Tip #2 The Simple Chip and a Drill

Simple-ChipThere are several kinds of chips and pitches in the game of golf, but every golfer should have a “simple chip” in his repertoire.

Here’s a couple thoughts to put the simple chip in context:

1) A chip is a low trajectory shot that results in the ball rolling more than it flies (a pitch is the opposite).

2) Since it is a low, running shot, the chip is similar in technique to a putt, whereas the pitch is closer in technique to the full swing since it flies more. As is true in putting, golfers tend to struggle more with the distance control of chips than the direction of their shots. Distance control in chipping is a matter of club selection, length of swing, consistency of contact, and PRACTICE.

3) The general rule for short-game shots is that we get the ball on the ground as soon as safely possible; so the chip is the shot of choice when the putter won’t work too well but we can still get the ball rolling most of the way.

4) We can chip with almost any club, but most chips are played with 7-iron and up through the set (the higher irons and wedges). We choose the club based on the fly/run ratio of the shot. The 7-iron will provide a lot of run after a relatively short amount of flying (a lie close to green-side with a pin far across the green for example), whereas a sand wedge will give almost an equal fly to run ratio (when used with a chip technique). A shot that requires more fly than run (again, because of something like thick grass or a bunker we cannot run through) is a pitch, not a chip.

5) The errors in chipping tend to be less dramatic than the mistakes in pitching, so we will choose to chip whenever possible; and the average golfer is often better off choosing a chip-style “bump and run” across the fairway even from as far out as 30-50 yards (if there are no obstructions) rather than trying a finesse pitch.

The simple chip earns its name because it reduces the technique to the most basic stroke we can use for most green-side shots.

Here’s what that means with a few thoughts about the execution of this shot:

1) To set up for a simple chip, choose the club that will give you the right amount of fly and then run, choke down on the grip to set up close to the ball and over the ball, similar to a putt. Place the ball slightly further back in the stance than usual, and then lean the head, sternum, and club toward the target. Moving the hands and handle toward the target at address tilts the face of the club downward slightly, which reduces the loft on the club.

2) The swing for the simple chip is similar to a putting stroke after taking this stance.  Try to maintain the triangle formed by the arms and shoulders (no breaking of elbows). Connect the arms to the upper chest and use the shoulders to swing the arms and club as a unit. The tilt of the head and sternum toward the target should allow this motion to ascend in the backswing and then DESCEND through the ball.

3) In the simple chip there is no cocking of the hands or the wrists (though there are other chips with some hand action), but there might be a hint of hand rotation that softly opens the clubface and allows it to close again or “release” through impact.

4) Some of the most common problems that arise: trying to make the club move in too much of a straight line back and through (this causes contact and directional issues); ideally the club will move in a shallow arc around the feet. Hand and wrist action creates unnecessary moving parts and inconsistent ball-striking. And a lot of beginners really struggle with an instinct to lift or “scoop” the ball into the air–they do not realize that a DESCENDING blow with the little bit of loft on the club-face will loft the ball just the amount needed to get safely on the green and then run to the target.

5) It often helps people to drop the front foot back, away from the ball, which “clears” the hips out of the way and keeps the weight off the toes, which is a common reason for more scooping or lifting of the club through impact. Even on such a small, simple swing many golfers benefit from a small weight shift toward the heel of the front foot to initiate the forward swing.

6) ”Wristy” chippers often do well to arch their wrists toward the ground (like trying to point their thumbs directly at the ground); this helps “lock” the wrists so they can make the stroke with limited hand action.

Here’s a drill for golfers who struggle with the instict to make a chipping motion with a lot of hand and wrist action, usually because they want to lift or “scoop” the ball off the ground:

Take a good, tilted setup for the simple chip with something in front of you that you can chip under. A chair or bench might work, or a rope or string hung between two posts would do the job. Seeing the low angle of the shot required to go under the object will encourage a DESCENDING approach into the ball. The contact of such a chip will be much better and more consistent (which leads to distance control with some practice), and ironically the shot will often launch HIGHER than shots when you instinctively try to lift the ball.

Chipping and putting combined account for about half of all the shots played in a round of golf, so their execution is crucial for golfers who want to play and score well. The simple chip is a “must-have” shot for golfers of all ability levels.

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