Hitting Down and Chipping

Shorten Backswing and Accelerating Through the Chip for Better Results

Hitting a chip shot
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The Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta National usually heightens awareness of two things: the start of spring for golfers in North America, and the importance of the short game — particularly chipping, which can go wrong in two ways: the fat chip (chunker) that goes nowhere and the thin chip (skull) that shoots across the green, perhaps even into the bunker on the other side.

Chipping occurs when a golfer has to free a ball from an obstacle, and fat and thin chips are caused by a golfers' attempt at hitting up rather than down while chipping, which is understandable as golfers are often determined to get the club under the ball, but they often err in the clubhead speed or the angle of the stroke.

Fortunately, there are many ways for amateurs and professional golfers alike to improve their chip game such as shortening the golfer's backswing or remembering to accelerate the stroke through the chip.

Accelerate Through Impact

The key to striking the ground after impact when chipping is acceleration. Unfortunately, most golfers are very reluctant to accelerate while executing the short game. Why? A simple fear of hitting the ball too far.

Golfers have the realistic fear of hitting this "delicate" shot way too far — past the hole, over the green, perhaps even into the trap on the opposite side of the green. Thus, golfers try to slow the clubhead down prior to impact, but this can ultimately cause a chunker leaving the competitor exactly where they started, or worse.

Optimal acceleration before, during, and after impact is necessary to guide the ball appropriately out of a bunker, which ultimately dictates a golfer's control of the ball's trajectory — that's why it's also important to shorten the backswing while accelerating through impact.

Shorten Backswing on Chip Shots

The bigger the backswing, the less control a golfer has on how far and in which direction a ball will travel once hit with the appropriate amount of force. The two curses of bad chipping are trying to hit up at the ball to lift it, and swinging back too far followed by a deceleration of the clubhead in the hopes of not hitting the ball too far.

The trouble here lies within the golfer's perception of what a short backswing entails while near the green. Golfers are typically used to hitting big booming drives from the tee, so relatively speaking a backswing that goes to the waist might seem short, yet this would yield a shot that could exceed 25 years when bunkers are typically within 10 to 15 yards of the hole or fairway.

Golfers should practice and test the strength and acceleration of their short backswings before heading out to a professional match. Practice here makes the best teacher — but amateurs and professionals alike should bear in mind that a backswing near the green is much, much shorter than a backswing at the tee.

Hitting Up Leads to Poor Chipping

While this has been a quick tutorial in chipping, it is also vital information for understanding the connection between hitting up and bad chipping in that hitting up at the ball will always lead to bad chipping.

When golfers go to hit their chip high, they should pause and ask how far they really want this ball to travel — if the answer is under 15 yards, they would do better to bear in mind the old golf tip: a rolling ball is more predictable, so hit the ball low. 

Next time a professional on the PGA Tour has to chip their way in (holing out) from off the green, notice whether the ball was low and rolling or high and bouncing. Although a bouncing ball makes for exciting television, it's not the norm and certainly not the most professional shot — even if it makes it in. Nine out of 10 times, though, you'll see a profession golfer almost tap the ball out of a bunker and roll it smoothly across the green toward the hole.

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