Life Beyond The Basic Chip Shot
By Erika Larkin on 11/27/13
I have taught a lot of mid to high handicappers that can hit a good basic chip shot (a.k.a. "the bump and run"). However, there are so many situations that just don't fit a cookie-cutter chip shot (i.e. thicker rough, a downhill lie, an elevated green, fast conditions or a short-sided pin). Usually the student doesn't know what to do and just hits what they know hoping they can keep it on the green. OR they get brave and try the only other stock shot they know, the high flop, which doesn't necessarily fit the situation either and is hard to execute even for a better player.

Clearly, there is a lot of gray area in between a basic chip and a high pitch/lob shot that most golfers have no idea how to navigate. However, I believe this gray area is what separates the high/mid handicappers from their more skilled counterparts. If this sounds like you, it's time to expand your arsenal by adding some more variations on the basics. Understand that the following options I describe are negotiable and you can create your own recipe for shots based on what and how much of each you use. That might sound overwhelming, or it might sound wonderful, refreshing and relieving that there is life beyond the basic chip shot (I hope the latter).

  • Ball position: A basic chip shot is usually taught with a back ball position. This helps keep the trajectory of the shot low and increase the amount of roll out for a simple, safe play around the green. Don't be afraid to try a middle or even slightly forward ball position to reduce roll and soften the landing which works good for the shorter, slippery shots you need to hit.

  • Club Selection: More loft= less roll, less loft= more roll. Don't get stuck using your PW for every shot. Nothing says you can't chip with a lob wedge or a 6-iron. Have fun experimenting with this by keeping your swing size the same and changing clubs to see what different options and carry:roll ratios you can use without getting fancy on technique.

  • Body Lean: Lean to the green is my motto when teaching chipping basics ... how much lean depends on what you are trying to do. Our body lean directly impacts shaft lean and therefore club loft. More lean= more roll, less lean (centered weight) = average roll.

  • Clubface position: It doesn't have to be all or nothing (meaning square or dramatically open). You can open your clubface just slightly and it will soften the result quite a lot and give you a little more trajectory to carry a patch or rough or manage a firm green. Just remember that if you open your face, you better open your body line to the target accordingly.

  • Wrist Hinge: Again, it doesn't have to be all or nothing. This is where feel comes in and also managing your lie. If the ball is sitting down in the rough, a little wrist hinge on the backswing will help add steepness to get it out. A lot of hinge is great for a flop shot or hitting out of a divot but unnecessary most other times.
If you experiment and branch out beyond the basics you will reap the benefits of a more sophisticated short game that can fit many more situations you will surely encounter during a round of golf!

Erika Larkin is the Director of Instruction at Larkin Golf Learning Community, at Stonewall Golf Club in Gainesville, Virginia. She was named the 2012 Middle Atlantic PGA "Teacher of the Year" and the 2011 "Top Golf Pro" by Washingtonian Magazine — and she's SkyGolf's newest columnist! She writes on a variety of topics including instruction, so if you have a question for her or an idea for a column, e-mail her at Enjoy!

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