Chipping is one of the most flashy and impressive looking skills in the game. Nothing’s more satisfying than whacking a ball over a trap or a hill and landing 2 feet from the cup. Unfortunately, like everything in golf, learning how to chip a golf ball takes time, training, and toughness.
We’re going to break down the mechanics of a chip shot and discuss the best opportunities to use them in your game. Whether you’re new to the game or you’ve been shooting for years, we’re going to cover advice that you can heed at all levels to improve your chip shots.
Picking a Club for Chip Shots
Before you even attempt your shot, you have to pick the right tool for the job.
And, unless you’re a seasoned player, that tool is going to be your pitching wedge.
No matter how great your golf clubs are, your club selection won’t matter if you can’t apply the proper technique to your chip shots. So, we’re keeping it simple: use your PW for all of your chip shots!
Chipping Basics for Beginners
I guess if we’re really starting with the basics, we should define what it is we’re trying to accomplish.
As defined by Wikitionary, a chip shot is: “an approach shot made from a location a short distance from the golf green in which the ball is launched into the air with only low or moderate force, so that it will land on the green and roll toward the hole.’
In other words, it’s a low-power shot intended to drop the ball gently on the green so that it rolls within a few feet of the cup.
Chip shots are all about accuracy and control – two of the more challenging components of the game to master. Let’s look at some tips a new golfer can follow to begin developing these critical skills.
How to Set Up your Chip Shot
A proper chip shot differs from your standard iron swing in a few key ways.
Firstly, you’ll want to put your feet closer together. This gives you a greater range of motion in your upper body rotation, adding to your ability to control the ball. Somewhere between feet-together and shoulder-width should be about right.
You’ll want your sternum parallel with the ball, and only slightly out in front of it – not perfectly centered. If the ball is too far forward, it’s easy to put too much power behind the shot.
Then, slide your hands down much closer to the bottom edge of the grip. This takes some getting used to, but it gives you more accurate control over the direction you’re sending the ball, and helps limit your distance.
Next, check your weight. You’ll want to set with most of your weight forward – about 70% – on your front foot. This will control your follow-through better, which is another way to help limit your distance.
Now you’re on your way to learning how to chip a golf ball like a pro!
The Chip Shot Swing
Once you’ve gotten comfortable with your setup and alignment, it’s time to break down the chip shot swing.
You don’t want to use a full back swing for a chip shot – otherwise, you’ll wind up smashing the ball right over the green. Instead, use a half-rotation or less from your waist.
One of the key differences between a regular iron stroke and a chip shot is in the wrists. To shoot a great chip shot, you don’t want any break in your wrists throughout the swing – keep them nice and firm all the way through your follow-through.
Stability is key here. You still want to keep your back straight and your feet firmly planted. As always, you want to be relaxed. Try to keep as little tension in your upper body as possible.
Through the swing itself, you want to try to make contact with the ball with the club moving ever so slightly downward. You want the head of the club to stay as low to the ground as you can put it. Don’t try to lift the ball with your swinging motion – the angle of the club face will do this for you. A proper chip shot motion will lift the ball with ease. If you try to dig under the ball, you’ll either smack it way too hard, or you’ll hit the ground below it.
How to Practice Chipping a Golf Ball
It’s easy to talk through the mechanics of your swing, but in order for those mechanics to translate to a better scoring game, you need to hit the range and practice your short game. Like all skills, you’ll never learn how to chip a golf ball without practice and perseverance. When it comes to chipping, there are plenty of great drills you can do to nail down your fundamentals and get your swing more consistent.
The Y Drill
No chip shot guide worth anything will wrap up without covering this essential exercise. More than a drill, the Y is really a self-check for aligning your chip shots.
It’s pretty easy. Address the ball, and create a Y shape with your arms and the golf club. Rotate your upper body without using any force in your arms or wrists. The body does all the work!
Practice the stance and motion even without a ball in front of you. It’s an exercise you can do from literally anywhere – even standing in front of the TV! The more you drill away at your stance, the more consistent it will be every time you line up a real shot.
The Coin Drill
Here’s another one you can do right from your own home, since you aren’t launching any balls.
Place a coin on a carpeted surface, and see if you can use your new chip shot techniques to chip a coin up into the air.
Yes, a coin.
Remember what we said about making contact with the ball? You need to keep your club head as close to the ground as possible. Using a coin will force you to drop your head lower to the ground – otherwise you won’t strike anything! A good, clean hit should pop the coin up into the air.
Try to get solid contact with the coin while barely scraping the top of the carpet. You can even set a target on the floor to aim at.
The Hula-Hoop Drill / Circle Drill
Here’s another brilliantly simple drill that’ll help you hone in your power and accuracy on chip shots.
Mark off circular zones around your target (the cup, a spot in your backyard, etc) with some string or some tees. Set one zone about 3 feet out from the cup, and another about 6 feet out. Then, shoot chip shots in sets of five at a time.
Now, score yourself. Shots that lie between 3 and 6 feet are worth one point. Shots inside of 3 feet are worth three points.
But for shots outside of 6 feet, subtract 3 points!
See how high a score you can rack up shooting at your target. 10 points is a great threshold. Once you can reach 10 points consistently, try moving your target to a hilly area, or add obstructions between you and the target. Alternatively, you could shrink your target zones down to 2ft/4ft to challenge your accuracy even more!
Putting It All Together
Like any aspect of your game, your chip shot will only improve with patience and practice. Your short game can make an enormous difference on the scorecard. If you’re practicing your skills evenly, you should have trips to the driving range where you don’t actually touch your driver at all!
Most low-level players spend less than 10% of their practice time on chip shots and putting. Put yourself at the front of the pack by working these critical skills. You’ll blow away the competition when you reach the green.