In my opinion this is the one shot that if done well will have the most significant impact on the average golfer’s score. Think back to your last round and figure out how many times you were chipping from the edge of the green, I would imagine you had at least 7 or 8 shots from this area. Now how many times did you manage to get down in two or three shots out of the 7 or 8 attempts?
Considering how important this shot is and how short the distance is, we all should do better more often! Hopefully I will get you to be more consistent in how you play this shot and hopefully I will get you to approach this shot the correct way.
First though I need to explain what a chip shot is and when you play a chip shot.
1 - CHIP SHOT
This a shot that typically spends more time rolling along the ground than the time it spent flying through the air, normally from just off the green within 30 yards from the pin. A pitch shot on the other hand spends a lot of time in the air and doesn't run very far when it lands (eg: shot over a bunker). We need to know what shot we are attempting, as the set-up for a chip shot versus a pitch shot is quite different, and I notice that many problems arise when people try to play a chip shot with a pitch set up and vice-versa. So be sure of what you need to do and what shot you are actually attempting!
2 – SET UP FOR CHIP
First of all and most importantly the ball position is played back in your stance, so for right- handed golfers the ball is positioned in front of your right foot. Next make sure you now lean towards the target, which now moves your weight onto your left foot, and the weight should stay on your left foot throughout the swing. As you lean onto your left make sure your hands move forward or ahead of the ball. I like to see my left arm and the shaft of the club in one continuous line as I lean forward. This sets my wrists in firm position to play the shot correctly because your wrists should never break or be used to play the chip shot, it is more like a putting stroke with little or no wrist movement. Finally, narrow your stance so that your feet are no more than 6 inches apart at most.
3 - CHOOSING THE RIGHT CLUB FOR THE SHOT
This is really the most important part of playing any short shot around the green and it takes a little imagination and practice!
Before you play any chip shot I want you to try this visualising technique. I guarantee a huge improvement if you do. Stand just behind your ball and imagine throwing a ball underarm to the flag you are going to, as you do this visualise the ball landing and then rolling to the flag finishing stone dead. Now the throw you have just imagined is the best way to play the shot ahead; firstly you will now have a clear landing area in your mind’s eye and you will also have a distance in mind that the ball should roll to get to the target.
These two things 1 - Landing area and 2 - Roll distance will allow you to choose the correct club and shot to play. Next you pick a club that best represents how you threw the ball in your mind, so if you want your ball for example to land a few feet ahead of yourself and then run 20 yards you are probably looking at a 9 iron. If you saw the ball landing 10 yards away and only running 5 feet then you should choose a sand wedge, which won't run too far.
Don't worry at the beginning if you are a bit out: I guarantee that the more you do this pre-shot routine the better you will become and the more you will understand how each club works. If you have time to practice down on the chipping green try throwing a couple of balls to the pin before attempting a shot and then try to play the chip as you threw the ball.
A couple of simple ratios to get you started are as follows:
9 Iron - 1/3 Air time to 2/3 running along the ground
PW - 1/2 Air time to 1/2 running
SW - 2/3 air time to 1/3 running