Golf's Short Game For Dummies
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In golf, chips are short shots played around the greens with any golf club from a 5-iron to a sand wedge. The basic idea is to get the ball on the green and rolling as soon as you can. If you get the ball running like a putt, you can more easily judge how far it'll go.

Pick your spot

Your first point of reference is the spot where you want the ball to land. If at all possible, you want that spot to be on the putting surface. The turf there is generally flatter and better prepared, which makes the all-important first bounce more predictable. You want to avoid landing chips on rough, uneven, or sloping ground.

Visualization is a big part of chipping. Try to see the shot in your mind’s eye before you hit the ball. Then, be as exact as you can with your target. You can’t be too precise.


Choose the right golf club

Your choice of club depends on the amount of room you have between your landing point and the hole. If you only have 15 feet, you need a more lofted club (one with a face that's severely angled back from vertical), such as a sand wedge, so that the ball doesn’t run too far. If that gap is bigger — say, 60 feet — then a straighter-faced club, such as a 7-iron, is more practical.

Lies and instinct

When the ball is in longer grass, you need to use a more lofted club and make a longer swing, no matter where the hole is. (Remember: Longer grass means a longer swing.) You need to get the ball high enough to escape the longer rough. If the ball is lying “down” in a depression and you can’t get the ball out with the straight-faced club, which the situation normally calls for, you have to go to more loft and move the ball back a little in your stance — closer to your right foot — to make the shot work.

Practice, and only practice, makes you better. Try all sorts of clubs for these shots. Sooner or later, you’ll develop a feel for the short game. I stress that you should use as many clubs as possible when practicing. Using different clubs helps you work on the technique and not just a particular shot.

Now hit that chip

The key to chipping is the setup. Creating the right positions at address is essential:
  • You want your stance to be narrow, about 12 inches from heel to heel, and open — pull your left foot back from the target line.

  • Your shoulders should be open to the target, as well.

  • Place about 80 percent of your weight on your left side.

  • Move your hands ahead of the ball to encourage the downward strike that you need to make solid contact with the ball.

  • Place the ball on a line about 2 inches to the left of your right big toe.

During your stroke, focus on the back of your left wrist. Your left wrist must stay flat and firm, as in putting. To keep your wrist flat, tape a pen to the back of that wrist (slipping the pen under your watchband works almost as well). You’ll feel any breakdowns right away.


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