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Simple steps to better chips

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The words “chip” and “pitch” are often used interchangeably to describe shots hit around the green, but they’re actually two different types of shots with distinct purposes.

If you can understand the difference between a chip and a pitch, and more importantly when to use one over another, it can be a quick route to lower scores. Because it’s not always the golfer who hits the best shots who turns in the best score — it’s the one who recovers best from his or her misses.

A chip is a short, low running shot, while a pitch is a short, high shot with little to no run. So when should you chip and when should your pitch?

My rules around the green are as follow: Putt whenever you can, chip when you can’t putt and pitch only when necessary. Why? The degree of difficulty and the predictably of each. Putting is the safest option, a chip shot is the next most conservative play and a pitch is by far the most difficult and least predictable of shots. Pitch shots are beautiful when they come off, but chipping is almost always a much safer option when allowable.

Because most golfer can benefit from learning one shot and learning it well, let’s focus on the chip shot.

First, I suggest learning one basic stroke one using different clubs to execute it. Many one-club chippers need a variety of size strokes to play the various shots, and this is never as consistent as using a variety of clubs. Personally, I use anything from a lob wedge to a 6 iron to play most green side chips.

[youtube id=”_0JFPm9ajO4″ width=”620″ height=”360″]

The Setup

There are a few considerations in set up and swing to play this shot. First the ball position: Any low shot, be it a full or short swing, has to be played a little farther back in the stance to reduce dynamic loft. Also, a back ball position will help you hit down on the shot and insure ball-first contact instead of turf-first contact. So move the golf ball back a little when chipping.

Secondly, take a narrow stance, choke up on the club and stand much closer to the ball. This will put the shaft in a much more vertical position.

Of all the set up problems I see, standing too far from the golf ball is the most prevalent. Remember, a chip shot is a very small swing played with a minimum amount of body motion. Being close to the ball with a narrower stance helps promote that.

Also, put more weight on your front or lead foot (left foot for righties) and be sure the tilt of your upper body is slightly to the left. In other words, do not tilt your spine away from the ball as you would in a full swing.

Lastly you may consider moving you hands slightly in front of the club head, which will de-loft the club. Notice I said slightly, because placing your hands too far in front of the ball can cause you to dig the leading edge into the ground and hit fat shots — even if you make a good stroke.

The Motion

The stroke itself is more of a one-lever motion with very little wrist break. There is a slight wrist hinging on the back stroke of the trailing wrist, but no un-hinging on the way though. This will ensure that the hands stay in front of the club head, or at the very least do not pass the club head.

For many “scoopers” or “flippers,” this shot is a great way to learn a better impact position. Every shot on the ground must be stuck with the shaft leaning a little toward the target, and chipping is nothing more than a miniature version of impact on a full swing. When the right wrist hinges a bit on the backswing, keep it hinged; do not allow it to throw the club head past the hands in the classic “flipped look” coming through. This is the cardinal sin of chipping, and the biggest cause of hitting the ground first or “chilly-dipping.”

Practicing chipping with your left hand only is a great way to feel this little stroke. Keep your weight forward all the way throughout the stroke. A common fault here is to sway or shift weight to the right side in the takeaway. This moves your gravity center off the ball and it is difficult to recover from there, so stay in front.

Finally, it may take a little time to get used to, but the sooner you learn to use a variety of clubs the better your short game will be. Many players immediately reach for their wedges when they miss the green, but that is sometimes a mistake. Bring several clubs and consider all your options. If there is lots of green to work with, a hole location in the back of a long green, or even 30 to 40 yards to the green on a flat fairway lie, try practicing with a 7- or 8-iron. You will be amazed at the results.

As always, feel free to send a swing video to my Facebook page and I will do my best to give you my feedback.

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Jim F

    Sep 23, 2013 at 6:13 pm

    Hello
    hopefully you can provide some help.

    I am an 11HDCP trending to 13 due to chipping “yips”.

    I have no problem when I practice, but when I am playing a serious round, for the last month of 10 rounds I have developed a challenge where I basically shank my chips quite frequently. The ball will shoot out low and rather severely to the right. (I am right handed)

    I have never experienced this in the 20yrs I have been playing and don’t know how to get back to where I was. A very decent chipper.

    Thanks!

  2. Andy

    Apr 24, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    Great tips – I really need to spend more time working on chip shots at the start of each season. This is always the area that requires the most “touch” for me.

    • Dennis Clark

      Apr 24, 2013 at 5:31 pm

      If you vary the clubs you’ll find your touch gets better. SAME stroke, different clubs; try it!

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