Having trouble with chipping?

…and why would you want to listen to a long drive champion about chipping?

Two reasons.

One, in the early and mid 90’s I could get the ball up and down out of the ball holder in the cart with a broom. There was no lie anywhere around the green that was safe from me finding a way to put it in gimmie range.

Two, I got too mechanical with my short game and slowly but surely became one of the worst chippers in golf from 1999-2008. I would go as far as to say I had the chip yips on and off through that time period. It got to the point where if I got a tight lie, I had to putt or bump and run a 7-iron…even if there was sand or rough in front of me.

Point two goes along with what this blog is all about. I do not look down on anyone who is having problems by sounding so confident that I know what I am talking about. I have been to the near summit of golf and all the way down in the pit of despair where some of you now exist.

That is why I feel like I am in a position to help. I knew how to do it all well at one time, got sidetracked with all the Gobblygook (a great word a reader used yesterday) and have come back to a place of…well, maybe not greatness yet, but at the very worst, competence…but for sure a place of understanding.

As soon as time and weather permits (it’s been raining here and I am preparing for my son’s first birthday next Sunday), I will make a video illustrating what follows.

I said the other day that bad chippers have three things in common:

1. They try an help the ball in the air. Either by hanging back and hitting up on the ball…or by stopping all movement but the hands and trying to scoop the ball off the turf with any number of laugh inducing hand gyrations. I am not just laughing just at you, I am also laughing at my 1999-2008 self.

2. Their setup is too much like a regular swing/full shot. The posture in hitting most chips is significantly different.

3. They have exposed themselves to information in the golf media that was either wrong, or they didn’t understand and ended up with either a motion that is way too handsy, or not nearly handsy enough.

Let me explain. Some people get up there and make little or no shoulder turn and just cock their hands and throw/cast the club at the ball. Others, being told door #1 was bad, get up there and make what can only be considered a putting stroke, with no hand set and no release.
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I want to first say that what follows is not a comprehensive explanation of every shot in the short game. It is a basic overview to be used as a guide for bad chippers and good chippers who might have found themselves in a temporary funk.

Problem #1. You must make a descending blow at the ball. The ball is on the ground and at the end of the back swing the club head is in the air. If you hit up on the ball you are changing the direction of the club just before impact. Think about the timing that necessitates? Just like in a full swing, there is plenty of loft on whatever club you are using to get the ball in the air.

Problem #2 relates to Problem #1. If you are supposed to make a descending blow on such a short shot, it is much easier to create this by tilting your spine in front of the ball instead of behind it like you would on a full shot. There is not as much turn or weight shift, so lean your spine in front of the ball and have much of your weight on your front foot (left foot for a right hander). In addition, I find it helpful to adjust the width of stance to the shot I am hitting..and to also have an open stance to aid in freeing up my upper body while allowing my lower body to be relatively quiet. I want to make sure I stress “relatively quiet” as many translate that as “still” and it is far from the truth. The lower body needs to be relaxed and moving in sync with the upper body, it just does not need to move and clear as fast as a full swing and the open stance allows this to happen with ease. You will also notice that when you lean forward in this fashion, your hands end up more in front of the ball. That is good and you will find out why below.

To sum up. Stance open, feet closer together and spine and hands tilted in front of the ball.

Just to give and example, to hit a 30 yard pitch my feet are slightly open and maybe 12-18″ apart…where as a short bump and run just off the green about 15 feet from the hole my feet will be about 45* open and almost touching. Again, not the way you have to do it exactly, just a guide.

Problem #3 is so simple to fix. Guess why? We have already fixed it. People end up with all of these funny hand gyrations because of not committing to a descending blow and/or not setting up to allow that. What then has to happen is they must come up with all of these funny, unnatural compensations.

Once you have committed to a descending blow and setup correctly to aid you in that pursuit, all you need to do is make a mini golf swing. A shoulder turn, a natural handset (which doesn’t have far to go as the setup has placed the hands in a position where they are almost set already), a nice rhythmical transition and a release.

Most of this will make sense, but whatever doesn’t will be easier to understand when I make the video.

7 Responses to “ “Having trouble with chipping?”

  1. Smitty says:

    In terms of club selection, do I experiment for myself or do you have general guidelines?

    • My general guideline is I like to use a club where I can land it just on the green and it will run the rest of the way to the pin.

      That is a very very general guideline. IMO, the best way to do it is learn the proper way that you can hit the ball solid and consistent, then use the way and club that gets you the closest average over many shots. You would rather play a shot that gets you 10 feet every time, then one 3 feet, 5 of them 15 feet and 4 of them 30 feet.

      That sounds obvious, but many will choose the method that gets them the one spectacular shot, but horribly inconsistent.

  2. Greg says:

    Working on your short game especially around the green can definitely shave strokes off your game. Like Monte says try different clubs to chip with. When your 10 yards short of the green and the pin is in the back, it might be easier to run the ball to the back with a 9 iron. If your close your can try a 7 or a 6.
    You’d be surprised how easy it is to chip a ball with your hybrid especially when your close to the green in some thick grass. Make sure you practice this shot first, the ball comes off the face hot.

  3. meateater says:

    Monte, You mentioned problems chipping off a very tight lie. Could you maybe go into more detail about how to handle that situation? It’s very frustrating to hit it close to the green, then stub it fat off a tight lie.

    • meateater. It is individual, but I find that releasing the club properly brings the bounce of the wedge and a square face into the ball at the right time to clip those shots cleanly. Holding the release or casting it is trouble off those lies, IMO

  4. colbywolfe says:

    Any chance of a video?
    I’m dangerously close to buying a Leadbetter chipping DVD ;)
    Please save me….

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