Most amateurs hit fewer than six greens in regulation, each round. Meaning, unless you are a Tour player, you are going to spend a lot of time chipping around the greens.
If you want to shoot lower scores, practicing your chipping is very important. After all, one of the major differences between a high-handicapper and a scratch golfer is how a low-handicapper can consistently get up-and-down when they miss the green.
By chipping better, you can save more strokes around the green, which in turn can give you more tap in pars. Also, if you are confident about getting up-and-down anytime, it can also improve your confidence for your long game, and your overall game.
Here, we will share some effective tips you can use right away to start improving your chip shots. Before we begin, however, just so that we are on the same page, let us first discuss the concept of chipping itself.
About The Golf Chip Shots
Chipping is a type of golf shot that is played relatively closer to the green, characterized by the ball popping briefly into the air and then lands abruptly and rolls toward the hole.
It is typically done to get the ball up and over an obstacle near the greens so you can’t putt the ball.
So, the objective of chipping is to get the ball onto the green (at least, closer to the green) and get it rolling towards the hole.
This is why distance control is the most important factor in determining the quality of your chip, and so consistent strike by making the right posture is very important.
In chipping, the power of the strike comes from body rotation, not your hands or arms, and doing this consistently can be a major challenge for all golfers, even an experienced low-handicapper.
Practice makes perfect, and only by practicing your chips regularly, you can build this required consistency, little by little making your proper chips a second nature.
Why Improving Your Chipping is Important?
Improving your chipping is arguably the single, fastest way to lower your scores.
Why? Imagine missing the green in regulation then hitting a poor chip. Typically you’ll end up with a bogey in this case.
On the other hand, imagine missing the green and then hitting a good chip so you can get the ball within a few feet, and in this case, you have a better chance to save your par.
As discussed, most amateur players, even good ones tend to miss about half the greens, and a high-handicapper can miss up to 14-15 greens in an 18-hole round. Let’s assume that you miss eleven greens on average during your 18-hole round.
Let’s say that before you practice to improve your chipping, you can only get two up-and-down out of these eleven chances, but after you’ve improved, you can hit seven or six up-and-down out of those eleven tries.
So, just by improving your chipping, you can potentially save four to five more shots a round, which will significantly lower your score. Can you save five shots by practicing your tee-hitting driver shots? Most likely not, or at least, not as quickly.
This is why improving your chipping is very important if you are really serious about lowering your handicap.
Proper Posture for Chipping
As discussed, distance control is the most important thing to focus on during chipping, and this is why maintaining the right posture is very important.
To set up your chip shots, you might need to make several changes to your usual swinging posture. First, move slightly closer to the ball and switch your grip so that you are holding the club further down on the grip to better improve your control.
Second, place your feet close together. This is very important in helping your body to make a proper rotation as you struck the ball.
Remember that you should pop the ball using your body rotation and not your arms/hands strength, so keep your arms and hands stable throughout the whole movement.
The traditional club choices when chipping the ball is the 7-iron first, pitching wedge second, and sand wedge as your last option, depending on the loft angle you need.
However, the overall technique and posture should remain the same throughout the different clubs, so focus on getting the basics down before experimenting with more clubs.
As you make your shot, aim to slightly brush the grass under the ball. A common beginner’s mistake is to try to “lift” the ball into the air.
This can be counterproductive instead and might lead to a mishit. Always aim to slightly strike the ball downwards while keeping the clubhead low to the ground. Doing this can allow us to properly utilize the club’s loft in popping the ball.
Keep the clubhead low through impact and ‘push’ the club instead of trying to hit the ball into the air. Allow the club to properly do the work instead of trying to ‘help’ it.
How Will Effective Loft Affects Your Chipping?
‘Loft” refers to the angle of the clubface when it is placed at an address in the neutral position. For example, when a sand wedge is said to have a 55-degree loft angle, then when you hold the club with the butt end and place the clubhead in a vertical alignment, the face should make a 56-degree angle from the shaft.
When chipping, it’s important to ensure your club is hitting the ball with its intended loft angle. That is, if you lean the club’s shaft towards your lead hip, the effective loft of the club will go down as you struck the ball, and vice versa if you lean the club’s handle and shaft towards the other way.
Maintaining the club in its intended loft angle is one of the most important techniques in perfecting your chipping, and yet not doing so is actually one of the most common mistakes performed by many golfers. For example, a lot of high-handicappers tend to release the club too early at impact, which will increase the effective loft.
