Chipping Fundamentals to Help You Avoid Chunks and Skulls

Akane Yasuyama chips onto the 4th green during the third round of the LPGA Final Pro Test at the JFE Setonaikai Golf Club on November 7, 2019 in Kasaoka, Okayama, Japan.

Ken Ishii/Getty Images

 

Why do you chunk your chip shots? Do you need tips to avoid skulled shots when chipping? In this article, I'll go over the reasons why those chunks and skulls happen, explain some fundamentals that can help you avoid those mistakes, and provide a practice drill.

01
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Trying to 'Scoop' a Chip Shot Can Cause Fat or Thin Shots

correct and incorrect chipping setup positions
CORRECT chip shot set-up position on left; INCORRECT chipping set-up on right. Karen Palacios-Jansen

The task of chipping may not seem like a highly athletic or difficult activity, but even chipping — like all other golf shots — requires hand/eye coordination and body control.

A chip shot involves precision to control the correct yardage and distance to leave the shortest possible putt. Because this shot involves a relatively short swing, there is little time for compensations.

Where a lot of high-handicappers go wrong on chip shots is in trying to hit the ball using only their hands, resulting in a kind of scooping action. This scooping action not only causes skulled shots but fat shots and chunked shots as well.

In an attempt to get the ball airborne, some golfers may try to lift the ball up, or feel they need to scoop the ball at the moment of impact. Many times this causes the club to decelerate, so the clubhead bottoms out before contacting the ball, and the clubhead passes the hands on the follow-through. Ideally, you want the hands to stay ahead of the clubface at impact and as you follow-through.

02
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Keep Hands Ahead of Clubface at Impact When Chipping

correct and incorrect chipping impact positions
CORRECT chip shot impact position on left; INCORRECT chipping impact on right. Karen Palacios-Jansen

If your clubhead does pass your hands at impact and follow-through on chip shots, you are at risk of the grass stopping the clubhead, producing a chunked (or fat) chip shot. This is especially true if the grass is thick or wet.

Conversely, if there is little to no grass under your golf ball and the ground is hard, then a clubhead that passes in front of the hands before impact will usually bounce off the hard turf and hit the ball on the upswing (a skull or thin shot), sending the ball rolling too far.

The key to avoiding chunks (or skulls) on chip shots is to find a way to keep the clubhead moving through the impact area so that you strike the ball first and take turf after impacting the golf ball. One way to do that is to employ the chipping fundamentals that follow.

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Chip-Shot Fundamentals: The Antidote to Mishits

correct and incorrect chip shot follow throughs
CORRECT chip shot follow-through on left; INCORRECT chip shot follow-through on right. Karen Palacios-Jansen

Here are a few fundamentals to help you with your chipping technique. These chip-shot basics can help golfers who are struggling with mishits — chunks or skulls, fat or thin shots — when chipping:

  • You can use your putting grip on chip shots (this can help you keep your wrists firm).
  • Keep your feet close together in the stance (helps keep the body quieter).
  • Your weight should be towards your front leg with a forward press (hands ahead of the ball) in the address position.
  • Ball position is in the center or towards your back foot depending on the lie.
  • Use a putting stroke — straight back and through.
  • Keep the length of the stroke the same distance back and through.
  • Try to achieve a slight downward brush on the grass as the ball gets in the way.
  • Hold the finish with your lead arm and wrist straight (don’t let your wrists flip).

Another thing that can help you if you are letting the clubface get ahead of your hands while chipping is the following practice drill, which teaches you to keep the club moving through impact.

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This Chip Shot Drill Teaches You to Keep Club Moving Through Impact

Chipping drill for avoiding skulls and chunks.

Here’s a simple practice drill to learn to keep the club moving through the impact area when chipping — something you must do to avoid mishits on chip shots.

  • Step 1: Take your wedge and grip it halfway down the shaft. Place the grip of club along your front hip, as in the images above.
  • Step. 2: Assume your chipping stance.
  • Step 3: Make a backswing, and then on the downswing pull the clubhead toward the target. Keep the handle away from your hip as you follow-through.

If you're following the fundamentals of chipping discussed earlier in this article, you should be able to keep the grip-end of the club from hitting your hip on the follow-through.

If you do this drill incorrectly and flip your wrists at the moment of impact, then the handle of the club will hit your side. 

This drill prevents you from letting the clubhead get in front of your hands hands at the moment of impact, and teaches you the feel of keeping the clubhead moving through impact.

About the Author

Karen Palacios-Jansen is a well-known golf instructor and former LPGA National Teacher of the Year who has published articles in leading golf publications and appeared on the Golf Channel. She also focuses on fitness for golfers.