I remember the first time I shot under par golf. It was at Nibley Park Golf Course in Salt Lake City, Utah. The course is one of the oldest courses in Utah. It is a small short nine hole course with a simple layout. I was paired with an older guy to what would be a break through moment for me. I remember my one man gallery saying “Great Shot!” after every shot.
To be honest the round was rather uneventful. The only par 5 on the course was a birdie and the other holes were pared. I didn’t hit every single green either. I had to get up and down 4 of the 5 holes to save par.
The last hole is a 165 yard par 3 over a lake to a green with a front greenside bunker. Afraid I was going to come up short in the sand trap I missed my shot left by about 4 feet off the green.
Realizing what was at stake, I nervously hit a crisp chip shot within 2 feet of the hole and converted to shoot my first under par score.
It has been said time and time again that a good short game can save strokes. Good chipping can save a round from becoming a disaster. It can become one of the best rounds of your life. So why do people spend the majority of their time practicing on the driving range and not on the chipping green?
My theory is that people assume they have to master their full swing before they can start shooting better scores. We think if we can master our full swing then we will all of sudden start shooting scratch golf.
MyGolfSpy did an article on the different statistics of players. Per the data acquired from The Grint, scratch golfers only hit 57% greens in regulation. That means on average scratch golfers are only hitting 10 out of 18 greens per round. They are trying to save par on the other eight.
Even if a golfer were to save par half the time they would be shooting in the 70s; granted that is if they do not have a blow up hole and put a snowman on the scorecard.
Most golfers do not know how to practice chipping. I am not talking about pitching, that will be another article in the future. I am talking about the classic bump and run, the shot that requires you to hit down on the ball and have it roll out to the hole.
When I was taught how to practice chips shots around the green, I was told to use your sand wedge. Much later on in my progression of the game, I learned the sand wedge is not the only club for chipping.
I actually prefer to use my 7, 8, and 9 irons to chip the ball from off the green. I will even go with a pitching wedge over a sand wedge. You will be surprised that a bump and run chip shot is easier to control than a flop or pitch shot. Club loft is dependent on what the shot calls for and the slope of the green.
The Basic Setup
I am going to keep the setup simple. The basic fundamentals of chipping are:
• Open stance (feet are about a foot apart)
• Hands slightly ahead of the ball
• Majority of your weight should be on your left side if you are right handed.
Executing the Chip Shot
The chip shot is a basic motion of the shoulders and arms taking the club back and descending into the ball. Your hands should keep the shaft leaning forward and whatever you do, don’t flip your hands through the ball!
How to Practice Chip Shots Around the Green
The motion is simple but executing it can take some practice. Here are some of my favorite chipping drills that teach you how to descend on the ball through impact.
Descending Blow Drill
1. Take a golf tee and put it in the ground
2. Place a ball two inches behind the tee (this is the ball you are going to hit).
3. Take another ball and place it about a foot behind the first ball.
4. Take the club back without hitting the second ball.
5. When the club comes down on the downswing it should clip the golf tee.
In order to miss the second ball on the back swing, the club has to be taken back at a steep angle. In order for the club to hit the tee, the club has to descend into the first ball.
Shaft Lean Drill
1. Take your normal chipping stance.
2. (If you are right handed) Take your right leg and cross it behind your left leg.
In this position the majority of your weight will be on right leg. Hit chip shots in this position. You will notice the club shaft has to maintain a forward lean throughout the stroke.
Instead of chipping to a hole, chip to a towel laid out on the green. It is a better measurement of how your accuracy and distance control is. Make it a game, for every time you hit the towel give yourself a point. For every ball that stops on the towel give yourself two points.
Chipping is more than just pulling out your sand wedge. Golf courses differ in undulations around the putting green. You can be faced with an uphill chip or a downhill chip and it does matter on what club is selected for the shot.
The rule is if you are faced with an uphill chip use less loft. Use a lofted club on downhill chips. This will help with distance control and getting the correct amount of roll. An uphill shot is automatically going to send your ball higher in the air. To correct the added loft select a less lofted club, instead of using a pitching wedge, go with a 9 iron.
A severe downhill chip will require as much loft as possible. In this case I will go with my sand wedge. The ball is going to have more speed and less backspin on the a downhill chip shot. A lofted club is going to make the ball land softly on the green so it does not roll away from you.
Practice Practice Practice!
It does no good to just read about chipping, you have to actually go out and put some work into it. Make the decision to go and practice your chipping before heading to the driving range. Too busy to make it to the course? Invest in a chipping net. They are great for setting up in the backyard and if your house has the space you can use it inside on rainy days.
There are a lot out of different nets on the market. One that has good reviews is the Rukket Skee Pop Up Golf Chipping Net. Is it more expensive compared to other chipping nets? Yes, but it is a good design and is well built.
I know chipping is not the most exciting thing to practice but it is such an important part of shooting lower scores. Dedicate yourself and watch your scores start to fall.