Why Your Golf Chipping Setup Costs You Strokes
While hitting a chip shot, you need to put the ball way back in your stance, get your weight left, really get the club leaning forward, and then try to pull the club through the ball.
If this is your current technique, you're always going to struggle with the chip shot.
You are going to hit them heavy. You are going to hit them thin, and you are always going to get really nervous when there is that one big chip that you need to get up and down to help you beat your buddies or win the tournament.
So, I am here to tell you that simply changing your setup can make you one of the best chippers you know.
I am going to show you exactly how to do that.
What Is a Chip Shot?
In order to become a really good chipper, we need to first understand what exactly a chip shot is.
How does a chip shot differ from a pitch shot in golf?
A lot of people use the two terms interchangeably. They say they hit a chip or pitch, and it really means the same thing to them.
But there is a bit of difference, and it's important to know.
It's not just "a chip shot lands on the front of the green and rolls back to the hole." That's simply the result.
What matters is what you do with your body and how you use the club to get consistent chip shots.
Here's how I define a chip shot:
Any time you are going to deloft the club and then come down with a descending blow and hit the ball first.
So when you deloft this club, you are actually taking away bounce. You use bounce in a pitch shot so that it slides through the ground.
The bounce is the piece of metal on the bottom of your club. When you are using a wedge, this piece of metal that is sitting down on the bottom of the club is the wedge's bounce. That's going to help the club glide through the turf.
Now, with a pitch shot we are going to use this flange to help everything go through the grass a little bit easier and to still add loft to the ball and get the ball nice and high.
Here's how you can visualize the flange working: imagine your hand with a big bucket of water in front of you and use it like the flange, which is tilting away from the leading edge of the face.
(Note that the flange is on the bottom of the club going the opposite direction of the face.)
If you were to take your hand and skim it across that water, what would happen?
Your hand would glide across the surface of the water very easily because that flange, or the angle you are making with your hand, is helping keep it on the surface of the water.
Now, when you are chipping, you're taking this away. You're delofting the club; so, we are taking away a bit of that flange.
Now, if you come down into the ball too steep, as you are going to see with the first technique that I recommended (ball way back in your stance, hands way forward), that takes almost all the loft off and takes away the flange.
What's going to happen?
Take the same bucket of water and now turn your hand like the leading edge of the face because we've taken away the flange and all the bounce is gone.
My club or, in this case, my hand is going to dig down in the water, which is like your club digging down into the turf. That is why so many people hit a lot of chunks when they are chipping.
They've got the ball too far back. The weight is too far forward. The hands are too far forward. And there is just no way that you can do that consistently.
That is also where one of the most frustrating moves in golf, "the hitch"—when people are chipping and have this little motion where they kind of jerk and hitch at the bottom, similar to a flinch—comes from.
You are coming in too steep, your body realizes this, and at the last second, it is trying to abort and raise up the hands so that you don't stick the club in the ground sending the ball a measly 2 feet.
We all realize that is not a good thing. We don't want that to happen.
The key is to set up properly to use the proper technique, and you'll never have to worry about that dreaded chunked chip shot again. You are going to catch all of them nice and solidly.
Proper Chip Shot Stance Width and Ball Position
First, let's talk about ball position. Now, I have already mentioned you don't want the ball way back behind the right foot, but you do want the ball a bit back of center.
So, you're going to put your feet about a club head width and a half apart, or club head width apart (anywhere near that is fine).
This is going to allow you to stay nice and loose and relaxed with your body, which is going to allow you to pivot a little bit better (that will be covered in the chip shot technique video).
After putting your feet nice and close together, the ball position now is going to be off the inside of your right foot.
So, if you are looking directly face on, the ball is back of center, but it is not very far back of center. As you come down and through the shot, the bottom of your swing arc is going to be roughly a couple inches in front of the ball.
Many people get their stance a lot wider when they are chipping, and they get the ball a couple of inches behind the right foot. Meanwhile, the bottom of the swing arc is still going to be up by your left side somewhere.
In that position, the ball is nearly 12 inches behind the bottom of your swing arc. You're going to be really coming in steep into that ball if you don't pull up or try to manipulate the club with your hands.
