How to Judge a Backswing to Chip

By M.L. Rose
Ernie Els chips onto the green at the 2011 South African Open.
Ernie Els chips onto the green at the 2011 South African Open.

A chip shot, also known as a “chip and run,” is “a low-running shot played around the greens where the ball spends more time on the ground than in the air,” as defined by the’s golf glossary. This is in contrast to a pitch, or pitch-and-run, in which the ball remains in the air longer and lands nearer to the pin. A key problem that casual players often have with the chip shot -- according to many professionals and golf instructors -- is taking a backswing that’s too long.

Visualize the spot on the green where the ball must land to roll close to the pin. If you’re just playing a casual round, PGA Tour pro Justin Rose recommends tossing a ball underhand, hitting your spot and seeing how close the ball comes to the pin. Then you may adjust your intended landing spot, if necessary (don’t try this during a competitive round).

Set up with the ball in the middle of your stance, says former Masters champion Vijay Singh. Swing with your hands and arms, with little wrist movement, and keep your hands ahead of the club face.

Remember that the length of your backswing is the key to the distance you’ll achieve with your chip, according to the BBC Sport website. There’s no one-size-fits-all backswing length for your chips. Using Rose’s method, visualize the target area and take a sufficient backswing to hit that spot. Using similar logic, BBC Sport says your backswing should equal the follow-through you think is necessary to roll the ball underhand to the pin. “Golf Digest” writers Jim Goergen and Mike Stachura suggest that you take several practice swings while visualizing the target to get a feel for how far back you need to swing, and “then match that length of swing with your actual shot.”

Follow through. Former U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk says your follow-through on a chip shot should be “at least as long as the backswing.”

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