Tips To Improve Your Chipping
1. Improve your posture and balance
When making your chipping strokes, it’s important to maintain the weight distribution of your posture through the exact center of your feet. You should maintain this balance throughout the whole chipping movement.
To practice this, try setting up to chip while closing your eyes. Make your swing, and as you swing back and through, pay extra attention to the weight distribution/pressure shifting across your feet. Remember that you should try to maintain this pressure dead center throughout your swing.
Once you are getting more familiar with the sensation, you can then try chipping the ball with your eyes shut. Try guessing how far long or short your chip has finished off your target based on this pressure shift and the feel of your strike.
2. Focus on one club first
If you are like most amateurs, chances are you don’t really have several hours every day to practice your golf. In most cases, you’ll only practice your game once or twice a week, and not more than one or two hours at a time.
So, you simply don’t have the time to perfect your chipping with several different clubs, and it’s much better to just focus on one club and get really good at chipping with it.
You should start preferably with your sand wedge, not only because it is ‘relatively’ easier to learn chipping with, but also because it is versatile enough so that you can hit a wide variety of shots with the proper technique just with this one sand wedge.
Remember that there are a wide variety of chip shots: sometimes we have to chip the ball from the deep rough on a downhill lie, while in some other opportunities we can hit the chip from short grass right off the side of the green where we can quite easily reach the hole.
By focusing on one club, we only have to worry about observing the surroundings and adjust the type of the shot according to the situation, and we wouldn’t need to worry about which club we are going to use.
The fewer variables, the better your focus. Remember that the objective or your chip is that your next shot should be a putt. Make sure the ball finishes on the green and not on the rough on the opposite side of the green because you are overly ambitious with your chipping.
After you are getting really good with this particular club, only then you can start experimenting and practicing with your other clubs, whether it’s your short irons or pitching wedge or other clubs.
3. Making the perfect chipping swing
A very common mistake by so many golfers is to bring the clubhead around towards the body during the takeaway, while they should be swinging straight back. There are actually several consequences to this mistake.
First, doing this can change the shape of the entire swing, so that the lowest point of the swing is further back behind the ball. This will cause us to frequently topping the golf ball and not making a proper chip.
Second, it will tilt your clubface so (again) it will change the effective loft of your club, lowering the loft and lower the launch trajectory of the ball.
To check for this mistake, set up a chip and then make your backswing, then look at the butt end of your club. Check whether the butt of your club tilts toward the ball as the clubhead moves away.
If you are making this mistake, a simple and effective drill to correct this is to practice moving the handle and the clubhead together in the same direction during your backswing.
Make sure your hands are maintaining the same neutral position you are making during the setup and don’t hinge the wrists during the swing. Remember: use your body rotation, not your wrists and arms.
4. Practice chipping at home
This is a simple but effective drill you can try at home when you can’t make your trip to the driving range or golf course, and what you’ll need is a standard living room/dining chair in your house.
Simply set the ball around 3 to 6 feet from the chair, then aim to three different targets: the bottom of the chair, the cushion, and the back. Use the above tips and practice shifting the weight distribution in your feet to control where the ball goes and reach these targets.
If you shift your weight forward (or move forward in your stance), the ball should be popped higher, and vice versa if you move your center of gravity towards your back foot. Practice until you can consistently meet each different target while maintaining proper posture.
5. Perfect your arms shape
This drill can help you maintain the correct positions for your arms when making your swing, and the basic principle is to create a lower case “y” shape with your arms and the club’s shaft.
Aim to maintain this shape throughout your swing, and remember to let your upper body rotates as you make your swing.
Your arms should stay in this shape and don’t hinge your wrists. Doing this can ensure you are keeping the right effective loft throughout your swing, and if you do it correctly, you should strike the ball with a downward blow.
By practicing to maintain this y-shape, you can be more consistent with your chipping, and again, if you want to change the flight trajectory of the ball, don’t change this shape but shift the weight distribution on your feet.
With the simple tips and drills to improve your chipping we have shared above, now there’s no excuse for you to keep sacrificing strokes because of poor chipping.
Now, slowly but surely you can get more up-and-down even when you miss the greens and lower your scores on the course.
We’d recommend committing at least 1 hour every week working on your chipping alone, and after three or four weeks, you’ll start to see the difference and realize how it will drastically improve your game.