BY JACK MOOREHOUSE
Here’s a question I sometimes ask when giving a golf lesson. What do pro golfers Jose Maria Olazabal, Tiger Woods, and Sergio Garcia all have in common? Answer: They don’t hit into trouble often, but when they do, their short games save them, and accurate chipping is one of the most potent weapons in their short game. In fact, most players with low golf handicaps chip accurately.
The chip shot is one of the easiest shots to learn in golf. It’s also one of the most crucial. In medal play, accurate chipping can save you one or two strokes on a hole, sometimes more. In match play, it can be the difference between winning or losing a hole or a match. And in player rankings, it’s often what separates players with high golf handicaps from those with low ones.
Confidence, experience, and imagination all contribute to accurate chipping. But so does good technique. Below are 6 keys to accurate chipping:
- Decide on a landing spot
- Use a one-piece takeaway
- Maintain weight on front side
- Keep hands ahead of clubhead
- Hold the clubhead
- Accelerate the club through the ball
Professional golfers play a wide variety of shots around the green. One player may use a sand wedge to chip with from a certain spot, while another hits a 9 iron from the same spot. Regardless of what club they use, they all pick out a landing spot before hitting the ball, which they play the ball off their left heels.
Picking a landing spot is imperative, as I’ve mentioned in my golf tips. So is using a one-piece takeaway. In fact, it’s as important in chipping as it is in driving. Since the shot is hit mostly with your arms and hands, it requires little or no weight transfer, so place your weight on your front side and keep it there. Also, keep your head still when hitting the ball.
The backswing is important as well. The length determines the length of the shot — the longer the backswing, the longer the shot. Be mindful of your backswing when chipping. Also, take the club back smoothly and slowly, allowing your wrists to hinge naturally.
When committing to the downswing, make sure your hands stay ahead of the clubhead to ensure crisp ball-before-turf contact. The objective is to slide the blade of the clubhead under the ball, taking only a sliver of turf in the process.
Also, don’t allow your right hand to cross over your left through impact. Known as “holding the clubhead,” the technique keeps the clubface open, creating a high shot that lands softly on the ground.
In my golf tips I tell players to finish in balance and with their hands slightly higher than the height of their backswing. Doing so indicates that the golfer has accelerated the clubhead through the ball. The motion is similar to throwing a ball underhanded, which I sometimes have players do in my golf lessons to get a feel for the shot.
Change the Club Drill
The change-the-club drill is an excellent exercise for practicing your chipping. It simulates hitting from the fringe of the green or fairway when your landing spot is about 3 feet away, but the ball needs to roll about 15 feet or more. The idea is to hit various clubs with the same motion to learn reaction and distance. It’s a golf lesson in itself.
Choose a green that’s a challenge. Maybe it has some valleys in it or maybe a significant side slope. Then pick a spot about five feet off the green and drop a ball. Set one club about two and a half feet behind the ball and another club about two and a half feet in front of the ball to give you an idea of distance. With the identical motion hit chip shots with each of four clubs — the sand wedge, 9 iron, 7 iron, and 5 iron.
After hitting the ball you’ll notice that the ball runs father as the clubs get lower and lower. Pick the club that will land the ball about two to three feet on the green and run the rest of the way to the hole. Remember to factor in slope and/or the speed of the green when selecting a club.
Using different clubs will give you a better feel for which club runs the ball farther and which lands softly and stops, making club selection somewhat easier next time you play.
Keep practicing this drill until you can get within a foot of the pin every time. By then, you should start seeing the benefits of accurate chipping not only in better scores but also in a lower golf handicap. And that will keep you practicing for better results.
Jack Moorehouse is the author of the bestselling book How to Break 80 and Shoot Like the Pros. He is NOT a golf pro, rather a working man that was able to figure out the secrets of shooting in the 70s on a consistent basis without quitting his day job. Jack has helped thousands of golfers worldwide lower their handicaps immediately.