(Improve chipping with just a little practice)
Are you trying to break par for the first time? Or you just wanna beat your buddies?
No matter your skill level or ultimate goal, better chipping is a shortcut to reaching that next milestone.
You can drastically improve chipping with just a little practice, and you don’t even need to be on the golf course! This guide gives you 17 drills guaranteed to lower your scores.
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Those of us who aren’t professional golfers don’t usually have the luxury of spending full days at the practice green, so you’ve got to get your practice in where you can.
Luckily, you don’t even need to go to the golf course to improve your chipping technique!
Practicing for just a few minutes a day at home will reap big rewards when you hit the links.
Scatter a few coins on your carpet with a plastic cup in the middle. Using an old wedge (the coins can scratch the face), use a short chipping stroke to chip the coins into the cup.
Chipping is all about getting a clean strike on the ball so it pops off the clubface onto the green and rolls out to the hole. If you can make good contact with a coin, hitting a golf ball will feel as easy as hitting a beach ball once the season starts.
You’ll also learn to maintain clubhead speed through the hitting zone and where to position the coin/ball to ensure good contact (hint: it’s probably further back in your stance than you realize).
I don’t like taking full swings in my backyard because I always take a divot. But a good chipping stroke should never take a divot, so your yard is safe!
Jam an alignment stick into the ground and, starting from 6 feet away, try to land the ball right next to the stick.
Do this with all your wedges and your 9-iron. Keep your tempo consistent, only varying the length of your backswing to change distance.
Controlling your trajectory is key to controlling roll-out. A classic living room chair has three trajectory zones to aim at — the bottom, the cushion, and the back.
Grab a gap wedge and set up 3-6 feet from the chair. Take a normal chipping stroke and see where it hits the chair. That’s your baseline chipping trajectory.
Move your ball position to hit the different zones and pay close attention to which clubs produce which trajectories. The further back in your stance, the lower the ball will fly. When you move it forward in your stance, you’ll notice it pops up higher. Don’t go too far forward or you’ll risk the round-killing chili dip.
Next time you face a long chip, remember the chipping motion and ball position that hit the bottom portion of the chair and duplicate that to maximize roll-out.
Beware: You’d be surprised how many chips will airmail the chair until you get the hang of it. Put a mattress or pad of some sort behind the chair to make sure you don’t damage the wall.
If you hit ball after ball with poor technique, all you’ll do is produce consistently bad chips.
So when you do finally get to take your practice to the chipping green, make sure you’re using your time effectively to actually improve your game.
Take your time with each shot and hold your finish until the balls stops rolling.
They say that practice makes perfect, but Hall of Fame football coach Vince Lombardi added this important caveat: perfect practice makes perfect.
I see golfers hitting chip after chip without ever watching them roll out; you’re especially tempted to hit another one quickly after you’ve just bladed one over the green. But even a bladed chip can be a learning experience.
Focus on the result of every shot to its completion and your body will learn what produced the good ones and what produced the bad ones. Both lessons are equally important.
Here are drills that’ll get you on the path to up-and-down every time:
Staring a chip down can rouse the nerves of scratch golfers and tour pros, much less weekend warriors.
If you get too focused on the ball, your tempo will rush and you’ll chunk or blade the chip. Since a chipping stroke is short and should be easily repeatable, you should be able to do it with your eyes closed. So give it a try!
Now close your eyes and take a short chipping stroke, keeping your wrist angle consistent to ensure a downward strike on the ball. You’ll quickly learn what a perfect strike feels like.
If you find yourself hitting the ground first, move the ball further back in your stance. You can go several inches past your back foot if need be.
If you get handsy and long with your chipping stroke, you’ll have to have perfect timing and more than a little luck to hit a good one. Around the greens, you want to take luck out of the equation! Simplify your game by using a putting stroke to chip.
Move the ball close to your body and choke down to the bottom of the grip. Place the ball off the big toe of your rear foot and make a putting stroke with your 8 iron.
