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Follow the Two Principles of Chipping

Follow the Two Principles of Chipping
By Dr. T. J. Tomasi. Keiser University College of Golf Senior Faculty and Director of Research

Bad golfers spend most of their practice trying to find the secret to the long game, especially the tee-ball. But think a bit deeper about the problem of high scores, and you may be prompted to modify your approach. The worse you are at hitting the ball, the more you should practice chipping, because you are going to miss a lot of greens.

The good news is that the chip shot doesn’t take a lot of strength, so anyone can excel at it if two basic principles are followed:

  1. Keep your chips rolling on the ground whenever possible, because it’s easier to control a rolling ball vs. one that flies in the air.
  2. Spin on a rolling ball is the enemy of accuracy, so decrease spin by using the least lofted club you can manage.

Principle 1: Air time vs. Roll

When you chip, change clubs the same way you do for a full swing. Here’s the rule: the lower the loft, the more run time; the higher the loft, the more air time. Pick a spot about 3 feet onto the green (one pace) where you want the ball to land. With practice, you’ll be able to eyeball the distance from that spot to the hole and select the right club for the job.

The principle breaks out like this: A 5-iron chip has a flight to roll ratio of 1 to 7; i.e., for every part of the journey that the ball is in the air there are seven parts of roll on the ground. If your ball lies 3 feet off the green and the flag is 45 feet from the edge, you are 6 feet from your landing area (3 feet plus 3 feet), and the flag is 42 feet from the landing area (45 feet minus 3 feet). That is a 6/42 ratio or one-part flight, seven parts roll, and given the loft of a 5-iron, it’s the perfect club.

If I had selected a pitching wedge (the club many amateurs use to chip no matter the distance), I would have to land the ball much closer to the hole, because the loft on the face of the pitching wedge dictates a 1 to 2 flight to roll ratio, and that amount of air time is tough to judge. In this case, a 5-iron is a better choice than the pitching wedge, because it’s easier to judge the correct distance rolling the ball along the ground versus flying it in the air.

Principle 2: Spin is the Enemy of Roll

Principle #2 states that unwanted spin is the enemy of accuracy. This is another reason to choose the least lofted club for the job at hand; i.e., less unwanted spin. Using too much loft would force you to make a much higher swing with an open face capable of imparting side/back spin to the ball. And whenever you introduce spin, you can’t be sure if the ball is going to run, check then slow down or skid to a dead stop.  

While you don’t need to do mathematical calculations for every chip, it’s a good idea to understand the concept of flight-to-roll ratio:  Land the ball about three feet on the green and let it run the rest of the way to the hole. As the amount of roll to the hole increases, the loft of your “chipper” decreases.

I’m using a 7-iron to give me the perfect flight-to-roll ratio. Use a scorecard or some other marker and place it ~3 feet onto the green then use different clubs [5 through sandwedge] noting how far each one runs after it lands near the marker.

Another advantage of flight-to-roll is that you use essentially the same amount of force for every chip because you control distance by changing clubs.

If you’d like to study with Dr. Tomasi and other PGA Master Professionals, contact The College of Golf today.

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