9 Chipping Drills and Tips For More Up and Downs

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    Maybe you’ve heard this commonly cited statistic from teaching pros – 65% of all shots made during a round of golf will be taken from 100 yards and in. 

    But how many of us tend to think about this and/or reflect it in the way that we practice (assuming we even make time to practice)?  My experience over the years tells me that the majority of “average Joe” golfers out there spend 90% of their practice time blasting drivers and iron shots on the driving range… then walk over to the practice green and spend 5-10 minutes putting and chipping a few before they get bored and head for their cars. 

    Yet we wonder why we are so slow to see improvement in our scores when we’re out on the course?!?

    There is pretty much universal agreement on this – investing time, energy and effort into improving your chipping and putting is THE fastest way to make an immediate positive impact upon your scorecard. 

    So we’ve put together a list of 9 great short game drills and games/contests that you can try out at your home course’s practice green.  Not only will they help you gain short game consistency and confidence, but they’re also fun and mentally stimulating as well.

    And who knows…. you may just decide after giving these a try that it’s cooler (and more fun) to be a “Boss of the Moss” than it is to be a “Ranger Rick”.

    If you are looking for a new wedge to improve your game, be sure to check out our guide to the Best Wedges too.

    Drills To Improve Skill and Develop Greater Touch Around the Green

    Start with these drills to work on developing specific skills around the green.

    “Trail Hand Release” Drill

    Good chipping is all about 2 things – solid contact and keeping the club moving through the shot.  98% of bad chip shots come from something going wrong in one of these two areas.  This drill, which is a “go-to” for famed golf instructor Butch Harmon, is one of the most basic drills out there.  But it works.

    How To Do It

    Grab your normal preferred chipping club (PW, SW, etc), drop a ball in the rough off of the green, and find a particular hole/flag to aim at.  Take your normal setup – stance narrow, ball a little behind center, your weight favoring the front foot, etc.  Then execute a regular chipping stroke, but drop your right hand off the grip of the club right before impact.  Aim for good contact with the ball (sweet spot of the clubface), and concentrate on keeping your left arm swinging through to the target. 

    The genius of this drill is that you pretty much won’t be able to pull it off until your lead hand is in the right position (slightly ahead of the clubhead).  So it helps you there and also trains you to keep that lead arm moving through the shot so that you’re less apt to be a “flipper” with your trail hand. 

    Your first few attempts at this will likely feel awkward and might produce a few ugly “chunks” and bladed shots.  That’s ok.  Just keep at it, and you should soon see improvement, both in your tempo and in the quality of your contact.

    Who This Is For

    Anybody who has got the chip “yips”; someone who struggles with making good, crisp contact, and/or has the bad habit of “flipping” their right hand on chips (because they’re trying to “help” the ball get in the air).

    “Same Landing Spot, Different Clubs” Drill

    There are plenty of golfers out there in the amateur ranks who pretty much have one “go-to” club (usually a sand wedge) that they turn to for ALL of their chip shots around the green, regardless of the type of lie they have, or how much green they have to work with, etc.  While this is understandable, it’s hardly what is recommended by the majority of teaching pros.  So here’s a basic drill that can help you to explore branching out and adding some new short game weapons to your arsenal.

    How To Do It

    Find a spot in the rough off of the green, and drop a number of balls there.  Then place a visual marker (a coin, a tee, etc.) 5-10 paces onto the green.  Your goal is to try to land your shots as close the marker as possible, but to do so with different clubs from your bag, and to pay close attention to how far the ball rolls out with each one.

    Start with your sand wedge, pitching wedge and 8 iron, although there is obviously freedom here.  Obviously the lower the loft of the club, the lower the ball’s trajectory will be, and the more roll you should expect to see. 

    Try uphill shots, sidehill shots – try them all.  And if you’re looking for a challenge – keep at this drill until you can get several sets of balls to finish close together with each club. 

    Who This Is For

    The “one club” chipper who is ready to branch out and gain a greater variety of short game shots. 

    The ultimate aim here – to own a chipping game where (A) You can control how far you chip it with a number of different clubs, and (B) You have a good understanding of your expected roll out with each club. 

