Basics of chipping

by Scott Sackett, golf instructor

A chip is a low rolling shot used when the lie is good and you are close to the green. Similar to the putting stroke, the chip shot is executed with the arms and shoulders and requires quiet wrists. The chip shot is also a stroke rather than a swing. If you can learn to putt well, you can also learn to chip well.

Most good chippers maintain the same technique with each chip and simply change the club to adapt to the situation that they are facing. If you are someone who presently chips with only one club, you are likely an inconsistent chipper. This is simply due to the fact that each chipping situation is unique and, as such, requires you to use a variety of clubs if you wish to become a consistent chipper of the ball.

When chipping, remember: minimum air, maximum roll. Learn to chip the ball to a spot approximately three feet (one pace) onto the green, regardless of your distance from the green or pin.

Characteristics of chipping

grip down on the club*
firm grip pressure (1-10), around 5 or so
open stance slightly (feet parallel left to 11 o’clock)
use narrow stance
ball position slightly back of center
weight on forward foot 70/30
place hands forward of the ball
shaft upright, heel off the ground
eyes over or inside the ball just like putting
descending blow, maintain triangle in arms

* putting grip optional

Some final thoughts on chipping
There is no quick way to becoming a proficient chipper. You must work at it. I would recommend, along with your putting, that you spend at least 50 percent of your practice time working on the different short game shots that you are faced with during a round of golf.

One of the key reasons chipping becomes such an important shot during around of golf is because the average amateur is hitting approximately three to six greens per round, which breaks down to approximately 25 percent of greens in regulation (GIR); conversely, your top 10 tour players are hitting 71 percent of GIR. With that thought in mind it’s not hard to see why this shot is vital to your scoring arsenal.


Basics of bunker play

by Scott Sackett, golf instructor

Most amateurs are deathly afraid of hitting their ball in the sand and are subsequently poor bunker players for one reason: they do not know how they are supposed to play a bunker shot. A tour player would generally prefer to hit their ball from a greenside bunker, (provided their ball is not buried) than from the rough surrounding a green. This is because a tour player understands the function of the sand wedge and, more importantly, how to properly execute a shot from the sand.

To appreciate these changes in the setup, it’s important to understand the geometry of sand play, the first part of which concerns the clubface. On most bunker shots the clubface needs to be open to some degree. Open means that when you are holding the club in your usual grip, the shaft straight beneath your hands, its bottom edge will not be square to the line of your shot. Rather, it will face to the right of your target, the toe of the club having rotated a little clockwise. Opening the clubface increases the effective loft of the sand wedge and allows its sole to slide more easily through the sand under the ball. This is one shot in golf where you don’t contact the ball with the clubface. 

The ball is moved upward and forward by the sand beneath it. The sand wedge is designed differently than any other club in your bag. It is the only iron where the club’s trailing edge (or bounce) enters the playing surface first. The rest of our irons enter the playing surface with the leading edge first. The design of the sand wedge allows the club to slide into the sand without digging straight down into it.

Characteristics of greenside bunker play

Set the clubface open to approximately 1 o’clock.
Grip down on the club.
Take your normal grip.
Lighten your grip pressure.
Position the ball forward in your stance.
Open your stance slightly (feet parallel left to 11 o’clock).
Weight on forward foot 60-40.
Arms light and extended.
Hands in line or slightly behind the ball.
Never look at the ball, but focus a few inches behind the ball.
Swing the club along your stance line.
Distance is controlled by length of the follow through.

Final thoughts on bunker play
Once you have a true understanding of the function of the sand wedge, it’s the first step in becoming more confident. When you hit your ball into the bunker, your primary objective is to get your ball onto the green with the next shot. It is obviously best if you can get the ball close to the flagstick but, under many circumstances, simply getting the ball onto the green is a great shot.  You don’t have any chance of getting up and down from a bunker if you leave your shot in the sand or fire it over the green.

A great thought that will help you become a proficient bunker player is if you can get the sand on the green, then the ball has a pretty good chance to get on the green as well.


Fairway bunkers

by Scott Sackett, golf instructor

One of the most common mistakes with this shot is taking too much sand or, worse than that, not clearing the lip in front of you. Like any other shot in golf, to play this shot successfully there are some things that need to take place at address.

Always take one extra club (ie.: a 5-iron vs. a 6-iron). Make sure that the club you’ve chosen will clear the lip of the bunker.
Spread your feet slightly wider to keep the lower body action more quiet.

Choke down on the club to make sure you hit the ball first and not the sand.

Grip pressure slightly more firm at address, around a six or so on a scale of 1-to-10. If you happen to hit slightly behind the ball, the firm grip will keep the club moving through the sand.


Battle with the sand

by Ryan Olroyd, golf professional at Rio Verde Country Club

For a lot of golfers, the greenside bunker shot is one of the most feared shots in golf—and for good reason. There you and your golf ball are looking at a big, deep pit filled with a sandy substance with no help in sight. I’m scared…can somebody help? Here are a few tips to help you to overcome your fear of sand and safely extract your ball from bunkers. Here’s what to do:


Think and act aggressively; the sand can sense a fearful golfer.
Pick the appropriate club—usually the sand wedge.
Dig and twist your feet into the sand with a wider-than-normal stance and at the same time bring your target side foot one-half step back (a.k.a. an open stance).
Look where you want the ball to land and visualize blasting the sand all the way to that landing point.
Adjust your clubface a little open to expose the bottom part of the club (the bounce). The bounce is your partner by helping the club glide through the sand.
Play the ball closer to your target side foot (a.k.a. forward in your stance).
Lean a bit more weight on your target side foot.

Note: The greenside bunker shot should be easy because we don’t have to hit the ball! All we have to do is blast the sand an inch or two behind the golf ball and the sand will carry the ball out onto the green. Okay, now I’m feeling better!


With your eyes focusing an inch or two behind the ball, make an aggressive,confident swing by making sure you get the club up in the air quickly on your backswing and follow through to a full finish, blasting the sand out to your landing point.

Smile! You’ve won The Battle on the Beach!


Draw a line in the sand and practice hitting the sand out onto the green.
Where the sand goes is where your ball goes, so take a nice, aggressive swing to get the sand on the green in front of you.
Don’t lean back, keep your weight on your forward foot throughout the entire swing.
When playing a new course try to find a practice bunker to get a feel for the texture of the sand—it’s probably different from your home club.