One of the least appreciated skills in golf is the basic chip shot from just off the edge of the green. Watch most top players and you will witness the skill being executed to a very high standard. Everyone, even the best players in the world, miss greens with their approach shots. However, the biggest difference between the top players and those struggling to score consistently well, is that the best players usually get down in two shots when they miss the green.
I like to think of chipping as an extension of putting, similar, but different, because, after hitting the ball, it leaves the ground for a percentage of the distance that it travels and, for the remainder of the distance, the ball is rolling on the grass.
A chip may be described as a shot that is played from the grass, with a ball less than four metres from the edge of the green; anything longer than this can be considered to be a greenside pitch or a full shot.
Every club has loft – the angle between the clubface and the sole of the club. When chipping, you will normally use a lofted club (between 25° and 60° of loft). All that you have to do is make good contact with the ball, and the loft of the club will make it leave the ground.
The way that you stand to chip is similar to the way in which you stand to putt. Hold the club in the same way as you do when playing a putt. It is an advantage to position your sternum on the target side of the ball, which ensures that you have a little more weight on the lead foot. (Pic 1)
Because you are close to the green, and you only want the ball to leave the ground for a short distance, it is easy to make the swing similar to the putting stroke. Remember, it is the loft of the club that makes the ball leave the ground.
Your five iron will have around 26° of loft, your nine iron around 40° and your pitching wedge around 50°. If you play your chip with a more lofted club, for example the wedge, then the ball will fly higher and, when it lands, the percentage of roll will be less than if you were to use your five iron. (Pic 2)
All that remains for you to do when chipping, is to select a suitable point to land the ball on, before letting the ball roll to the target. I suggest that you select a point approximately two metres onto the green, and try to land the ball on that point.
If the contact is good, and your ball lands on the selected target, but the ball rolls too far, then change your club to a more lofted iron. The reverse is also true – if the ball does not roll far enough, then take a club with less loft.
To select the correct club requires practice. As a general rule, you can think that, if the total distance between the ball and the target point is similar to the distance between the target point and the hole, you will need to use a club that will fly 50 per cent and roll 50 per cent, which may be a wedge or more lofted club. If the percentage of flight is 25 per cent and the roll 75 per cent, then a less lofted club, perhaps a six or seven iron, could be used.
Next article: Greenside pitching
• “GOLF” is written by Tony Bennett the head coach of Bennett’s Golf Learning Centres (BGLC), with centres located in Alto Golf, Alvor, Quinta da Ria, Tavira, Montado, Palmela, Santa da Serra and Madeira. For more information, advice on a specific point or general enquiry please write to [email protected] or call (+351) 932 524 253. You can also hear Tony every month on Kiss FM’s Straight Talk with Phil Gilbert.
Credits: Photographs from Tony Bennett’s Short Game Guide.