    “Eyes Closed” Drill

    When compared to a full swing golf shot from the tee box or the fairway, the chip shot seems like the equivalent of a layup in basketball.  It usually asks for a very short swing, which should be easily repeatable.  So why is it that staring down a chip can so often be so daunting, for both the tour pro and the weekend warrior alike?

    More than likely, it’s because we get overly focused on the result rather than the process (i.e. just focusing on making a good swing).  So I recommend this “eyes closed” drill, which can help is to zero in on the “feel” of a good chip shot, rather than just the outcome.

    How To Do It

    Pretty simple here.  Drop at least a couple of balls just off the green.  Pick a hole/flag for a target.  Grab a wedge and get into your normal set up over the ball (ball a little behind center, hands slightly ahead of the ball, 60% of your weight on the front foot, etc.) and once you’re set to take a swing, close your eyes.  Then just execute a short chipping stroke, focusing on keeping your wrist angle consistent to ensure a downward strike on the ball. 

    Who This Is For

    The golfer who lacks confidence in executing his short game shots, who tends to struggle with hitting good chips when it matters most (i.e. during an actual round); the golfer who struggles with good tempo.

    This one may take a while to get down.  But stick with it.  You’ll quickly learn what a perfect strike feels like.  And you’ll be amazed at how much easier the chip shot feels once you’re attempting it with your eyes wide open once again (Quick note – this drill also works well with your putting game as well!)!   

    Games & Contests To Make You More Clutch

    Drills are great for working on proper fundamentals, technique, etc.  But in order to develop a truly reliable, rock-solid short game, you really need to take it a step further… towards a practice that creates the feel of real life, out-on-the-course situations.   

    We’ve all seen the guy on the practice green who chips ball after ball from the same spot towards the same target until there are approximately 328 balls sprinkled around that hole (okay, so that’s obviously a slight exaggeration… but it can sure feel like it!).  Truth is, while he probably walks away from that little exercise impressed by the number of shots he hit close, he has really not gained a whole lot that’s transferable to the course (I mean, how many times in his whole golf season is he likely to encounter the exact chip shot he just spent ten minutes perfecting??)

    Out on the course, we face all manner of chips shots, and we don’t get 10-20 tries at each one.  We don’t even get two or three.  We get ONE.  And then we get to face the music, regardless of what kind of shot we happened to hit.

    So what if you could generate some short game practice time that actually replicated (or at least comes pretty darn close to replicating) the kind of pressure that you find yourself in mid-round?  We encourage you to keep reading on for SIX different games/contests/challenges that can offer just this sort of training (three which can be played solo, and three which require a partner/opponent).  Make these games a regular part of your practice time, and you may just be surprised at how “clutch” you can become around the green.

    “On Your Own” Challenges

    Most golfers practice alone the majority of the time. But just because you don’t have someone to compete against in your practice sessions doesn’t mean you can’t challenge yourself.

    Try some of these challenges and keep track of your progress over time. Try to beat your best score each time. The pressure of making a score will give you a taste of the pressure you face on the course so you can learn to make the shot without your nerves affecting you.

    Par 18

    How To Do It

    Basically just pick 9 different locations around the putting green, and chip a ball to each location, being sure to putt every ball out.  Each hole is a par 2, so the goal is to finish the 9 holes in 18 shots.

    Who This Is For

    If you are a high handicapper, you will likely find it very difficult to shoot an 18 at first (this is to be expected).  So just have fun with it, working at improving your own personal best score – if you routinely shoot between 23 and 25, aim to get that down to 21 or 22.  Consistent personal progress is the goal here.  And consider upping the ante (and pressure) for yourself by promising a “grand prize” from the clubhouse snack bar (for me, it’s a Snickers bar) if/when you finally pull off that elusive score of 18!

    In addition to truly imitating what we encounter out on the course, Par 18 also gives golfers instant feedback on their short game by pointing out the areas which need improvement most.  For example, Golfer A may find it difficult to get his chips close to the hole, and he’s usually trying to bail himself out in this game by sinking long and difficult putts. 

    Golfer B, on the other hand, may find that he’s regularly chipping the ball within 4-8 feet from the hole, but his shaky short-range putting keeps his score high.  This game gives both of these golfers an idea of where they should put in some extra time. 

    One Shot, Three Clubs

    How To Do It

    Find a target hole for a greenside chip shot and drop 3 balls down.  Then try to get each ball up and down (don’t cheat – putt each one out!), but use a different club for each ball.  For example, execute a high-flying, high-spin shot (LW or SW), a middle approach (PW or 9 iron), and a low runner (7 or 8 iron).  Keep track of how many out of three shots you get up and down, and then move on to a new location and try again (Or crank up the intensity by deciding that you will not move on to a new spot until you successfully get it up and down with all three clubs!)

    Who This Is For

    As we noted above, the golfer who is a “One Club Charlie” around the green may be seriously constraining his/her capacity to improve.  This challenge can get you out of your rut, help you gain more feel with different clubs, and increase your ability to pull off the unfamiliar shot “under the gun.” 

    5 Ball

    How To Do It

    This one’s a very simple way to conclude your practice time – Just drop 5 balls in various locations around the practice green, and then resolve not to leave until you have successfully gotten all five balls up and down.

    Too brutal?  Perhaps.  If you’re a high handicapper (or you’re about to be later for dinner) you can obviously change the name to “3 Ball”…. But the idea is to give yourself a challenge and stay determined.  When you start making more up and downs on the course, we promise you’ll thank us. 

    Who This Is For

    This is great for the player who wants to test their short game with some pressure during a practice session.

    This contest successfully puts your short game under the pressure cooker and reveals how well you can really stand up to it when it matters.

    “Challenge Your Buddy” Games

    When you have someone with you during your practice sessions, it can be really helpful to kick up the pressure by competing against each other.

    9 Hole Match

    How To Do It

    Pretty much exactly what it sounds like – You and a partner trade-off choosing the location for chip shots around the green, and have a mini 9 hole match.  Standard match scoring rules apply (Ex. If you successfully get the ball down in 2 on hole #1, and your partner takes a 3, you win the hole and are now “one-up” in the match.  If you beat him again on the next hole, you are now “two-up”.  Conversely, if he beats you on the 2nd hole, you are back to “all square”).  If you are all tied after 9 holes, continue the match using a “sudden death” playoff until a winner emerges.   

    Who This Is For

    As with all three of these games which involve a partner/opponent, the added tension of direct competition against an opponent will only serve to make your game better.  Additionally, the unique dynamics of the match play format is helpful for learning how to chip either conservatively or aggressively, depending upon the situation.

    Dollar Signs

    How To Do It

    (Note: For this game, you and your partner will both need to have a five $1 bills available) To start the game, both golfers place their five $1 bills on the putting green, until a total of $10 is scattered around the green.  Then find a starting spot off of the green where you will both play from, attempting to execute chip shots that actually land directly on the dollar bills.  Whenever you successfully land a ball on a bill, it’s yours.  Continue playing until all 10 of the dollar bills have been collected, and see who came out on top. 

    Who This Is For

    This is great for you if you need to work on actually being able to hit your intended landing spot. This skill is a game-changer when it comes to chipping and pitching. 

    H-O-R-S-E

    How To Do It

    This one essentially plays just like the classic b-ball contest – Player #1 picks a chip shot and must hit it within a club-length of the hole/flag in order for the shot to be considered “made”.  If he fails to execute a made shot, Player #2 is free to attempt his own shot from wherever he so chooses.

    Whenever either player makes a shot, the other player must try to duplicate the same shot.  If he cannot do so, he is given a letter.  The first person to receive five letters (spelling out H-O-R-S-E) loses the game.

    One additional wrinkle – anytime a chip shot is holed out (regardless of when it happens), his opponent automatically receives a letter. 

    Who This Is For

    This drill is great for players that have the basic skills down and are ready to get creative around the green in a competitive game.

    The extra incentive/reward of a holed-out chip in this game is great for building up the aggressive side of your short game (which could potentially translate to more hole-outs during your actual rounds!).

    Author

    Jason Barbieri

    Jason Barbieri

    Jason Barbieri is an amateur golf enthusiast living in northern Utah. He got hooked on the game in his teen years, and has been an avid student of the game ever since. In addition to golf writing, he also works as an advocate for mentoring youth and young adults.

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