine the spot that rests 20 percent of the way between you and the hole while you walk up to the shot, evaluate the situation, and read the break of the green. Is the shot uphill? Downhill? Will the ball roll to the left after it lands on the spot? To the right?
The spot you pick must allow for the unevenness and break of the green after the ball hits and rolls. If you think the green will break 10 feet from the right to the left, pick a landing spot ten feet to the right of the hole as your landing area.
Don’t try to curve the chip shot — you want to hit it straight to your landing spot and let gravity and the green naturally roll the ball toward the hole.
All you can do is pick a spot and hit it — the rest is up to the green and nature. You can’t think about the hole. After you commit to the landing spot, turn off your brain and play in the subconscious.
You’ve done your work! Hit the ball as if it were on a straight railroad directly to the spot.
Lies and secrets: Consider your ball placement
Next comes the problem of how your ball is lying on the ground. If it’s in longer grass, you need to use a more lofted club and make a longer swing, no matter where the hole is. (Remember: Longer grass means a longer swing.)
You need to get the ball high enough to escape the longer rough. If the ball is lying down (in a depression)and you can’t get it out with a straighter-faced club, you have to go to more loft and move the ball back a little in your stance — closer to your right foot — to make the shot work. This part of the game calls for creativity.
Setting up your stance
One key to chipping is your setup. Creating the right positions at address is essential. Your stance should be similar to the one you use on pitch shots: narrow, with about 12 inches from heel to heel, and open, with your left foot back from the target line.
Your shoulders should be open to the target as well. During your stroke, focus on the back of your left wrist. That wrist must stay flat and firm, as in putting. To keep your left wrist flat, tape a popsicle stick to the back of that wrist (slipping the stick under your watchband works almost as well).
You feel any breakdowns right away. You hit a chip shot by taking a stance that puts you close to your line — close enough so that you can get your eyes almost directly over the target line.
If you’re close to the target line, you have a better chance of taking the club straight back along the line and making it go straight through to the target.
Finding the stance that works for you
Your stance is largely a matter of preference. What feels good to you? What makes you comfortable? As long as you’re comfortable and in balance, you can let the club do all the work.
A preference that may make you feel more comfortable is to slightly open your stance. Opening your stance allows you to see down the target line and may make it easier for you to swing the clubhead at the target. Being comfortable enhances your confidence.
If you’re right-handed, you may want to drop your left foot back a few inches behind your right and point your left toe about 45 degrees out toward the direction of your target.
Instead of your feet being parallel and pointing out in front of you, your left foot should angle a bit outward.
Positioning the ball
Keep the ball in the middle of your stance for chip shots. This setup makes it simple for you to swing the clubhead along the target line, and the angle of attack at which the clubface comes through the ball holds true.
Generally speaking, moving the ball back in your stance makes the ball fly lower (and moving it forward pops it higher), but you needn’t move the ball back or forward for standard chip shots, no matter which club you use.
Reviewing weight distribution
When playing a chip shot, put your weight in the center of your stance, right below your backside. This balanced position makes it easier to open yourself to the target — that is, to point your front toe and shoulder a little left or right of where they normally face when you address the ball.
In general, the higher you need the ball to fly, the more weight (as much as 80 percent) you should place on your front foot. The more weight you put on your left side (for righties), the more the club swings up rather than back and low to the ground.
When a righty plants that left side, the club arch becomes more vertical, and swinging a club vertically makes the descending blow steeper, which makes the ball fly higher.
For most chip shots, you want the ball to fly low and run, so keep your weight in the middle of your stance throughout the swing. You don’t really need leg power at all for the shot.
Swing around your legs. If you have trouble with a too-active weight shift, hit some practice chips with your feet together to work on your balance. Or imagine that you’re riding a horse and position your legs like you’re in the saddle, which keeps them quiet and evenly weighted.
Setting your shoulders
Your shoulders will naturally open or angle just left of the target if your stance is open. You should be close enough to the ball so that you can almost look right over it and right down the target line (so you virtually face the hole).
If you have trouble visualizing this stance, stand in front of full-length mirror. Put a ball down, keep your eyes over your line, and then look up in the mirror and notice where your head position is, where your eyes are in relation to your line, and how your shoulders face slightly toward the target.
See how close you are to the line. Imagine a target between you and the mirror, about 10 feet away. Chip a ball to the corner of the bedpost or the dresser. Seeing yourself and how you stand in relation to the ball and the target line gives you a good awareness of your body and the mechanics that go into the chip shot.
Gripping the club
A standard golf grip is fine for the chip shot. You may feel pressure to get the ball close to the hole, but be aware that pressure can produce tension. So try to resist. Keep a light grip on the club so that you can feel the ball hit the blade.
A light grip lets you swing the club at a softer pace and gives you a better chance of propelling the ball the proper distance. The chip isn’t a power shot— you need to focus on touch. Let your hands feel the shot by keeping a light grip.
Making your move
The distance of the shot and the velocity with which you need to swing the club to reach your target landing spot determine how far you take the club back. The chip shot relies on feel, and feel comes with practice. You’re not born with feel.
You’re born with touch, perhaps, and vision. Swinging the club to hit a chip shot is like drawing back the string on a bow to shoot the arrow. You must judge howfar back you have to draw the club to shoot the ball over the fringe and onto the green, propelling it to the hole.
Tracing the length and shape of the swing
The easiest way to understand the chip swing is to think of it like the hands on a clock. The bottom of your swing is 6:00. The top, above your head, is 12:00.
If you swing the club back along the target line from a starting point of 6:00, and your backswing stops at 3:00, for example, the swing along the target line after you strike the ball shouldn’t stop until the 9:00 position.
In chipping, the appropriate times on the hands of the clock of your swing vary depending on the distance you need.
Draw the club back low to the ground along the target line and then forward through the ball. Finish the swing pointing at the target, at the same distance that you took the club back. Don’t stop when you hit the ball. Keep the club moving with your front wrist leading, which keeps the face on the target line.
Players who stop the club when they hit the ball are left to wonder why the ball didn’t make the green. You never see the professionals take aball didn’t make the green. You never see the professionals take a big swing and stop at the ball. They may take a big swing, but the follow-through is just as big after the ball sails away — and with good reason: simple physics!
Talking about speed
If anything, you should slightly accelerate your club through the ball. You can’t take the club back at 10 miles per hour and then hit the ball at 5 miles per hour and expect to have success.
You can take the club back at 10 miles per hour, swing it through at 10 miles per hour, and have a tremendous amount of success. You can even take the club back at 10 miles per hour and swing it through at 20 miles per hour for a successful shot. But you can’t decelerate the club at imp