I have tried every formulaic chipping system you can think of, all the ones in the books and YouTube videos, and none of them worked. Chipping by feel didn’t work so hot, either.
But this year, I finally figured it out. It is incredibly easy, and I’m going to tell you how to do it.
First get a lesson on how to chip. You might think you know how to hit this stroke, but you really don’t. You’re doing something you made up and that’s not good enough. Learn from a pro how to do it the right way.
I had a lesson, and at the start, I told the pro that I wanted to run the ball to the hole instead of fly it, and he said that’s the best way to chip. Then I told him I wanted to learn the shot from scratch — not refining what I know, but learning it from the start.
He didn’t quite get it at first, because when I dropped a ball and picked a target, he said, “OK, what club would you use?” I said, “I don’t know. Put one in my hand.” Now he understood and I had a tremendous half-hour lesson, with six parts of a sure-fire chipping stroke to work on.
I went home and practiced in my back yard, hitting that shot every day until those six parts had fused into one movement that I could repeat like it was second nature. That took about two months.
Then I went to the practice green with my 8-iron through lob wedge (six clubs total) and hit chips with each club using an identical stroke. That’s the key — the stroke is identical with each club.
I hit ten chips with each club and walked off the distance that the good hits centered around. What I came up with is a list of six distances that I can chip to using the same stroke. I wrote those distances on a 4×6 card and put it in my golf bag.
Now, when I have a greenside chip, I walk it off and pick the club according to the chart. I just have to do one thing the same way every time and the club does the rest.
These are my distances:
8-iron 36 yards
9-iron 32 yards
PW 26 yards
GW 22 yards
SW 17 yards
LW 13 yards
If the distance is in between two clubs, I pick the shorter club and hit the ball a bit harder. For example, I would hit a 20-yard chip with my sand wedge.
This system works like a charm. The only thing you have to do is practice your chipping stroke at least three times a week to make sure you maintain it at a particular standard. You can do that in your house off the carpet. Once a year you should go through the calibration procedure to make sure you haven’t made a subtle change in what you’re doing.
Believe me this works. It takes all the guesswork out of chipping. The key is being able to reproduce the same stroke every time. It took me several months of constant practice to get that down. That’s a lot of effort, but good things don’t come easily.
[October 2018: The club and distance table was calibrate using a stroke that hits somewhat down and through the ball. If you use a sweeping stroke, adjust the chart by substituting in each case two more (less-lofted) clubs. For example, in place of a lob wedge (LW) use a gap wedge (GW).]