Golf Short Game Beginners Guide – Chipping
Chipping is a very important aspect of golf, especially for beginners. Beginners normally focus on their long game, but in reality having a good short game first will accelerate progress much faster.
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Chipping, along with pitching, bunker shots and putting make up the components of the short game.
At first, missing greens will be a regular occurrence for golfers that are just starting out, as a result beginners will have a lot of opportunities to hit chip shots out on the course.
There are three basic chip shots that beginners should focus on, the chip and run is the most basic shot, and easiest to learn, the standard chip is a bit more complex, and the lob shot is the most complex.
The lob shot is hard to master at first, and it is risky, but it will come in handy if you have to chip over a bunker or some other hazard that prevents you from hitting a bump and run or standard chip shot.
Three basic chip shots explained
- Chip and run (aka bump and run)
- Standard chip shot
- Lob shots
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Chip and Run Golf Shot
The bump and run chip shot can be described as an extended version of a long putt. With a bump and run the main objective is to get the ball to start rolling on the green as quickly as possible.
Normally a 8 or 9 iron is a good option to hit a bump and run with, due to the added loft on a wedge the ball will go up into the air and land softly on the green, but with a 8 or 9 iron the ball will come out lower and will thus be able to roll to the hole in the same fashion as a putt.
The bump and run shot has the least amount of risk attached to it, the best place to use this shot is if your ball is roughly 5 yards or less away from the green, and if you have at least 10 yards or more of green between your position and the hole.
Standard Chip Shot
The standard chip shot can be seen as a combination between a bump and run and a lob shot.
For a standard chip a wedge of some sorts will normally be the club of choice to use. The loft on a wedge will get the shot to have height on it, and as a result it will land softer and roll less once it hits the green.
Ideally the standard chip shot will be used if there is more grass (rough or fairway) to cover than the amount of green that the ball has to roll on.
Thus if there is 15 yards of fairway or rough to cover between your position and the start of the green, and if you have less than 10 yards of green between yourself and the flag the standard chip is the shot of choice.
The standard chip shot has more risk to it in comparison to a bump and run shot, but it is essential to be able to hit this shot if you want to progress from beginner to established golfer.
The lob shot is by far the riskiest chip shot. When golfers hear the word lob shot an image of Phil Mickelson hitting a crazy high shot that lands and stops instantly on the green rushes into the minds of many.
Mickelson is the master of the lob shot, and he makes it look easy, but in reality it is a very tricky shot that requires good technique and practice in order to be good at it.
The general rule of thumb should be that a lob shot should only be considered if no other options exist, and even then the golfer needs to be smart about it.
We all dream of pulling off the shots we see on tv, but beginners need to accept that it will take time, skills and trust before they can even attempt to hit those shots.
A lob shot needs to be implemented when a player has to hit a chip shot over a bunker with the hole located within close proximity to the edge of the green.
Chip and Run
The bump and run chip shot is very similar to a putting stroke. Use a 8 or 9 iron when hitting a bump and run shot, using less loft will ensure that you don’t have to hit the ball very hard in order to land it in the desired spot.
Set up to the ball with a square clubface and a square narrow stance in relation to the target.
Position the ball in the middle of your stance.
Once you are all set up, simply rock the shoulders back and through, keep the wrists firm throughout.
Make sure that you stand fairly close to the ball, thus if you were to draw a straight line down from your eyes it should be just inside of where the ball is.
Standard Chip Shot
With the standard chip shot a wedge of some sort is normally the club of choice.
Since the club has a considerable amount of loft on it, allow the loft to help get the ball airborne, don’t try to do it by using your hands, that will only result in poorly struck shots.
Position the ball slightly back of middle in your stance, with your feet and shoulders slightly open, thus left of your target line for right handed players.
Keep your clubface pointing at the target, even if you are set up open in relation to the target. Make sure that your weight is on your front foot, thus your side that is facing the target, the rule of thumb of 60/40 is a good one to apply.
For right handed golfers thus 60% of their weight will be on their left foot, and 40% on their right foot, keep this the same throughout the shot.
In comparison to the bump and run, make sure to widen your stance a little bit to about shoulder width.
Once you are all set up swing the club along the line of your feet, use your shoulders to swing the club, not your hands and wrists.
In order to have good solid contact grip tension is vital, imagine you are holding a baby bird, you want to hold on tight enough so that it doesn’t fly away, but not too tight because that will harm the bird.
Good grip tension will allow your arms to swing freely, thus resulting in smooth rhythm and tempo.
The lob shot is a difficult to master high risk chip shot. It can be seen as a progression of the standard chip, most concepts stay the same, they just get exaggerated in order to get a very high shot that lands softly on the green.
For a lob shot you will want to use the highest lofted club in your bag, it will normally be a wedge that ranges between 56 and 60 degrees.
In similar fashion to the standard chip, set up with your feet and shoulders open in relation to the target and widen your stance. Instead of aiming the clubface at the target, open it up slightly and move the ball position forward in the stance.
Having the clubface open and the ball ahead of the middle in the stance will increase the loft on the club thus resulting in more height on the chip shot.
The 60/40 rule applies with regards to weight distribution, and minimal grip tension is optimal.
Once you are all set up swing the club along the line of your feet, use your shoulders to rotate throughout the shot.
This is a shot that requires a lot of practice, but make sure to do the basics correctly when you do get a chance to hit some lob shots around the practice green.
Short Game Practice Drills – Chipping
Practice is very important in order to create good feel for chipping, but in order to make the most of your practice time do drills that will improve your chipping, instead of just chipping balls around aimlessly.
Beginners have the opportunity to practice correctly right from the get go, doing that is much easier than having to try and get rid of bad habits later on.
Two of the best drills to do is the hole out drill, and to compete against a friend in a chipping competition.
Drill #1: Hole out 3 times
Having the thought of hitting the chip into the hole is a good way to approach chipping for multiple different reasons.
Thinking about making the chip shot will help you with narrowing your focus, you want the ball to go in, mentally thinking this way will distract you from other thoughts that aren’t helpful.
In the movie American Sniper Bradley Cooper, who plays Chris Kyle, says it best: “Aim small, miss small.”
Being very precise about your target is key not only with chipping, but with every shot played on the golf course.
At the end of your practice session choose a fairly easy chip shot, the goal is to hole out at least 3 times before you can call it quits on your practice session.
If holing out 3 times is too difficult, start with making one chip and then work your way up to three as your game improves.
Drill #2: Chipping contest against a friend
Competing against a fellow player is one of the best things any golfer can do to improve their own golf, especially if the competition is better than you.
Competing in a chipping contest will mentally simulate conditions on the course, in addition emotions will be aroused thus you will learn how to deal with different emotions etc.
PGA tour pros are constantly playing for money in practice rounds or in putting and chipping competitions.
The best players in the world value competitive practice, if they do it then any amateur golf should want to do it as well. The sooner one can get started with being competitive the better.
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