You don't always need a perfect technique to be a good chipper. In fact, a
lot of times it's the people who have the best imagination and the softest hands
who end up being the best.
More than this, however, is that good greenside chipping can be obtained by
doing something that doesn't take much talent at all, and that is the ability to
select the proper club. This, in turn, will give you confidence and the capacity
to focus solely on the shot at hand.
This sounds very simple, doesn't it? After all, it's just another club, right? Let's
see - driver off the tee, 3-iron from 200, 7-iron from 150. How hard can it
be to select the right club around the green?
The problem is that it IS a problem for many golfers. When I am on the practice
ground watching people work on their short game, I oftentimes see them bring about
five separate irons to chip with. Actually, many of them will bring their entire bag
over to the green because these would be too many clubs for them to carry individually.
In my opinion, all of these clubs is the root of the entire problem. I think any
more than one club for chipping is unnecessary. Even though there are different
views in the golf world over this, I believe that it's best to learn with one club if
possible so you know and feel comfortable how the ball comes off that particular one.
Let's look at chipping a little closer.
First of all, chip shots are essentially those played from right off the green. Most
are otherwise known as "bump and runs." (Don't confuse them with pitches, which
are lofted shots with a sand-wedge. That's for another tip.)
Many of us have been taught over the years to get the ball on the green as soon
as possible and let it roll to the hole. There is nothing wrong with this. This is fine.
The thing that concerns me, however, is when golfers go about playing different length of
chips with an assortment of clubs. They hit a 9-iron if the flag is 20 feet away, 8-iron thirty
feet, 7-iron forty feet, etc. I think you should choose ONE club to hit all of your "bump
and runs" with, and adjust for the distance with the force of your swing.
It can be a 5,6,7,8,9,wedge, or sand wedge. That doesn't matter that much.
A great player, Phil Mickelson, likes to use his sand wedge in just about every case.
He will play it far back in his stance, with his hands way ahead to bump it.
On the other hand, I have seen Corey Pavin using a 5-iron around the green. He
just "taps" it and the ball goes scurrying across the green with a lot of topspin.
These are extremes, however. I think you should pick a 7,8, or 9-iron. I, personally,
like to use a 9-iron for chipping. I know how the ball is going to come off of
the club because that's the one I practice with all the time. I have tried using a
7-iron on longer chips, but the ball seems to explode off the clubface because I am
not sure the proper force that I need to use.
THE POINT: The art of chipping is hard enough without having to master four or
five clubs. Practice with a couple at first. Hit short "bump and runs" from the fringe,
then longer "bump and runs" from in front of the green. From there, decide which one
you like better, which one you can control the spin better with, and ultimately which
one that you can control the distance better with. Then, put the other one in the bag,
and practice with the one you chose. Master this one club approach and your chipping
will improve dramatically.
Columns ©1999 Joseph K. Sullivan and GolfLink Inc. All rights reserved.