Golf Chipping Tip: Tom Watson’s 1 Essential Pre-Shot Chipping Routine Hack

By | March 27, 2021

Symptom:  When chipping from a bad lie, your pre-shot chipping routine is little more than hit-and-hope.

Sadly, your chip shots sometimes go two feet instead of the thirty feet you had planned.  Often the ball nestles down in the grass a few feet away, to make for an even more difficult chip for your next shot.  Expletives are uttered or at least imagined.

Description:  Your pre-shot chipping routine starts with observation. Study your lie for a few seconds.  Then find some nearby grass and a stance that closely resembles your lie.  This will be the site of your rehearsal chips.

Now, take enough practice swings through the grass to get a feel for your chip.  Then, and only then, do you return to your ball, pick a spot to land your ball, and execute your chip.

Why it Works:  Chipping, more than any other shot in golf, depends upon the details of your lie. Any extra piece of grass can catch your club, take spin off the ball, decelerate your clubhead, or do other unexpected and unwanted things.

This is because chips are such short shots, and so you don’t hit the ball with much clubhead speed to overcome these details.  And, since you are surely a purist who always plays the ball where it lies, you need to do something different on each and every chip shot.

Chipping is an art, that is why touch and feel in chipping are so important for this phase of the game.  The pre-shot chipping routine rehearsal chip helps you get the necessary feel for success on each and every chip shot.

Your Pre-Shot Chipping Routine Demands a Thoughtful Rehearsal Chip

Tom Watson Chip in 17 Pebble Beach pre-shot chipping Duplicate Lie for Rehearsal Chips

Tom Watson at Pebble Beach in 1982.

The good news is that you can almost always do your pre-shot chipping routine in grass that closely resembles your lie.

Please note that sometimes, the best duplicate lie might be several paces away from your ball.  This is especially so if you are in an unusual (and unfortunate) situation, such as a severe upslope or downslope, your feet far above or below the ball, etc.

Don’t let that deter you — walking several yards from your ball to find the right duplicate lie is a very good investment of your time.  You need to get a feel for how much the grass is catching the clubface, how much you need to hit down on the ball, how to best distribute your weight if you are on a hill, and so on for a solid pre-shot chipping routine.

For a great illustration of this tip, watch Tom Watson’s famous chip-in at the 71st hole of the 1982 US Open at Pebble Beach.  See how his pre-shot chipping routine involved several rehearsal chips (0:20) right next to his ball, to mimic his actual lie?

Obviously, Watson’s pre-shot chipping routine was excellent, and his result was excellent (good thing it hit the pin!), and sealed his victory over Nicklaus — have a look:

Avoid the Embarrassing Chili Dip by Keeping Your Hands Ahead

If your lie is anything but perfect, please remember to keep your hands ahead of the ball through impact to ensure that your clubface delivers a descending blow to the golf ball.  Tom did this and it worked for him!

Keeping your hands ahead of the ball is good advice for everyone, especially occasional golfers.  It just takes the really bad and embarrassing chip out of play, most of the time.

Remember, your pre-shot chipping routine should involve finding a duplicate of your lie for rehearsal chips on the course.  I guarantee your chipping and scores improve!

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