Over time, a simple method for getting the ball from off the green to the flagstick fell out of favor.
I rarely see anyone chip like the late Hall of Fame golfer Paul Runyan. That's a shame because this technique will make you more accurate around the greens with a lot less practice. Once you master the setup and learn to make a rhythmic stroke—like putting—you'll start getting up and down more often. Let me show you how to chip old school. —With Ron Kaspriske
SCENARIO + SELECTION
Although you can use this shot in a lot of spots, it's not all-purpose. Use this technique when you are no more than five yards from the green in the fringe or rough. Because this shot requires a stroke of consistent length and speed, the only thing you need to judge is which club to use to get the ball pin high. Visualize a small spot on the green where you think the ball should land to roll out to the hole. Then read the rest of the distance like a putt.
So which club to use? Take a little time on a practice green with your pitching wedge, 9-iron and 8-iron to see how far the ball carries and rolls using a stroke of the same length and speed. You can experiment with other clubs, too, but I've found sticking to these three brings about the most consistency.
SETUP + STROKE
Start by aiming the clubface at the small target where you want the ball to land. Remember, you have to read the green like a putt. That means if there is a slope, you might be playing the shot away from the cup. Now hold the club with medium grip pressure with its heel just off the ground (above). That's really important to ensuring the club glides along the turf instead of digging into it.
You'll notice the shaft is nearly vertical, with the handle leaning slightly toward the target and your weight favoring the left foot. Your arms should be relaxed, slightly bent and aligned parallel to the target. Ball position normally is just right of center in your stance, although you can alter it slightly as you experiment with how that changes the amount of carry and roll.
The stroke is as simple as it gets. It's like a putting motion—the shoulders and arms do most of the work, and there's no wristy movements. Focus on swinging the club with the same rhythm and force. The handle of the club should be swung no farther than the distance between your thighs. It's a short swing equal in length on the backswing and follow-through.
The stroke should be aggressive or slightly accelerated, and always hold your finish to ensure a steady pace. If you're struggling with that, say any two-word phrase with the first word coming on the backswing and the second word on the follow-through. A suggestion? Tick-Tock. Even better? Great-Chip or Hole-Out. I think you get the idea.
A.J. Avoli is one of Golf Digest's Best Young Teachers. He is director of instruction at the Omni La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, Calif.