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4 Step Chipping Success

Of all the shots you could encounter in a round of golf, you would think a simple chip and run from just off the collar of the green would be the least of your worries. It’s among the smaller swings you’ll make, so mechanically there’s not much to it. Plus the ball is only airborne for no more than a few feet. So why is it that something which appears so simple is so often associated with words like, scull, chunk and yip?

Traditionally, players with chipping problems have been taught to play the ball well off their back foot, put all the weight on their front leg and lean the shaft way forward. This style of set-up is supposed to promote a downward strike with crisp, contact that jumps the ball toward the target. Sounds pretty simple right? In fact, it’s a rare case when someone comes to my lesson tee who doesn’t already know these basic fundamentals. Still, this tiny motion remains the root of their frustration.

This universally accepted “old school” method of chipping could be killing your game. Crazy you say? Although some of these ideas have merit, the common interpretation or misinterpretation of each fundamental is what’s behind your collision course with disaster.

FORGET THE PAST

The first thing you need to change is your ball position. Putting it too far back in your stance can force you to strike down abruptly, producing too much dig along with an unpredictable contact on the ball.

Instead, place the ball in the middle of your stance. With the ball centered, you’ll notice far less forward lean on the shaft which will incorporate more of the club’s “bounce.” The shaft will still lean, but keep in mind a little tilt toward the target is plenty. In this new position, the contact with the ball has more brush and less dig, giving the ball a truer roll to the flag. In addition, with the bounce helping, you’ll find that even less than perfect contact yields a more playable result than with the old school method. If you like the ball back, getting it lined up with your instep at most is OK, but if you’re in the camp of ball back and still hitting it fat, follow my lead and sneak that baby up to the middle. It may seem counter-intuitive, but there’s more to come that will reveal why this all makes sense.

This universally accepted old school method of chipping could be killing your game

LEAN ON ME

It’s not the position of your ball or even your weight distribution that has the biggest influence over the quality of your contact. Actually your ball first strike is tied more to the position of your chest.

The bottom of your swing will occur more closely in-line with your sternum or where the buttons of your shirt are. So, instead of pressing the weight of your lower body hard to the target, think of leaning or tilting the upper body a touch forward so that your shirt buttons rest on the target side of the ball. With this “buttons forward” position, your weight will favor the front foot also, but this time the bottom of the swing will land in the perfect spot for your best contact.

HINGE AND FOLD

Now it’s time to actually swing. I say this, because all too often chipping is thought of as a rigid, no wrist motion where the joints have no play at all. A stiff action will give you the touch of a brick layer, so if you really want to be great at this you’re going to have to learn to loosen up.

Try relaxing your arms and move the club as if you were going to toss it onto the green. You’ll notice that in the backward motion the weight of the club head alone will encourage some hinge in the wrists and fold in the back elbow as well. This is a natural movement. Getting a true swing to occur is the surest way to create the proper rhythm and flow necessary to develop deft touch around the greens.

BREAK THE PAINT

You’re set for success, got your lean on and feelin’ some flow. Now it’s time to close the deal. Imagine the ball sitting on a white line painted perpendicular to your line of flight. As you swing forward, feel a little pivot or turn in your hips to ensure the bottom of the swing hits just ahead of the ball or in this case, “breaking the paint.” I always encourage my students to rehearse this striking point, by making practice swings directly next to the ball. Once they can break the imaginary line of paint with consecutive swings, they know they’ve got the perfect feel for chipping success.

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