Chipping: Selecting the Right Club at the Right Time

This post is in response to several questions on chipping I received over the past few days. I thought it would be a good idea to share my thoughts on the matter and explain how I approach my short game.

My short game is my bread and butter. I hit the ball straight most of the time and like all other players, I do miss the green 50% of the time on my approach shots. With that being said, over the years, I spent a great deal of time chipping and pitching the ball. As discussed in yesterday’s post, I am always trying to sink each chip, but we all know that this happens infrequently. Therefore, chipping the ball as close to the hole as possible is next in line of my short game expectations.

Choosing the correct club has many variables. Unlike some players who use the same club for ever shot and adjust their swing accordingly, my club selection changes depending on the situation. It is virtually impossible to provide an exact situation on when to use what club, however, I do have three standard shots I rely upon when making most of my chip shots. I thought I would describe those shots and what situation they have proven most valuable to my short game.

7-iron – I use my 7-iron for a bump and run shot. Some ‘experts’ contend that the 8-iron is the correct club and when first starting to use the bump and run shot, I would agree with this recommendation. However, after years of practice, I find that the 7-iron is the club for me. The intent is to start my ball rolling on the green as quickly as possible. I try to drive the ball along the ground with no more than 3 feet of air time. As a result, the following conditions would drive my decision to use my 7-iron for a bump and run:

  • More green than fairway to play through;
  • The ball is in the fairway, fringe or first cut; never use this shot out of the long grass;
  • I use my putting stroke with my 7-iron; I set up my stroke exactly like a putt;
  • I play the ball back in my stance – just behind center;
  • I use the back 6 forward 12 technique to ensure that I make solid contact; and
  • I watch the ball come to a complete stop to get a sense of the break around the hole.

52º gap wedge – I use the club for a pitch shot. The intent is to provide more airtime to fly over potential hazards or grass. Here is where I use my gap wedge for chipping:

  • An equal amount or more grass to green;
  • Played from any location around the green (long or short grass);
  • I am general between 3-15 yards of the green;
  • I play the ball at the back of my stance to drive the ball, front of my stance for loft;
  • My hands lead contact with the ball;
  • I use little or no wrists break during the swing;
  • I always choose a landing area and aim for it;
  • I follow through to at least my knees; and
  • I watch the ball come to a complete stop to get a sense of the break around the hole.

56º sand wedge – My new sand wedge is a very important club. I use it when I want to make a delicate shot, yet still have some distance to cover. The purpose is to hit the ball a bit higher and have it land softly at a distance.

  • There is less green than grass;
  • Played from any location around the green (long, short grass and sand);
  • I am general between 3-25 yards of the green;
  • I play the ball at the back of my stance to drive the ball, front of my stance for loft;
  • My hands lead contact with the ball;
  • I use little wrists break during the swing;
  • I always choose a landing area and aim for it;
  • I follow through to at least my knees; and
  • I watch the ball come to a complete stop in order to get a sense of the break around the hole.

As you can see, many of the conditions are the same between the 52 and 56 wedges. My shot making does not change, just the loft of the club. I have found through the years that my swing should rarely change while chipping. This tenant creates consistency and effectiveness in my short game. The guidelines above are not set in stone, but provide the 80% solution to my short game success.

Selecting the correct wedge is important to low golf scores. My short game approach pays off repeatedly and as I play and practice, I refine my guidelines to ensure my short game stays sharp.

Do you switch clubs during your short game?

I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!

6 thoughts on “Chipping: Selecting the Right Club at the Right Time

  1. Jim, usually I will alternate between SW, PW, and 8-iron. I am a recovering chip yipper and it seems the mov away from using newer 54 and 58 degree wedges back to a 56 has helped. I think my brain was getting cluttered with shot options that I didn’t practice enough with or have confidence in. I’d no longer call my chipping a weakness but it’s not a strength either. Will keep working it. Thanks for the detailed tutorial!

    Brian

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jim, interesting discussion on chipping. You also mentioned a bit about pitching and I think most amateur golfers do not understand the difference between the two shots. I attended a week long golf school and they really emphasized the difference between the two shots (maybe a topic for a future blog). They taught to chip by using the same stroke (like your 7 iron description) and to vary the club depending on the length of the chip (and roll out distance). This approach reinforced a consistent stroke and with practice around the greens on “your” course you learned the various distance for each club. I found this effective and used this approach for a number of years. As time passed I moved away from this approach (I can’t remember why exactly) and for the most part I will use my 52 degree for chipping and my 60 degree for pitching. That said, the “conditions of the shot” dictate my approach and club selection. Whichever approach is used the short game will only become consistent with practice!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Colin

      I agree that there is a difference between a chip and a pitch. Ultimately, knowing how you clubs react during various shots and being able to control them are vital to a strong short game. I work at this often and continue to learn as I go. Thanks to adding to the conversation.

      Cheers
      Jim

      Like

  3. I was not going to post since I just posted about my chipping yesterday. But I just realized that there is video of one of the courses I get to play. It’s drone footage taken in 2014 while we played a best ball tournament. Thought I’d share. The course is across the water from Clearwater Beach and the film is about 7 minutes long. No shots of me, thank god (I’d have hated to have caused damage that drone), and it doesn’t show the elevation changes well (something we don’t have a lot of around here), but it’s a nice view of the course.

    Like

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