The chip shot might seem like a simple motion, so why do so many golfers complicate it with added movements? I'll address that here by taking a look at the two biggest faults related to hitting crisp chips: weight distribution and forward wrist position at impact.
1. Right-Foot-Back Drill
I teach my students to place 60% of their weight on their forward foot at setup and to maintain this distribution throughout the chip-shot motion. Unfortunately, many golfers fall back during the swing, which causes them to either hit behind the ball or to top it. The Right-Foot-Back drill keeps your weight forward at setup and during the motion.
Here's how to do it: Set up for a regular chip shot. Keep your stance narrow and place the ball toward the back of your stance. Then place your right foot behind you so just your toes touch the ground (above photos). This places almost all your weight on your forward foot. Now make a short chipping stroke while keeping your weight on the forward foot. It may feel a little exaggerated at first, but you'll notice that you make a more descending chipping stroke, which will lead to crisp, repeatable contact.
Once you've completed the drill, return to a normal chipping stance (photo at left) and make a chipping motion while retaining the feeling of shifting your balance to your front foot. Once you've mastered it on the chipping green, take it to the golf course.
2. Long-Shaft Drill
The other common chipping fault I notice is when a player's forward wrist breaks down during impact. When this happens, it leads to inconsistent contact and poor distance control.
Here's a simple drill to feel how the club, hands, arms and shoulders all work together to produce a simple chip-shot motion. First place the handle underneath your left armpit and grip down on the club shaft. Make sure your arms are fully extended and take your normal chipping posture, imagining that the ball is knee-high. Start swinging the club back and forth while maintaining the club against the side of your body. This ensures that the club, wrist, arms and shoulders are all working together. If you try to use your wrists, you'll hit your side with the grip on the followthrough. Keep it simple, feel the upper body working all together and minimize the hands in the chipping motion.
Now take your normal grip on the club and imagine that the shaft extends under your left arm. The left arm and shaft should stay in a straight line back and forth during the swinging motion. Instead of using your hands during the chip-shot motion, focus on the club, arms and shoulders all working as one piece. Turn your chip shot from a "hit" with the wrists, to a swing with the entire upper body working together. On the course, think 60% of your weight on the left side through the entire motion, and you'll create crisp chip shots.
Rick Sessinghaus, Psy.D., PGA, is known as "Golf's Mental Coach" and is the author of Golf: The Ultimate Mind Game. He's director of instruction at Chevy Chase CC in Glendale, Calif. His website is ricksessinghaus.com.