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Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Basic Principles of Good Chipping

Nearly three weeks ago I posted the Basic Principles of Good Putting from my book Ruthless Putting. I’ve been saying that I believe the best way to build a low-maintenance swing is to start with a solid putting stroke, then use that as the base for your full swing. And I’ve made some comparisons between the putting stroke and other strokes, like the deadhanded approach shot I covered last week.

Well, I’ve decided that I need to give you a fuller picture of how the putting stroke ‘adapts’ to the demands of longer strokes, so I’m going to do a series of posts over the next few weeks that will show how this adaptation happens. You’ll be able to find all of these posts listed together under the ‘Basic Principles of the Game’ category in the side column.

In this post, I’m going to cover the Basic Principles of Good Chipping. The principles in italics are the ones that have altered slightly as the stroke lengthens and new techniques are employed.
  1. The clubface should remain square to the stroke path; the forearms should NOT rotate during the execution of the stroke.
  2. Unless we have a good reason to do otherwise, the club should be held in a slant-parallel grip where both palms are parallel to each other but the grip is turned slightly strong. This allows us to keep the wrists firm through impact without tensing the hands and forearms.
  3. The club should be held no tighter than necessary, without tension in the arms or shoulders or hands.
  4. The club handle should be held so that the shaft aligns with the forearms. (Some people will grip the handle a bit more in the fingers when they chip, but the grip change in (2) will still keep the forearms pretty much parallel with the shaft.)
  5. The club should never follow an outside-to-inside path (a cut stroke).
  6. The clubhead should travel on a slightly upward path on the backswing and more downward on the downstroke, in order to trap as little grass as possible between the ball and the clubface.
  7. The lower body should not be rigid, neither should it be consciously moved. It should move no more than the natural execution of the stroke requires.
The chip shot doesn’t use the wrists much at all, so the changes from the putting stroke are minor. Most people can go from a good putting stroke to a good chipping stroke with very little difficulty. (And, in case you didn’t know, a ‘stronger’ grip is one that is turned more to the right for a right-hander, or to the left for a left-hander.) If you’re changing much more than Principles 2 and 6, you’re making the shot harder than it needs to be.

One last thing: If you're paying attention, you noticed a slight wording change to Principle 3. The club should be held lightly has become The club should be held no tighter than necessary. This doesn't change the meaning of the principle; it just acknowledges that a shot from the rough requires a firmer grip than one from a closely-mown green. You still want to keep your grip as relaxed as possible, as you’ll hit better shots that way.

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