Improve your chipping consistency with these useful tips and drills

Bubba Watson
USA Today Images
Bubba Watson's ability to drive the ball great distances overshadows his excellent short-game skills.
By Mark Aumann
PGA.com

Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Tuesday, February 03, 2015 | 9:07 a.m.

Bubba Watson is a master of the driver -- he's averaging over 300 yards from the tee this season -- and yet he only reaches 70 percent of his greens in regulation. That's barely inside the top 100 -- but at the same time, he's in the top 10 in strokes gained.

Why? Because Watson's short game is underrated. And improving your short game could save you strokes in the long run.

TOP TIPS: Developing feel in your short game 

That's the opinion of Kathy Gildersleeve-Jensen, 2014 PGA Teacher of the Year and director of teaching and coaching at Indian Canyon Golf Course in Spokane, Wash. Gildersleeve-Jensen specializes in the short game -- she has an e-book called "How to Play Golf ... Inside 50 Yards" on Amazon.com -- and offers this advice.

"It is the one area that we all can improve on, and with practice, become quite good at," Gildersleeve-Jensen said. "Not all of us can hit it far but a good short game is achievable for players of all skill levels and ages."

Gildersleeve-Jensen said there are two key concepts to understand about where your club should be at impact. The secrets to good chipping are correct point of entry and square impact. 

Leading edge of the clubface

"The leading edge should pinch very close between the golf ball and the blades of grass that the ball sits upon. Knowing where your 'point of entry' is is vastly important. The point of entry is a repeated area as to where the club's leading edge touches the grass or lie of the ground.

"Everyone is different, so knowing their own personal point of entry is crucial. Check out where that is, then check out where your body weight is distributed. Most likely your high percentage impact body weight is located near your point of entry.

"If you lean your weight back, your point of entry has a tendency to hit behind the ball (chunky and hard to finish, then we compensate and manipulate which is not consistent). If your weight is leaning more towards the target, then it is easier to pinch the ball and follow through.

"To obtain the leading edge to pinch, there is a slight forward press with the hands at impact. Time and time again, I see a collapse or the hands stop and the clubface keeps going, which allows for chunk shots or shots that quit."

Squareness of clubface at impact

"Squareness of clubface at impact is for direction. It doesn't really matter how you do it, but it needs to be square -- somehow, some way -- when the clubface meets the golf ball. Some players are more technical than others to obtain this objective."

"Here's a pre-shot routine idea. Lean slightly towards your target with your body weight. Start with a slightly forward press of the hands but keep the clubface square to the line of target. This may require a little flex in the wrist area and not so rigid. Understanding where your point of entry to the golf ball is and the ground will determine your own personal ball placement at address."

IMPROVE YOUR GAME: Find a PGA Professional near you

Gildersleeve-Jensen offers two drills to help you practice your chipping skills -- and lower your score. You don't even have to be on the range to work on these.

1. Without a golf club, take a few balls in your hand and physically toss them close to your target. How far of a backswing did you take? How far of a follow through did you make? How long did you hold your finish? Where was your weight when you finished the toss, and were you balanced at the end?

Did you notice the exact moment when you actually let go of the ball or was your attention on the target? Self-analysis creates awareness. It also helps maintain a more natural motion than a robotic one. You'll find that the backswing tends to be shorter than the follow through.

2. Turn the golf club upside down in your hands and hold onto the shaft near the club head end. Now, point the grip end at an area where you want the ball to land and release, not at the target. Having an awareness of an exact aiming point makes the finish more important than the actual hit.