Golf Chipping 101: A Guide For Every Situation

By Steve Silverman

Mitsuki Kobayashi chipping onto green

Having a good chipping game is vitally important to be successful on the golf course. The ability to get up and down and know your way around the short shots can lower your scores quickly. This guide gives you chipping tips for every situation to help you knock a few strokes off of your handicap.

Correct Ball Position on Chip Shots

One of the most common errors for amateur golfers is ball position, especially on chip shots. Knowing where to place the ball in your stance will lead to better results.

  1. Play the ball back in your stance when you are close to the green and you want to have the ball run to the hole. The ball should be about two ball-lengths closer to your back foot. By coming down on the ball with your wrists stiff, the ball will run toward the hole after it bounces on the green.
  2. Play the ball in the middle of your stance if you are chipping from a 40 yards or more on a flat lie. With this kind of chip, you want the ball to bounce and run up the remaining distance to the green and roll toward the hole.
  3. Play the ball closer to your front foot if you are chipping from 40 yards or more on an uphill lie. The ball should be about two ball lengths closer to your front leg than it would be if you played it in the middle of your stance. Make sure you hit the bottom of the ball because golfers have a tendency to top a ball while playing from an uphill lie.
  4. Open your stance by pointing your front foot at a 45-degree angle.
  5. Practice chipping at the driving range. You can use the mat that the range provides but there are also practice pitching areas at many facilities that may be more appropriate. Playing the ball more forward or further back in your stance may not feel natural at first, but it will help you put the best stroke on the ball.

How to Pick a Club to Chip

You can use a variety of clubs when chipping, including your wedges, short irons, and middle irons. Picking the best club for a specific shot increases your chances of a favorable result.

Collin Morikawa chips with caddy nearby
  1. Determine the distance you need to carry the ball to your target landing spot. Landing the ball on the green as soon as possible provides the best distance control, but obstacles between you and the hole might prohibit this shot selection. Use a less-lofted club to get the ball rolling quickly and a more-lofted club to carry the ball farther in the air.
  2. Determine the speed of the green, including the type of grass and the direction of the grain. A less-lofted club will generate less spin, and the ball will roll more freely on slower greens. Conversely, you should select a more-lofted wedge to generate more spin for faster greens.
  3. Determine whether you will use a putting stroke or a traditional chipping stroke. Chipping with a putting stroke will reduce the likelihood of a mishit (thin or fat) and also enable you to better control distance. The best clubs for this technique are your 6- through 9-irons. A longer, more traditional chipping stroke will cause a higher trajectory and make it easier to put backspin on the ball. The best club selection for this shot is your sand, gap, or pitching wedge.
  4. Look at the lie of the ball to see how tight or fluffy the grass is. Chipping from a tight lie (very short grass) makes it harder to use more lofted clubs because it reduces your margin of error. The best club selection for tight lies is to choose one of your lesser-lofted clubs with a short, putting-style stroke if possible. If you need to hit a high-trajectory shot from a tight lie, use a more-lofted club, but put the ball back in your stance and keep your wrists cocked through impact instead of releasing them.

The Standard Chip Shot

The following steps will help you hit more consistent chip shots and get you within tap-in range.

  1. When chipping with your pitching wedge, position your hands a couple of inches in front of the ball at address. Cock your wrists at the end of your backswing and keep them cocked during the shot. Keeping your wrists cocked instead of releasing your hands as you do with a normal swing will increase your chances of hitting the ball solidly. The reasoning behind this is that when your wrists are cocked, the blade of the golf club is square with the ball for a longer period of time at the bottom of your swing.
  2. When chipping with your 9-iron through 7-iron, use your putting stroke but strike the ball on a slight downstroke. Practice using this technique with your 9-iron to hit chip shots on a level surface approximately 20 feet. Then use your 8-iron to practice 30-foot chips and your 7-iron for 40-foot chips. This shot technique will cause the ball to roll more readily since both loft and backspin are reduced.
  3. Regardless of which club or swing technique you use for a chip shot, be sure to accelerate through the ball. Don't make the mistake of slowing your swing through impact in an attempt to control distance. A shortened backswing and the loft of the club will enable you to control the distance that a chip shot will travel, but you must accelerate through the ball at impact to achieve solid contact.

Bump and Run

Having a bump and run shot in your repertoire can be really useful, particularly if you find yourself playing a course that has flatter areas leading up to the green. Sometimes flying a chip shot all the way to the hole isn't an option and you need a shot that's going to run to the pin instead.

bump and run chip
  1. Select a club that has a lower loft than you would normally use around the green. Usually, an 8-iron or 9-iron will get the job done.
  2. Narrow your stance. Since this is a relatively compact swing narrowing your stance will eliminate movement and margin for error.
  3. Place the ball slightly back in your stance. This will promote a lower trajectory at impact.
  4. Concentrate on hitting the ball one-third of the way to the pin (this is the bump). The idea is once the ball hits the green it will roll the other two-thirds of the way (this is the run).
  5. Make a stoke similar to a putting stroke. Concentrate on keeping the head of the club low in your backswing and in your follow-through.

