No matter what anyone else tells you, the key to shooting lower scores is having a tidy short game. That means you have to become a more proficient and consistent chipper. "Proficient" means you should know the right mechanics for successful results. "Consistent" means you repeat the same motion for steady results from a variety of places around the green.
Interestingly, I see some of my better students make the same mistakes when chipping the ball as my high-handicap and newbie students make. It first starts with the misconception that chips are to be struck more like putts than full-swing shots. That means, some of my students drag the club on the backswing, keeping the clubhead low to the ground. What happens next is usually pretty ugly, with the arms tugging the clubhead upward in an attempt to lift the ball into the air. It's a move I call the "drag and tug" and, unfortunately, I see it a lot!
To fix this problem, the first thing I do is teach my students that it's okay for the clubhead to move away from the ground and up into the air via hinging the wrists on the backswing and letting the clubhead release to the ball as the body rotates forward. As you can see in the opposite color photos, the club has hinged going back and my body has rotated through impact with the ball.
Simply put, allow the wrists to hinge naturally. Experiment with how much works best for you, and always rotate the body through the shot. A chip is much more like a mini-swing than a long putt. Follow that simple advice, and you'll improve quickly.
Jeff Yurkiewicz, PGA, teaches at the Grayhawk Learning Center in Scottsdale, Arizona. For more information, visit grayhawkgolf.com.