All too often amateurs have one basic chipping stroke, and they use it no matter the lie. I’m all for keeping it simple on standard chips, but you have to adapt to different lies. When you try to force a technique, you get in trouble.
Let’s look at two common chipping scenarios: the perched lie and the buried lie. When the ball is sitting on top of the grass, it’s easy to slide the clubhead under it and flub the shot. That happens because when you shift forward on the downswing, it drives the clubhead downward. You catch the ball on the top of the clubface.
To handle the perched lie, set up in a narrow stance, legs tall, and play the ball back. Make a sweeping motion with the clubhead, like a long putt, turning your upper body back and through while keeping your wrists firm [above]. Your lower body should stay quiet on the downswing – remember, driving your knees forward gives you too much dig.
When the ball is buried, you need that digging action to spring the ball from the thick grass. Take a little wider stance, and play the ball in the middle. On the backswing, hinge your wrists abruptly to set up a steeper angle into the ball [above]. That will allow you to catch it as cleanly as you can – not an issue with the perched lie. Coming down, shift your knees forward, which increases the downward angle on the strike. Extend your arms down and through, and don’t worry about making much of a follow-through.
Two very different lies, two very different chipping techniques. You’ll find them easy to use.
Butch Harmon is based at Rio Secco Golf Club in Nevada and spoke with Peter Morrice.