Many golfers, including myself, can play well enough to record good scores until they get close to the green and everything goes sideways–both figuratively and literally.
Chipping is a maddening part of the game, especially because it seems so simple. Players who master chipping make tremendous leaps in their scores and handicaps. That said, there are tons of conflicting advice about chipping. For example, should I choke down when chipping?
As a general rule, choking down when chipping will give you more control of the speed and force as you strike the ball.
One popular piece of counsel is to choke down, or grasp the club lower toward the bottom of the grip. Is this actually a good practice? I did some research, and this is what I found.
Greg Norman, winner of 20 PGA Tour events, is one of the many proponents of getting the hands closer to the ball when attempting a chip shot.
Should I Choke Down When Chipping?
He cites similar reasons to others on his side of the debate, stating that choking down improves your feel for the shot, and that it cuts down on the swing’s arc and consequently shortens the shot to minimize the margin for error.
The comparison is made between hitting a 7-iron and a driver.
A poorly driven ball can end up slicing dozens of yards away from the target, while a bad shot with the shorter 7-iron won’t produce such a drastic result. Choking down makes the club shorter and more controllable.
There’s also the discussion about accelerating vs. decelerating when chipping the ball. Some coaches teach that decelerating through the swing is the culprit for chunking a chip shot and sending it rocketing through the green.
This is common, as many golfers naturally decelerate around the green because they are trying to hit the ball softer.
Choking down essentially allows a golfer to accelerate through the chip while deadening the result. The combination leads to good contact and soft landings.
What is the Problem Against Choking Down?
Opponents of choking down when chipping point to the fact that shortening the club leads to lower trajectories. They say that lower trajectories are detrimental to chipping since they decrease the chances of the ball landing softly on the target area.
They also claim that faster swings required from using a shortened club lead to more potential problems.
At the end of the day, Norman concedes golfers should do what they feel comfortable with. As with all aspects of golf, the key is figuring out what works and learning how to repeat it consistently.
It also depends on the type of player you are. I am typically an ‘iron player’ so I feel more comfortable with irons than I do my woods. In fact, I don’t carry many woods at all.
But since I am so comfortable with irons, I am very familiar with the basic stroke size I need to get the ball to do what I want.
I know the ball position, foot placement, the type of spin I will get based on the club, etc…
Someone that is a more skilled player than I am has more options. I am just a lowly guy that likes to play and have fun with friends.
How Far Can You Choke Down on a Golf Club?
How far you choke down on the golf club depends on how far away from the hole you are. As mentioned, gripping the club further down reduces distance.
On the closest chips, the golfer can put their hands all the way down to where the end of the grip meets the metal shaft.
When practicing chipping, golfers should move their hands down an inch at a time and see how their shots are affected.
How Else Can I Improve My Chipping grip and stance at Home?
Beyond choking down on the golf club, another common recommendation is narrowing the stance drastically and opening up a bit to not be totally perpendicular to the ball.
When applying these fixes to the grip and stance, some rudimentary drills can be practiced exhaustively at home. As opposed to other golf shots, chipping doesn’t require much space.
In one drill, the golfer can use a sidewalk or driveway that runs between two patches of grass and practice popping the ball up over the paved surface to land gently on the other side.
Then, something such as a table can be placed on the paved surface to encourage lofting the ball higher in the air for softer, more precise landings.
Hula hoops serve as great target areas for chipping drills at home.
By placing a tee in the ground to represent the hole and then a hula hoop several yards short of the tee, a golfer can simulate, focusing on where they want to land the ball to eventually run up toward the hole.
The golfer can count how many of their pitches land in the hula hoop and set goals for consistently precise chips.
Why is Chipping and Chipping Setup So Important Anyway?
Most times of a golfer falling apart, the damage is done right outside of the green. Golfers who struggle to chip often go from one side of the green to the other.
Once they land the golf ball on the green, they often have left themselves with terrible ball position and a long lag putt to even think about two-putting the whole.
Chipping requires finesse that longer shots don’t. It includes rotation of the upper body and ending with you facing your target.
The skill is different and not practiced often enough, so plenty of golfers who are well off the tee and with their long irons struggle to give themselves opportunities for birdies and pars because of their chipping.
Ideally, a golfer can save shots with excellent chipping. While two-putting holes is the standard for playing par golf, a golfer with a great short game can frequently put themselves in a position for just one putt into the hole.
And the better a golfer gets at chipping, the less his or her putting will be exposed.
It’s quite possible that some golfers who think they are scoring poorly because of their putting really aren’t giving themselves excellent opportunities due to what comes before the putting.
Can or Should I Choke Down on Shots that Aren’t Chips to control distance?
Choking down isn’t just valuable advice on chips.
Golfers also choke down on their clubs when they are looking for a little more control and when they want to fight elements like wind and rain.
As mentioned, holding the club lower toward the golf ball creates a flatter shot, which is exactly what is needed to simplify things and fight through poor playing conditions.
Final Thoughts for Chipping and Stroke Position
It’s always best to have a ‘favorite club’ that you can use to chip. For me, it’s the pitching wedge. It has just enough loft to get what I need done as long as I do not have to worry about a sand trap.
It also helps me get consistent contact and consistent shots. Sometimes I would just go to the driving range and chipping green just to practice with just the pitching wedge.
On shorter chips where I do not need the ball to go very airborne, combining that with a shorter swing and letting the ball roll is perfect for placing an accurate shot and getting what I need done for a good putting attempt.