You can use a more lofted club, but you may find that a wedge pops it up too much and comes up short.
This is a good first technique until you can master the hinge-and-hold chip that Phil, Tiger, and countless other tour pros make look so easy.
Distance control is the most important aspect of chipping. Chipping out of the fairway is hard enough; getting it out of the rough and controlling the distance is even tougher.
This drill is an extension of the backyard landing spot drill mentioned above, but since you’re at a chipping green you can focus on both the landing spot and the resulting roll-out onto the green.
Take 3 balls and place them 1, 3 and 5 feet into the rough. Pick a landing spot in the fringe, 6-12 inches short of the green, and focus on flying each ball to that same spot.
Make sure you watch the balls roll out all the way so you get a sense of how much momentum the fringe will sap versus landing the ball on the green.
For extra difficulty, try this drill on a downhill slope. You’ll have to land the ball in the fringe in order to slow it down so it trickles down to the hole.
Fly it too far and it rockets past the hole, too short and it gets hung up in the rough.
Practicing the hardest shots will calm your nerves when you face them on the course.
Your chipping stroke should be short and smooth, but always aggressive.
Most amateurs I play with who struggle around the greens take big backswings and then decelerate on the way down, scared that the big backswing will send the ball too far.
They’re right: that big backswing will produce a shot that flies much too far. But decelerating is never the answer. You need to shorten your backswing to promote an aggressive stroke.
What if your 56 degree wedge is coming up short with this short backswing? Take more club. Don’t afraid to bump and run it with an 8 iron.
Tom Watson’s favorite chipping drill is a simple one: hit several different wedges and irons to the same landing spot on the green.
This drill is the natural progression from the Backyard Landing Spot and Hit the Fringe work you’ve already put in.
Since you’ve practiced hitting the same landing spot with several different irons, now it’s time to learn how far each one rolls out.
Holding your finish until the ball has completely stopped moving is key to committing the feel of each shot to memory.
Your subconscious mind will absorb the info and you’ll develop an intuitive feel for which club to use in each situation.
You’ll notice that shots hit from the fairway or fringe roll out differently than shots from the rough.
When you hit a crisp chip from the short grass, the grooves of your club will impart backspin on the ball that causes it to “check” or “grab” on the first couple of bounces before releasing.
When you start hitting balls that check on the first two hops and then release to the hole, repeat that stroke! That means you’re hitting the sweet spot and spinning the ball like a pro.
All these drills are helpful, but repetitive practicing gets tiresome.
Inject some excitement into a dull practice session with these mini-games you can play, either with a buddy or alone.
Playing games at the chipping green will help emulate the pressure of on-course golf situations, whether you’re playing a tournament or just need to get up-and-down to break 100.
Anything you can do to re-create that pressure will make you more comfortable next time you face it on the course.
Keep a notebook to track your scores and you’ll have positive proof of progress. This type of feedback is crucial to keep your fire stoked and show you that practice is indeed making perfect.
The goal of every chip is to get it up-and-down with one chip and one putt.
If it goes in, even better! At your chipping green, create 9 “holes” by picking 9 starting locations and a hole to chip to from each one.
Using only one ball (because that’s what you have to do on the course), chip from each spot and putt the ball out until it’s in the hole.
Consider each hole a par 2. Your goal score after nine holes should be 18 – a chip and a putt for each hole.
Keep a log of your scores to watch them drop week after week. You’ll get used to feeling the pressure to score and be able to take that experience to the course.
This game is a great way to finish chipping practice. Even if you can only spend 15 minutes on drills and 15 minutes on Play Par Twos, you’ll see huge improvement over the course of the summer.
So you’ve mastered Play Par Twos and you’re regularly scoring 22 or better each time. That’s great!
Now it’s time to focus on making the chips in 1 instead of 2. Nothing is more backbreaking to a match play opponent or boosting to your psyche than turning a potentially big score into a birdie.
