Ultimate Guide to Chipping: Techniques for Every Situation

By Steve Silverman

Mitsuki Kobayashi chipping onto green

Chipping is one of the key areas in golf where it is possible to improve your score quickly. It is a relatively easy swing that calls for a good feel for the ball and correct positioning of your feet. By improving your short game and chipping skills, you can expect to quickly knock five to seven strokes off your score for 18 holes.

Correct Ball Position on Chip Shots

  1. Play the ball back in your stance when you are close to the green and you want to pop the ball in the air and have it 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 distance of 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 left (front) foot to the left if you are playing a right-to-left shot. Play the ball near the middle of your stance. By opening your left foot, you will come across the ball and that will give the ball a side spin.
  5. Practice chipping at the driving range. You can use the mat that the range provides but there is also a practice pitching area that may be even more appropriate. Playing the ball more forward or further back in your stance will not feel natural but it will help you put the best stroke on the ball.

How to Pick a Club to Chip

Collin Morikawa chips with caddy nearby

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

  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. Obstacles could include sprinkler heads, ridges, spines or fringe that come into play once your ball lands on the green. Choose a less-lofted club to get the ball rolling quickly and a more-lofted club to carry the ball longer distances.
  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 for a particular chip shot 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 would be 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

Use the following steps that will enable you to hit more consistent and reliable chip shots.

  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.

Chip It Close from an Uphill Lie

amateur golfer chipping over hill

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.

  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 seven- or eight-iron to hit a chip shot. A nine-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 club head by bringing your wrists forward to use the clubs with more loft. A seven-iron is the best club to use on a chip from 50 yards or less.
  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. You cannot afford to miss-hit with this club or the ball will dribble off to the side or won't go the adequate distance. Try to watch the club face hit the back of the ball and don't pick your head up until the club has finished its swing.
  5. Use a five-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.

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 toward the hole. You should 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, improving your overall score.
  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. Obstacles could include prominent ridges in the green or fringe that comes into play once your ball lands on the green. 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 distance you land a flop shot will vary based on the speed and slope of the green as well as your ability to put spin on the ball to stop it. The flop shot should be used as sparingly as possible because it is a low-percentage shot compared with the putting technique chip shot.
  5. You should work the ball using a cut or draw technique if you have slope on the green to contend with. For example, if you are a right-handed golfer and the green slopes right to left, you should hit a cut shot so the ball will spin into the slope. The spin of the ball into the slope will cause your chip to roll relatively straight as compared with following the actual slope of the green. This technique not only will enable you to hole-out more chips, it also will keep your missed chips closer to the hole.

Chip Shots for Left-Handed Golfers

Bubba Watson chipping onto green

A shotmaker is the kind of golfer who 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.

  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 6 to 8 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. This can be an effective shot when you have a water hazard in front of you. 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.

Tips & Warnings

Be creative with your short irons. 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.