Chipping is an underrated way of warming up—here's why
Of all the things that PGA Tour players do differently than us amateurs, their warmup routines are among the most significant. A one- or two-hour routine of stretching, putting, chipping, bunker shots and working through most clubs in the bag gets tour pros ready for the first tee. Meanwhile, we might stumble to the course 15 minutes before our tee time, swing a couple clubs to get loose and wonder why we need a breakfast ball.
Of course, we’re not all able to get to the course an hour before our tee time for a complete warmup session, but making efficient use of the time we do have is the key to getting off to better starts.
One often-neglected part of many pre-round routines is chipping and pitching. That’s what Senior Game Improvement Editor Luke Kerr-Dineen and I talked about on this episode of the Golf IQ podcast, which you can listen to below (and subscribe here).
Why chipping is a great warm up
Hitting chips before a round helps to calibrate your hands and feel. Most importantly, it helps you to dial in the low point of your swing.
Starting out, you might hit some chips fat and thin, or you might take too much of a divot, but if you hit enough, you’ll start to get the feel of crisp contact. You’ll get a sense of how the club is interacting with the ground.
The best part about warming up by chipping is that anyone can achieve this feeling of crisp contact, given it’s such a short swing. If mid- or high-handicaps only hit full shots to warm up, they might not hit any of them flush, and instead they’ll be left with a feeling of fat, thin or off-center contact.
Even Luke, a scratch handicap, says that if he had the option of taking five full swings on the range or five chips before a round, he would choose the chips. Some people hit balls before the round to loosen their muscles, but stretching can do a better job of that. You’ll often hear PGA Tour pros say that much of their warmup is done in the fitness trailers, where they’re stretching out and loosening up.
How to warm up by chipping
Remember, when you’re warming up by chipping, you’re focusing on getting calibrated and finding clean, center-face contact. The best way to do that is to hit plenty of different shots and learn to make adjustments with each.
Find a spot on the chipping green or range and hit a standard chip, and then play the ball back in your stance and hit a lower shot, followed by an open-face high shot. The key is to never hit the same shot twice in a row. Repeat this to different pins. Mixing it up helps your hands, arms and body learn how they need to move to find clean contact.
It’s OK if you’re mis-hitting some of these shots. Learning to make tiny adjustments to find solid contact will help you translate those moves to the course when you’re hitting full shots. You’ll also learn which shot is working best for you on that day, and you can opt for that one on the course.
Another important benefit of chipping to warm up is that you get a sense of how the rough is playing on that day. Be sure to hit plenty of chips from a variety of lies in the rough and pay attention to how the club is moving through and how the ball is coming out.
Is the club getting stuck in the grass? Is the moisture on the grass causing the ball to come out fast? When you make those adjustments on the chipping green, you’ll not only improve your on-course chipping, but you’ll have a sense of how the ball will come out of the rough on full shots.
So next time you have a few minutes before your tee time, take out your wedge and hit a few different shots. Even if you’re planning a longer warm-up session, start by hitting some chips before you move to full shots. Once you get a feel of crisp contact, then you’re ready to move onto the longer stuff.
Once again, you can listen to Luke and me chat about the benefits of adding chipping to your pre-round warmup routine on this episode of the Golf IQ podcast below, or right here.