First off, not every chip should be considered “makeable”. If the hole is cut on a steep slope, you should focus on leaving the ball below the hole for an easier uphill putt. Going for it and missing can leave you in 3-putt (or worse) territory. Nobody wants that!
But if you’ve got a good lie and a reasonably flat chip, there’s no reason not to try to make it.
The first step in making the chip is getting the ball to the hole.
Use the aggressive stroke you’ve practiced and pick a landing spot that you know will result in the chip rolling 1-3 feet past the hole.
This drill is a simple, fun way to finish off a practice session. Pick a level chip of 15-30 feet and start chipping. You’re not done practicing until you’ve holed 3 chips.
You can try leaving the pin in or taking it out. That comes down to personal preference, though there’s some evidence that leaving the pin in can increase the ball’s chance of dropping.
However, some golfers prefer seeing the entire hole when chipping, and that mental edge can be worth more than the slight advantage the pin provides.
This game gives you points for getting the ball close to the hole, but costs you if you ram it miles by or leave it way short.
The key to getting up-and-down and saving your par is getting your chip to finish close to the hole. Thanks to high-tech Shotlink data, we know that PGA Tour pros are 95% accurate from 3 feet and in. From 5 feet, their make percentage drops to a still-very-respectable 75%.
But take them out to 7 feet, 10 inches and their make rate is already down to 50%. And from 11 feet out, the best pros make ⅓ of their putts.
If the best players in the world are only making half of their putts from 8 feet out, the average amateur can only hope to make half of that!
So the key to scoring is to get your chips close. Get the chips within a few feet of the hole and watch your scores plummet
To play Circles, pick the hole you’re chipping to and place three tees in a triangle 3 feet from the hole, and three tees in a triangle 6 feet from the hole. Use these tees to visualize two circles around the hole.
Now chip 5 balls to the hole. You get 3 points for a ball inside the 3 foot circle and 1 point inside the 6 foot circle. But if the ball winds up outside of the circles, you lose 3 points. Your goal is to finish with positive points after you’ve chipped all 5 balls.
Once you’re finishing with positive points on a regular basis, your new goal is to score 10 or more points every time. As your scores in Circles rise, you’ll see your scores on the course drop.
I’m sure you’ve played HORSE on a basketball course, but did you know you can do it on the chipping green as well?
I always like to add this variation too: any holed chip automatically assigns a letter to your opponent, whether you’re the first one or second one chipping.
This reflects how much chip-ins benefit you when you’re actually out on the course and adds intrigue if one player is running away with it.
Playing HORSE is a perfect way to tune up your game in anticipation of a match play tournament, because it replicates the head-to-head nature of match play as opposed to the you-against-the-course challenge that stroke play presents.
Tough chip to an elevated green? Ball in a tough lie?
These drills can help you escape from special situations with minimal damage to your scorecard.
Escaping with par from a steep slope or difficult lie can save a round.
But you have to practice these tough situations so you don’t panic when you get to the green and find your ball in a loathsome spot.
Sometimes you just barely miss a green and find your ball on the fringe, but right up against the rough.
It’s very difficult to get a wedge through the rough smoothly and make clean contact in this situation; you usually end up blading or chunking it as the rough grabs the wedge and then lets go awkwardly right at impact.
Other times you’ll find yourself in the first cut of rough, sitting down so far that it’s tough to get an iron on it without a big swing that’ll knock it well past the hole.
Some players suggest intentionally blading the chip with the leading edge of a sand wedge, hitting the middle of the ball and rolling it to the hole. This works, sure, but requires incredible precision and has zero margin for error.
Instead, try pulling out your hybrid or 5wood. Their broad soles will help the club glide through the rough smoothly so you can bump the ball up onto the green softly and watch it trickle out to the hole.
The most famous example of this shot is Justin Rose’s brilliant up-and-down on #18 Sunday at Merion, as he chipped his ball to tap-in range with a metalwood to seal the 2013 US Open victory.
