The Fundamentals of Chipping

with/ Nolan Walsh, PGA of Canada, Candidate for Membership

Teaching Professional, Loyalist Golf & Country Club

It is all too common to see players struggle so severely with chipping that it ruins their entire day. Taking two to three shots to advance the ball 400 yards from the tee to the edge of the green and taking another three shots to advance the ball another few feet is just not fun. Period. And when this is the type of performance you’re used to, chipping becomes something you dread (worrying about missing the green before you’ve even hit your approach), something you avoid at all costs (pulling out your putter from 10 yards off the green, even when you’re in the rough) and something you come to feel is simply impossible (so why practice?). Naturally, the process of worrying, avoiding, and not practicing usually causes the problems to persist, compound and even get worse.

In my experience, those that struggle with chipping do not struggle as a result of how difficult chipping is – it really isn’t as difficult as it can seem. It also isn’t a lack of talent or ability – plenty of talented players struggle with this particular part of their game. For the most part, players struggle because they haven’t been taught the basic fundamentals that simplify the process and turn the “impossible” challenge of chipping into the simple, stroke-saving art that it can be.

Pick a Shot & Pick a Spot

Too many players step up to their golf ball and attempt to chip it before they have truly selected the shot they are attempting to play. Are they attempting to chip it low and let it run out? Are they trying to throw it in the air so that it spins and stops quickly? It sounds simple, but one of the easiest ways to improve your chipping is to first select the style of chip you are attempting, and second, pick a spot where you are attempting to land the ball. Once you have done this, you now only have control over one thing – landing the ball on your selected spot. By planning your shot before you hit it, you have simplified the shot itself.

Image A – Shorten Up On The Club

Shorten Up On The Club

Why does your driver have the longest shaft out of any club in your bag? Why does your sand wedge have the shortest shaft out of any iron? The answer: a longer length club creates speed and distance and a shorter club creates control. When we are chipping the golf ball, control is everything. And if a shorter club creates control, naturally it makes sense to shorten up on the club slightly when chipping (refer to Figure A).

Pressure Forward

Another common issue I see is people attempting to ‘help’ the ball in the air when they chip. They have the majority of their vertical pressure on their back foot and try to hit up on the ball to get it into the air. What most people don’t realize is that the more you try to help the ball in the air, the more top spin you are putting on the ball which actually causes the ball to come off the club face at a lower trajectory. Next time you are at the chipping green, try chipping with the majority of your vertical pressure on your front foot – approximately 60% on your front foot. This will allow you to hit down on the ball, making solid contact and allowing the loft of the club to pop the ball into the air. You will notice a more crisp, consistent and controllable feel.

Image B – Address

Maintain the Angle Between Your Shaft and Your Forearm

Lastly, a key to consistent chipping is maintaining the angle that exists at address between your shaft and your forearm (refer to Figure B). While this may sound complicated, it is simply a detailed way of saying that your wrists should stay quiet throughout your chip. When you get to the top of your chipping swing, the angle that existed at address should not have changed (Figure C). When you make impact with the ball, again, this angle should still be the same as it was at address (Figure D). Again, this will allow you make much more consistent contact as you will make impact in the same position each time.

All of this may seem like a lot at first glance, but it is important to remember that it is only four fundamentals. Learning them, practicing them and mastering them to the point that they become natural will improve your chipping and most importantly, improve your overall experience on the golf course.

Image C – “Top” of chipping swing
Image D – Impact