There are certainly different ways to hit a chip shot. Do you set up square or open? Do you play the ball back in the stance? Middle? Forward? Do you pivot? If you are having trouble with consistency around the greens, here’s something you can try: Become a golf chipping machine.
At right is a classic diagram from The Golfing Machine by Homer Kelley. Imagine your lead arm and the club shaft are one long “lever.” As the lever moves away from the target (your back swing) and towards the target (your forward swing) the lever should never break down. I don’t like to see the golf shaft trailing the arm through impact (i.e. the handle leading the club head). If you are doing this, then you aren’t using the bounce of your wedge properly and the club has a tendency to dig into the ground. Additionally, I don’t like to see the golf shaft “passing” the lead arm through impact. If this happens you may hit the shot thin. Your lead arm and the golf shaft form one line from a face-on view. See the photo of lefty PGA Tour pro Greg Chalmers’ chip shot. You can take this concept and put it into motion to become a more effective chipper around the greens. Here’s how:
UNDERSTANDING THE CONCEPT
To help my students understand the concept of the club shaft and the left arm forming one long lever, I built a mechanical chipping device (see photo above). The top joint of the device is the fulcrum upon which the lever swings and represents the lead shoulder. The white bar represents the lead arm.
If the fulcrum remains steady and the long lever doesn’t break down, then the low point of the swing (i.e. where the club head brushes the ground) always occurs in the same place and the strike of the ball will be consistent time after time.
The question then becomes how do we move the lever back and forth? In other words, what are the proper swing mechanics for chipping?
FEELING THE MOTION
- For a right-handed golfer, hold your left wrist with your right hand with your thumb facing outward
- Imagine your left arm is dead weight. Bend your right arm and pull your left arm back (see Photos 1-3).
- Straighten/extend your right arm and push your left arm towards the target (see Photos 4-6)
- Notice when I “pull” my left arm back my lead shoulder doesn’t move away from the target very much. Remember, the left arm represents the fulcrum of the long lever formed by the club shaft and left arm.
- The pulling and pushing action of the right arm is the “piston action” that moves the lever back and forth.
- Be sure your left wrist stays flat throughout the entire motion.
PUTTING IT INTO ACTION: THE SET UP
- Set up with a slightly open stance (Photo 7)
- Position the ball slightly forward of center.
- Lean the club shaft forward slightly so the top of the grip is even with the ball. If you are more comfortable with your hands more forward than that, just be sure your club has more bounce so the club head doesn’t dig into the ground during the forward stroke. Experiment with different bounces to see which is right for you.
- Start the back swing by bending the right elbow and “pulling” the club back with your right hand/arm. Your back swing doesn’t need to be very big. Remember, this is a chip shot. Your hands should go just beyond your trail leg. Again, in Photos 8 and 9 notice my left shoulder doesn’t move much. There shouldn’t be much shoulder rotation during the backswing.
- Start the forward swing by straightening your right arm toward the target. This is the piston action of the right arm that moves the club through the hitting zone. Maintain a flat left wrist during the stroke. As you straighten the right arm and strike the ball, pivot to the left and face the target (Photo 10). Your pivot will help you maintain your flat left wrist. If your left wrist is flat then your long lever is still intact! Homer Kelley would be proud.