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Who doesn’t love the sight of a chip shot tracking to the hole, rattling the pin and dropping? There’s no reason why you can’t enjoy that more. First, you need to work on your technique: Position the ball off your back ankle, lean slightly forward to ensure a descending blow, and accelerate smoothly through impact. Acceleration is the key, but it must be gradual and not abrupt. Think to achieve a more gradual acceleration, with the follow-through about 20 percent longer than your backswing. Remember, in chipping you should always pair a short backswing with a longer follow-through—never a long backswing to a shorter follow-through.
Once you’re making solid contact, your results will depend on how well you read the green and impart the correct speed to your shots. These two skills come rapidly with practice, and it’s worth the effort.
The chipping math
To illustrate this point, I rolled 24 chip shots into a 30-inch radius circle and holed one ball [Photo 1], I then rolled 24 shots twice as close (into a 15-inch-radius circle), and made four of them. I improved my radius by a factor of 2, but holed 4 times as many chips [Photo 2]. In the smallest pattern, all 24 shots rolled into a radius that was 3 times as small (a 10-inch circle), and 9 times as many chip shots fell. into the hole [Photo 3].
These patterns illustrate a principle: The probability of you holing chips depends not on the pattern of your miss distance. This means whatever the radius of your chipping pattern is now, if you improve it by a factor of 2, you’ll hole 4 times more chips. Improve by a factor of 3 and make 9 times more. This goes on as long as you keep improving the radius of your chipping pattern.
If you move enough to get your chipping pattern from 20 feet to 2 and a half feet, you will have improved by a factor of 8 and you’ll be chipping like Phil Mickelson, holing 64 times as many chips each year as you do now. Wouldn’t that be fun?
How to reduce your radius
Take two practice swings before every chip, reminding yourself to have a shorter motion going back and a longer follow-through. This is true whether you’re chipping with a 5-iron or a sand wedge.
Identify the lowest point of the green, which is where water drains. If the flag is near this spot, play more break and expect the grain of the grass to affect the roll of the chip more than usual.
The longer the grass that you’re chipping from, the less spin you will have on the shot. So when chipping from even light or moderate rough, expect more roll than from the fairway.