Watching professional golfers hit chip shots is a great thing. It always seems like they have the perfect distance control. This leads to more up and downs, fewer bogeys, and hence, the reason they are on TV.
If you could have better distance control when chipping, you would see better results on the course as well. In order to get there let’s take a look at what determines how far your chip shots travel and how you can improve it.
What Determines Distance? Solidness of Contact
If you hit one shot solid, one shot fat, and one shot thin, all three shots are going travel different distances. How solid the contact you make is the biggest factor in distance control for chip shots.
What Determines Distance? How Much Loft is Used
This actually is more complex than it sounds. It should be obvious that using a club with more loft will produce a higher shot that will travel less distance than a club with less loft. The thing that is less obvious is that a lot of players lean the club forward or close the face which takes loft off of the club. This makes the golf ball travel further.
What Determines Distance? Speed of the Swing
Simple physics say that the faster the club moves the further the ball will go. It’s very common to see swings that are way too big or small when hitting chip shots.
Now we know what determines distance, let’s improve it.
Controlling Your Distance: Making Solid Contact
The biggest key to making solid contact is to get the clubhead to hit the ground in the same place each time without digging. It sounds complex but it’s really not that difficult. If the clubhead contacts the ground and you position the ball correctly you’ll hit a solid chip shot. To improve on this focus on setting your hands a few inches ahead of the ball at setup, making a swing with a slight wrist hinge, and feeling your mid-section rotate towards the target. Take 20 practice swings with this feeling and feel the clubhead “thump” the ground each time. After the practice swings add in a golf ball and you’ll see more solid contact.
Controlling Your Distance: Using Consistent Loft
The first part of using consistent loft is using clubs around the greens that you have practiced with and know how far they go. To make this easier reduce the number of clubs you use around the green. Sticking to the sand wedge, pitching wedge, and 8 iron makes your decisions much easier. The second part of consistent loft is not leaning the shaft of the club too far forward. A lot of golfers want to do this and end up hitting down too much. This takes the loft off the club and can also lead to the clubhead digging into the ground. Set your hands just a few inches ahead of the golf ball and distance control will be more consistent.
Controlling Your Distance: Having Consistent Swing Speed
The key to having consistent speed on your chip shot swings is to swing with balance and good tempo. This means that the backswing and the follow through should be similar sized. A lot of players make big backswing with very short follow through or vice-versa. This makes distance control difficult. Make 20-30 practice swings and focus on having both sides of the swing be the same size. The swing should also have good tempo and smooth movement. There should be no jagged or quick movements. Once you get the feel with the practice swings add a ball and maintain that good balance and tempo. Spend some time working on these three areas and your distance control will be much more consistent.