Watching the U. S. Open this year, I was reminded that chipping has become a dying art. The heavy rough and bunkers surrounding the greens at Oakmont and other Open courses have put chip shots on the “endangered species” list. The old Scottish bump-and-run pro’s used to be chipping masters, but the young tour pros today are not versatile chippers because of the way courses now are designed, maintained and – all too often set up.
Most amateurs don’t realize the variety of chip shots they can play. Chipping can be fun. No matter your skill level, you can use your imagination in chipping. There are always two or three different shots to choose from. This month I’ll explain a few types of chips, but here are dozens more.
First is what I call the standard chip (illustrated here). It’s the basic shot from which you can begin to experiment. Here’s the setup: weight left, open stance, ball back of center, eyes ahead of the ball. You want to hinge the wrists on the left wrist early, and then strike downward through the ball. Don’t flick your wrists; make sure your left hand and forearm finish in a “straight” position.
If the ball is sitting down in the rough or if you have a tight lie, play the ball farther back in your stance. This helps you hinge your wrist more and strike the ball with a more descending blow for crisper contact.
If the ball is sitting pretty, like an apple on a teacher’s desk, play the opposite type of stroke. Position the ball farther forward in your stance and set up as if it were a putt. You might even want to choke down and hold the club with your putting grip. Balance your weight more evenly at address and contact the ball with a level stroke.
If you have a lot of green to work with and you want to play a running shot, square the clubface, lean left and use more hand action. Feel as if the clubface is pinching down on the back of the ball, and think of your swing as “short-long” – short back-swing, long follow through. By hooding the clubface you actually can hook the chip right to left with this stroke, but it takes a little practice.
The pitch-chip can be played when there’s less green to work with and you want to stop the ball quickly. Open the clubface and use less hand action. Think of the stroke as “all arms.” Make a longer backswing and simply drop the club back on the ball. Feel your right hand working under the left as your arms swing back and through.
I haven’t said anything about club selection because that requires your own appraisal based on the lie and how far you have to carry and run the ball.