Along with putting, chipping is probably the easiest place to eliminate a huge number of strokes from your game, and one of few areas in golf where you can actually reach a level not too dissimilar from the pros.
Hitting monster drives or booming long irons requires a level of power, technique and hand eye coordination that the average person will always struggle to find without golf being a full-time job, but regular work on short game can have huge benefits for the average player.
The issue many golfers face, and why so many people struggle to chip the ball consistently to a makeable range, is that they have a poor concept of how to actually chip the ball.
Like a lot of the strokes we play in golf, you may have a flawed technique that comes off on occasions, yet other times it results in the most horrendous shanks or vicious thins that go through the back of the green (and can lead you to suffer from the dreaded ‘chipping yips’).
To chip consistently, you need to have a clear understanding of the way to set up for a chip and the action to complete in order to make it repeatable and reliable in most scenarios.
There will always be a temptation to play the glorious flop or the fizzing spinner, but if you are able to develop a clear, simple system to your chipping, practice it and adhere to it in almost every situation, you are bound to become a far more consistent chipper.
How do you consistently chip a golf ball?
To chip the golf ball consistently, you need to set up with the ball on either the front or back foot – never directly in between your feet – keep your weight forward, and strike down on the ball with stable elbows and wrists. Having your weight forward, whether chipping off the front or back foot, will help create a negative attack angle that will prevent thin shots. Pair this with an acceleration of the clubhead through the ball and you should find greater consistency.
One of the most important tips to improve chipping consistency is to keep your weight forward to generate a downward strike.
While heavy shots can be really frustrating around the green (playing a bump and run with a 7-iron can be a solution to this), sometimes a duff will sneak onto the front and roll out OK, which is far less damaging than an aggressive thin shot that flies 20m through the back of the putting surface.
Keeping the elbows and especially the wrists quiet while chipping will also improve consistency, reducing the amount of moving parts and variation to your stroke that can impact where the low point of your swing arc is.
Think of your standard chip shot as a putting stroke, where the arms are fairly rigid but relaxed, and the movement comes from the shoulders, rather than the wrists or hands.
If you break the wrists too much and try to ‘flick’ the ball, you’ll present the leading edge of the club and could send your ball flying long of the target.
Even if you do have a great set up with weight forward, ball on the front foot and the arms quiet, a failure to accelerate through the ball could still hurt your consistency.
It is absolutely crucial that you maintain speed through contact with the ball, as this will help the clubhead break through the surface/scuff the ground, keeping the leading edge down.
Whether you chip with a 7-iron or a 60-degree wedge, all of these actions are designed to keep that leading edge down and bring with it more consistent strikes when chipping.
Perhaps one of the reasons why people are worried about accelerating through the ball is that they take too much of a backswing, meaning they feel the need to decelerate through the shot to avoid hitting the ball too far.
Once you develop a consistent and repeatable set up and swing, experimenting with backswing length to develop feel and distance control will make you a far more accurate chipper.
By laying them out or positioning them at different distances, you should, over time, develop greater control over how far you fly your chip shots.
Why is my chipping in golf so inconsistent?
Inconsistent chipping comes about from reasons such as trying to chip with the ball in the middle of your stance, decelerating through the ball, hitting ‘up’ on the ball or using too much wrist action. You need to chip with the ball either on the front or back foot, accelerate through the ball, hit with a negative attack angle and quieten the wrists if you want to improve consistency.
As Phil Mickelson laments in the video above, trying to chip with the ball dead between your feet is a poor technique to use.
Generally, he says, people who chip with the ball between their feet haven’t really decided if they are going high or low, and can’t really pull off either shot with any great accuracy when set up this way.
With the ball between your feet, you really need to lean back and ‘scoop’ it off the ground to get it into the air, but all this does is present the leading edge.
You could get it right occasionally, but when you get it wrong you might see the ball sail well past the green.
If you are trying to go low with the ball between your feet, you need to bring your weight forward to keep the leading edge down and deloft the club.
