[Comment added January 2018.]
No one hits every green. Getting your ball one-putt close from just off the green is not that hard to do if you know how. Here are ten rules that will help you get your ball tight to the hole and prevent a missed green from costing you an extra shot.
1. Read the green. The ball will roll for a considerable ways across the green, and behave just as if you had hit an approach putt. Plan a chip with all the care you give to a putt, because the objectives of each shot are the same–leaving the ball close or even sinking it.
2. Chip with the least-lofted club you can. Your bread-and-butter club would be something like a 6-iron. Use more lofted clubs only under special circumstances. Chipping with a lob wedge is a professional technique.
[I have changed my mind on this. See My Chipping Formula.]
3. Relax your mind. This is a simple shot. You are trying to save yourself a stroke, but don’t get so careful that you get too delicate and muff the shot.
4. Do not break your left wrist at any time. Maintain the angle you have in it at address at all times during the shot, especially during the follow-through. This leads to consistent contact and predictable distance control. A breaking left wrist is the leading cause of poor chipping by recreational golfers.
5. Hit the ball with a descending strike. The bane of golfers everywhere, from beginner to winner, is hitting the ground behind the ball on one of these simple shots. When the club comes into the ball from above, you ensure that clean, ball first-ground second contact.
[I have changed my mind on this, too. See Stop Chunking Chip Shots.]
6. Keep a light grip pressure. You want no hit in the stroke. It is hard to have a hit when you are holding the club very lightly.
7. Hit the ball off the toe of the club. This deadens the strike, leading to minimum backspin and pure roll. When the ball is hit on the sweet spot of the clubface, it can come off hot and roll too far.
[Please ignore that.]
8. Keep the club low to the ground in the follow-through. A chip is a running shot. Keeping the club low after it is struck is a sign of a stroke that drove the ball forward, rather than lifted it up.
9. Land the ball on the green. Regardless of how far away from the green the ball is, its first bounce must be on the green so it can start rolling. A ball that lands short can get grabbed by high grass or soft ground and stop dead, or take an odd bounce.
10. Practice from every kind of lie, from and into every kind of slope, and to every combination of ball-to-green-to-pin distances. You will never hit the same chip twice on a golf course. The more scenarios you practice, the more you will be able to handle the real scenarios the course hands you.
If there is one shot to get real good at, this is it. Being able to get up and down from anywhere builds confidence into every other part of your game, because you know you can erase your mistakes. It drives your opponents nuts, too, because a good chipper is never out of the hole.
My new book, The Golfing Self, is now available at www.therecreationalgolfer.com. It will change everything about the way you play.