Chip It Close from an Uphill Lie

Uphill chips generally have fewer breaks and will go straighter than sidehill or downhill chips. As a result, it's just a matter of putting a good swing on the ball and allowing your hands to swing through the ball.

amateur golfer chipping over hill
  1. Align your feet so that the ball is a bit closer to your front foot than it is your back foot. It should be about one ball length closer to the front foot--and no more than two. This will help the ball get a few inches off the ground.
  2. Use your 7- or 8-iron to hit the shot. A 9-iron or wedge can also be used, but both of those clubs have too much loft and you would need to change the angle of the clubhead by bringing your wrists forward to use the clubs with more loft.
  3. Think of the uphill chip shot as an elongated putt. This stroke will work well as long as you do not face any hazards on your way to the green. Bring the club back to about mid-calf level and bring it forward while keeping your wrists stiff. Bring the club forward to about mid-shin level.
  4. Keep your head down when chipping the ball. Try to watch the clubface hit the back of the ball and don't pick your head up until the club has finished its swing.
  5. Use a 5-iron to chip uphill on shots that are 70 yards or longer. This shot can be used by golfers who are playing on hard, dry courses in the heat of summer. The course has been baked by the sun and the ball will bounce and roll long distances. It is often hard to pitch under these circumstances, so a chip shot is appropriate.

Chip it Close From a Downhill Lie

Downhill chip shots will typically have a little more break to them. Unless you can get the ball high in the air it's most likely going to have a little more speed once it hits the green. It's important to know how to hit a chip from a downhill lie to see yourself up for the easiest putt possible.

Golfer chipping downhill
  1. Get your shoulders matching the slope of the lie. For right-handed golfers, this means your left shoulder will be lower than your right. This allows the club to take the correct path.
  2. Open the clubface slightly. Doing so allows you to get under the ball a little more with the leading edge of whichever wedge you've chosen.
  3. Take the club back a little higher than normal. This will allow you to come in at a steeper angle of attack.
  4. Make a complete swing. If you stop short and don't follow through with the shot you will create more overspin and the ball will have a harder time stopping on the green.

How to Chip from the Fringe

Chipping from the fringe ranks closely behind putting as one of the most important scoring shots. Your goal should be to assess all variables, then choose the best club and shot to play.

  1. The most dependable and accurate chip shot from the fringe lands on the green as soon as possible, then rolls to the hole. Use your normal putting stroke and brush the grass under the ball. Utilize the loft of the club to get the ball airborne instead of trying to scoop or lift it. Place your hands forward of the ball and keep your wrists in a locked position when hitting the chip. Using a putting stroke with a wedge or other iron will reduce thin and fat chip shots.
  2. You can use a variety of clubs from the fringe, including wedges, short irons, and middle irons. You should practice with each until you are comfortable hitting each one from the fringe. You should select a less-lofted club for longer chips and a more-lofted club for shorter chips. Grip down on the longer clubs so the club length essentially is the same regardless of which club you select.
  3. Assess the slope and speed of the green between the ball and the hole. The combination of slope and green speed will determine which club you choose. You should use a more-lofted club for a long chip if the slope between the ball and the hole is considerably downhill. Conversely, you would use a less-lofted club for a short chip if the slope of the green is significantly uphill.
  4. Determine if there are any obstacles between the ball and the hole. If you have obstacles that will make it difficult to judge the speed of the chip, you should hit a flop shot over the obstacle but short of the hole. The flop shot should be used as sparingly as possible because it is a low-percentage shot compared to the putting technique chip shot.

Chip Shots for Left-Handed Golfers

A shotmaker is creative on the course and can envision different ways to make successful shots near the green by chipping with his 7-, 8- or 9-iron. Learning to chip takes practice, but once a golfer gets the feel for succeeding on these shots it should become a regular part of his makeup.

Bubba Watson chipping onto green
  1. Take your 7-iron when you are about 90 yards from the green and there are no hazards in front of you. Instead of pitching to the green with a wedge, you can hit a low chip shot that bounces up to the green and stops near the hole. Take your stance and make sure your right shoulder is square to the flagstick. Bend your knees and envision hitting a shot that will stay on target all the way to the green.
  2. Take your club back about six to eight inches past your knee. Keep your wrists stiff as you come down and through the ball. Stop once you get past knee level. This stroke is somewhat reminiscent of an elongated putt, but you hit it harder. This shot can be effective on a sun-baked fairway during the heat of summer.
  3. Take your 9-iron when you are about 40 yards from the green and face an uphill lie. Square your right shoulder to the green. Bring your club back to about knee level and then come through the ball at medium speed, breaking your wrists on impact with the ball and stopping as you get to your knees on the follow-through. This will pop the ball in the air a few feet from the hole and should stop quickly.
  4. Take your 8-iron for a chip-and-run shot when you are about 70 yards from the hole. Square your right shoulder to the hole; take a half-backswing (waist level) and then bring the club forward. Break your wrists on impact with the ball and stop about waist level. The ball should fly over the water hazard, land, and take three or four bounces up to the green.

Conclusion

Be creative with your short irons and wedges. Many golf pros will eschew the chip and instruct golfers to pitch the ball, but chipping is a very effective way to get there when you have a difficult time landing the ball softly on the green.

Go to the driving range and practice your chipping. Not only can it be an effective way of getting to the green, but it is also a great way to get out of trouble when you are in the rough.

About the Author

Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman authored The Minnesota Vikings: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Who's Better, Who's Best in Football -- The Top 60 Players of All-Time, among others, and placed in the Pro Football Writers of America awards three times. Silverman holds a Master of Science in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism.