Keep Your Head Down to Chip, but Only So Long

Peter Harris

Peter Harris

Keeping your head down may be a good thing during a scary movie to control anxiety during the most frightening scenes. But keeping your head down too long during a chip can lead to frightening golf shots.

A chip shot is a shot played from close to the green, usually a few yards from the putting surface, that results in the ball popping in the air and rolling forward and hopefully close or, possibly, in the hole.

Most of our bad shots when chipping happen for one of two reason. The club either bottoms out behind the ball and digs, causing a fat shot where the ball goes nowhere. Or the club bottoms out behind the ball and bounces into the ball, causing a skulled shot where the ball rolls uncontrollably across the green.

I’m sure your friends have told you to keep your head down during a shot. While losing your posture can be a problem, the advice isn’t the solution to all of those misses.

When chipping, if you keep your head and body still like you would on a putt, you’ll restrict your body from rotating, basically ensuring the club will bottom out behind the ball before impact. A chip needs to be struck with a descending blow and requires some dynamic motion and body turn back and through the ball. Plus, keeping your head down well after a shot is in the air makes you look silly, and who wants that?

To get a feel for a proper chip, turn back and slightly hinge the club up to belt high, then swing through with a gentle pivot so the club travels waist-high on the follow-through. The goal is to swing the club from hip to hip while feeling the connection between the swing length and body rotation through impact.

As your body rotates and hips turn through impact, your eyes should move with the shot as the ball leaves the club face.

By doing so, we can save the head-down stuff for pressure putts and scary movies.

Peter Harris is director of golf at the Fore-U Golf Center in West Lebanon. His column will appear regularly on the VALLEY NEWS recreation page during the playing season.