The trouble is, with the ball in this position, this will have you coming over the top of the ball in a steep fashion which may cause a chunk.
Moral of the story? Keep the ball on the back foot to go low, on the front foot to go high, and weight always forward.
Another consistency killer is getting too ‘wristy’ in the swing.
Now, snapping your wrists through impact can sometimes create a beautiful high flight or low spinning shots, but get it wrong and there’s every chance of a damaging thin shot.
To keep that leading edge down, you must keep your hands and weight forward to try and find the centre of the club with the swing occurring with a negative attack angle.
Where do you position the golf ball when chipping?
When chipping you should always position the ball on your front or back foot, but never in between. If you try and play a high shot with the ball between your feet you’ll be inclined to rock back, lift the ball and present the leading edge. If you try and play a low shot with the ball between your feet, your attack angle will be too steep and you may chunk it.
As a general rule, the ball should be inside the right foot when you want to play a high shot.
It’s important to ensure you still get your weight forward and keep your hands in front of the shaft to get the leading edge down, but with the ball in the forward position you’ll present more loft that will help it to pop up in the air.
If you wish to play a low runner, applying the same set up and technique but with the ball on the back foot will present less loft, keeping it more along the ground.
Where do you strike the golf ball when chipping?
When chipping, you should aim to strike the ball more out of the toe, as there will be more clubface to work with and impart spin. By having a more upright club and aiming to strike out of the toe, you’ll be less likely to dig into the ground than if you were chipping with the club more flattened out. Like with most other golf shots, the aim is to catch ball first, then ground, with a negative attack angle.
If you look at the design of many new wedges, like the TaylorMade Milled Grind Hi-Toe, you’ll notice the extremely stretched out club face towards the toe.
These Hi-Toe style wedges are designed to be super forgiving and impart maximum spin, so it makes complete sense to line up more towards the toe when chipping to maximise this huge surface area.
We’ve created an extensive list of the best wedges on the market (see below) that I definitely recommend you check out here.
Do you hit down when chipping a golf ball?
Yes, you need to hit down when chipping the golf ball as there should be plenty of loft on the club you are chipping with to get the ball into the air. It’s also one of the biggest aims of any chipping technique to keep the leading edge of the club down, so keeping the hands in front of the club, your weight forward and striking the ball with a negative attack angle is important for making good contact.
It is crucial to note, however, that when I say ‘hit down’ I don’t mean gauging huge divots in the earth which rival your wedges from 100 yards.
While you do hit down, you want to brush the turf rather than leave a divot when chipping, as coming in too steep will make the ball less likely to pop into the air and spin.
Should you open the clubface when chipping?
Yes, you should open the clubface when chipping, depending on the shot you are trying to play. If you are playing a shot that needs to go high to carry a bunker, hazard or deep rough, then opening the clubface to add loft will generate good height. If you have plenty of safe space between you and your target, keeping the face more closed will avoid lifting the leading edge too much and prove to be an easier shot.
For most golfers, I would recommend trying to avoid opening the face of the club too much when chipping unless completely necessary, as all this does is make it harder to keep the leading edge down.
The more you open the face, the stricter you have to be on keeping the weight forward and accelerating through the swing, something golfers low on feel and confidence find increasingly challenging.
I really love the Smart Sole wedges from Cleveland as they take all of the guesswork out of things and come in a set of three clubs designed to perform differently with the same stroke.
The chipper has a less pronounced sole allowing for low runners to be played with ease, whereas the more lofted sand wedge has an extra wide sole and increased loft to shoot the ball high into the air with the exact same stroke; no need to open the face and present a leading edge.
Or, if you are truly struggling with your short game, you could check out our list of the best chippers on the market, which you can use to substitute one of your wedges.
It shouldn’t be as hard to chip as many people seem to find it and learning to chip consistently ultimately comes down to two things: technique and practice.
Once you develop a good, consistent technique with your hands forward, weight forward and the correct ball positioning, it’s just about practicing your way to a level of touch and feel that will see strokes shaved rapidly from your game as you get up and down more often.
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