Move the bottom of the swing forward so you can catch the ball slightly on the downswing.
Short pitches and chips should be the easiest shots in the game, but they give a lot of amateurs trouble. Those players struggle because they don't understand the roles of the hands, arms and body.
The most important fundamental on these little shots is moving the bottom of the swing forward so you can catch the ball slightly on the downswing. Most players have been told to keep their bodies dead still, so they lock up and try to lift the ball with their hands. This does the opposite of what they want: It moves the bottom of the swing back, leading to a fat or bladed shot.
Instead, use a firm-wristed swing, and let your body turn and move through the shot, as if you're making a smaller version of your full swing. And focus on the front side of the ball; that will also help you make ball-first contact.
Hank Haney, a Golf Digest Teaching Professional, runs the Hank Haney International Junior Golf Academy in Hilton Head.