Under incredible pressure, Rose decided not to try to dig the ball out with a wedge because there was zero room for error. Instead, he pulled out a wood and made a simple putting stroke with it.
The ball popped out easily and rolled out to tap-in range, and Rose became a major champion.
Beware: the faces of these clubs are very thin and springy so you won’t need to hit the ball very hard at all. If the ball is going too far for you, combine this with the Bag Backstop drill.
When you’ve missed an elevated or turtleback green and your ball has rolled down into a collection area, you’ve generally got three options:
In my experience, chipping the ball into the hill is the high-percentage play unless you’re playing somewhere like Pinehurst, where the fairways are more like your local muni course’s greens.
If the fairways are perfect, go ahead and putt the ball.
If you practiced chipping into a chair over the winter, you’ll want to use the chip that drove the ball into the bottom third of the chair.
This is typically a pitching wedge or 9-iron, placed so far back in your stance that it’s several inches behind your trailing foot.
You’ll have to have the clubface hooded closed and your hands well ahead of the ball.
Take a short, aggressive stroke and hit the ball hard into the hill so it bounces high and skips up over the hill onto the green.
Keep chipping until you have 5 points or -20 points.
If you get 5 points, you’ve figured it out and only need to revisit this drill every few months to keep it fresh.
If you drop down to -20 points, you’ll want to work on mastering the more basic chips before attempting this technique.
This drill is all about getting the ball onto the green to avoid the big bad double-bogey or worse.
And now we move on to a chapter I hope you never have to use…
The lucky golfers among us will never suffer through a battle with chip yips, but if they can happen to Tiger, they can happen to anyone.
There are two main causes of chip yips: overactive wrists and looking up prior to contact. These drills will help you improve your technique and banish those yips forever.
If you can’t stop chunking your chips, your wrists are probably breaking down before impact.
Your left wrist must maintain its angle through and after impact to make sure you clip the ball off the grass and don’t bury the club in the ground.
Now put your trail hand (right hand for righties) behind your back, and hit the chips with only your lead hand on the club.
You’ll quickly find that the only way to make contact is to keep your wrist angle steady throughout the chip. You’ll also build your forearm strength, which will help with every club in your bag.
If you can’t make good contact with just your lead arm on the club, try this variation on the One-Armed Scissor.
Take a standard chipping stroke but just before impact, drop your trail hand off the club. This drill is favored by legendary golf instructor Butch Harmon, who says the cause of chip yips is “the left arm stops dead just before impact, and the right hand flips.”
Takeaway: You can’t flip your right hand if it’s not on the club!
Your lead hand will be forced to maintain its acceleration and wrist angle as the weight of the clubhead carries your arm to an extended follow-through.
Don’t try to stop the clubhead on the follow-through — let it swing.
Cross-handed putting has gone from an oddity 15 years ago to utterly ubiquitous. I’m a little surprised that the cross-handed grip hasn’t caught on as a chipping technique as well.
Vijay Singh is the biggest name player employing the technique, though several players including Matthew Fitzpatrick practice with the method to keep the trail hand from flipping.
With your leading hand low, it’s nearly impossible for your wrists to break down during the chipping stroke. You may find that the cross-handed drill works so well that you take it out on the course.
Your alignment may feel strange when chipping cross-handed, so lay an iron down on the ground pointing parallel to your intended target line to make sure you’re aiming correctly.
Then just grip the club with your leading hand low, and make your standard short, smooth, aggressive chipping stroke.
Even the best in the world miss the green more than a quarter of the time, but they still manage to shoot incredible scores on their good days and stay around par on their bad days.
This is because they spend huge chunks of time at the short game facility working on their chipping.
But the average amateur spends less than 5% of their practice time hitting chips and putts, missing out on the #1 way to lower your scores dramatically with the least amount of practice.
Pick a few of these drills that address your biggest shortcomings, put just half an hour a week of practice in, and reap the rewards all summer long!