So, the key takeaway is to get your stance where your feet are closer together, then put the ball just off the inside of your right foot.
Proper Chip Shot Weight Distribution
The next fundamental is weight distribution. I mentioned before that you want to put your weight on your left side, and that is absolutely correct.
To visualize this, imagine standing up in your normal anatomical position (neutral joint alignment, or NJA) so that your hip socket is directly over your ankle.
In a chip shot, you are going to get a little bit outside of NJA.
So, when you have your feet a little bit closer together, you're actually going to bump your hips just very, very slightly past NJA.
(Note: Since you're not using a lot of force or a lot of action in the chipping motion, it's not going to hurt your hips. Proper weight shift to the left in the full golf swing is an entirely separate matter.)
So, my feet are close together, the ball's on the right, and you can see that I am barely bumping my weight toward the target.
If I were to draw a line down from my hip, it is going to be just in front of my left ankle; so, it's not very far forward of NJA.
I have about 70% or so of my weight on my front foot, and it's going to stay there the entire chipping stroke. You need to stay planted on your left side.
Proper Chip Shot Hand Position
The third part of the setup is getting the hands forward.
Again, what has been taught before is to get those hands way forward and really deloft that club. The trouble with that is you are taking so much loft off and you are exposing the face so much that the leading edge becomes very sharp.
You'll then have a tendency to chunk or to hit the ball thin when you try to avoid the chunk.
So, we just want to tilt the club forward, maybe 10 degrees or so.
You can see here that my stance width is nice and narrow, the ball is off the inside of my right foot, and my weight is about 70% on the left side. Last, a little bit of forward shaft lean is added.
Proper Chip Shot Posture
If you are looking at the setup from down the line, one of the things you will notice is that my spine alignment is anatomically correct. You don't want to slouch the shoulders or crank your head forward.
You've got to make sure that you have good posture. This is very important for later when I talk about technique, as it allows you to pivot properly.
If your spine is lined up in NJA or a natural anatomical alignment, it will be very easy for you to turn or pivot without having to make any compensations.
Perfect posture in chipping is identical to perfect posture in the full golf swing.
To achieve this position:
- Stand in good posture by depressing your shoulders down and back.
- Tilt everything forward together from the hips, keeping your spine aligned.
- Allow your hips to drop back.
- Continue leaning forward until you tilt forward enough to see the ball.
Notice that my shoulders and back aren't rounded; they are nice and straight and in an anatomically correct position.
Proper Chip Shot Alignment
Over the years, what has almost become the norm for chipping is to really open up your stance.
You see a lot of people that have the stance open 20 - 30 degrees to the left and then maybe the hips are a little open, and their shoulders are going down the target line.
This is an effort to shallow out the swing plane. As I mentioned before, in a poor setup with the ball way back and hands way forward, your weight's left, and you're coming in very steep.
That forces you to find a way to shallow out the stroke, or you are going to throw the club straight into the ground. Opening the stance helps with the shallowing effect.
So, if we open the stance, now we are shallowing out our swing plane, and we are kind of swinging inside-out to the right, which is going to help the club come in much shallower to the ground.
That never made a lot of sense to me. Just setup properly, where the club is not going to be coming in so steep, and you don't have to open the stance.
By getting the rest of the setup correct, you can now set your feet, hips and shoulders parallel to the direction that you want to start the ball.
And that's where you'll start it because, in the chip shot, your spine is basically your main axis; so, you're just rotating around your spine.
When you start rolling the feet way open and having the shoulders go a different direction, you are going to make manipulations of the hands and the club.
Those are a lot of variables. It's going to be tough to hit a chip shot 60, 70 feet away to within a few feet if you've got all these different variables.
That will take a lot of practice, more than you need if you set up properly.
A proper setup with everything parallel to your target allows you to just rotate around your spine. It's going to be very easy to hit that chip shot straight ahead, without having to make any compensations.
Get set up correctly first, and then you can worry about the technique.
The setup is the most crucial part of chipping. Once you get the setup correct, it allows your body to be very consistent and to move the way it naturally wants to move.
Watch the video now for a full demonstration of all these points so you'll never chunk a chip again!
Checkpoints for Practice