Chipping Fundamentals to Help You Avoid Chunks and Skulls

01
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Trying to 'Scoop' a Chip Shot Can Cause Fat or Thin Shots

correct and incorrect chipping setup positions
CORRECT chip shot set-up position on left; INCORRECT chipping set-up on right. Karen Palacios-Jansen

The task of chipping may not seem like a highly athletic or difficult activity, but even chipping - like all other golf shots - requires hand/eye coordination and body control.

A chip shot involves precision to control the correct yardage and distance to leave the shortest possible putt. Because this shot involves a relatively short swing, there is little time for compensations.

Where a lot of high-handicappers go wrong on chip shots is in trying to hit the ball using only their hands - a kind of scooping action. This scooping action not only causes skulled shots but fat shots and chunked shots as well.

In an attempt to get the ball airborne, some golfers may try to lift the ball up or scoop at the moment of impact. Many times this causes the club to decelerate, so the clubhead bottoms out before contacting the ball, and the clubhead passes the hands on the follow-through. Ideally, you want the hands to stay ahead of the clubface at impact and as you follow-through.

02
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Keep Hands Ahead of Clubface at Impact When Chipping

correct and incorrect chipping impact positions
CORRECT chip shot impact position on left; INCORRECT chipping impact on right. Karen Palacios-Jansen

If your clubhead does pass your hands at impact and follow-through on chip shots, you are at risk of the grass stopping the clubhead, producing a chunked (or fat) chip shot. This is especially true if the grass is thick or wet.

Conversely, if there is little to no grass under your golf ball and the ground is hard, then a clubhead that passes in front of the hands before impact will usually bounce off the hard turf and hit the ball on the upswing (a skull or thin shot), sending the ball rolling too far.

The key to avoiding chunks (or skulls) on chip shots is to find a way to keep the clubhead moving through the impact area so that you strike the ball first and take turf after impacting the golf ball. One way to do that is to employ the chipping fundamentals listed on the following page.

03
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Chip-Shot Fundamentals: The Antidote to Mishits

correct and incorrect chip shot follow throughs
CORRECT chip shot follow-through on left; INCORRECT chip shot follow-through on right. Karen Palacios-Jansen

Here are a few fundamentals to help you with your chipping technique. These chip-shot basics can help golfers who are struggling with mis-hits - chunks or skulls, fat or thin shots - when chipping:

  • You can use your putting grip on chip shots (this can help to keep wrists firm).
  • Keep your feet close together in the stance (keeps the body quieter).
  • Your weight should be towards your front leg with a forward press (hands ahead of the ball) in the address position.
  • Ball position is in the center or towards back foot depending on the lie.
  • Use a putting stroke - straight back and through.
  • Keep the length of the stroke the same distance back and through.
  • Try to achieve a slight downward brush on the grass as the ball gets in the way.
  • Hold the finish with your lead arm and wrist straight - don’t let wrists flips.

Another thing that can help you if you are letting the clubface get ahead of your hands while chipping is this practice drill, which teaches you to keep the club moving through impact.

About the Author

Karen Palacios-Jansen is a well-known golf instructor and former LPGA National Teacher of the Year who has published articles in leading golf publications and appeared on the Golf Channel. She also focuses on fitness for golfers. Her website is kpjgolf.com. If you have questions about this article, visit the contact page on kpjgolf.com.