A good chip shot can quickly turn a possible disaster into a reasonable hole. Chipping close to the hole and tapping in a putt can also maintain a positive attitude towards your round and keep you in a good frame of mind for the next hole. But golfers rarely visit the short game practice area. They would rather rip drivers to all parts of the range than work on their short game. Chipping may not be the most glamorous part of the game but is a key component to shooting lower scores.
Chipping covers the shots you will play where the ball carries no more than about 10 yards. It is a shot that has a short amount of air time and spends most of the time on the ground. So how do you effectively practice your chipping? Your practice should be broken into two equal parts:
During technique practice you will be hitting balls to no set target. Rather the focus is solely on reproducing a sound chipping action that consistently produces a ball first contact. The feet should be set close together with 60% of the weight on the lead foot and the ball positioned one club head length inside the lead foot. Take your normal full swing grip but at the bottom of the grip and the club shaft leaning slightly towards target.
Once in this set up position, make a putting stroke with the club brushing the ground where the ball is sitting. The weight must stay on the lead foot, and the hands stay in front of the club head. This ensures a ball first contact that will result in better distance, flight and spin control.
Altering the club and the length of the swing controls changes in distance and flight. You should try to land the ball on the green as soon as possible and then let it roll out to the hole.
During performance practice the focus moves to games that simulate what you will encounter on the golf course, and thus helps to sharpen your chipping to where you can alter your shot distance and flight to suit varying situations. A couple of drills to help you achieve this are:
- Same target different clubs – Choose a hole on the far side of the chipping green. Play 10 chip shots with your most lofted club, and then 10 with your next most lofted. Continue this through your clubs until you can no longer land the ball on the green and get the ball to finish at the hole. Notice the relationship between amount of flight and roll for each club.
- Leapfrog drill – Find a long section of the putting green that you can chip balls across. Starting with your most lofted club, chip a ball onto the green with the ball finishing as close as possible to the edge of the green closest to you. With your next ball it must finish past the previous ball. Continue this across the green, changing clubs as the ships get longer and see how many balls you can leapfrog across the green. If you come up short on a chip you must start the entire process again.
- Nearest the pin competition – Play against a friend around the chipping green where you take turns at choosing a hole and then score a point for who gets closer, with a bonus point if the ball goes in the hole. First person to 10 points, wins.
Work through this practice routine the next time you are practicing your chipping. I am sure you will find the performance practice fun and over time you will see the improvement in your chipping.