How do I play the downhill golf chip shot?
Here are four simple tips on how to play one of golf’s most daunting shots – the downhill chip – with more confidence and less hesitation.
Duffing a chip shot is a fear all golfers have, and when your ball winds up on a downslope – the ground and grass higher behind the ball – the intimidation factor increases.
Here, we’ll take a look at the changes you’ll need to make solid, controlled contact, but note that before the technique comes visualisation. When you can ‘see’ the shot, its execution becomes much easier.
1. Picture a soft, quick-launching shot
This shot is typical of downhill chips in that the green is sloping away from you. With the downhill lie effectively delofting your club, the problem here is obviously sending the ball flying past the hole. The only way to get it close enough to hole the putt is to get the ball
to rise steeply and quickly, so you’ll need to make changes to your set-up and
swing to promote that fast launch.
2. Set up for stability and height
Use your most lofted wedges – 56º or 60º, depending on the severity of the slope. Play the ball in the centre of a stance widened to give you a more stable base on the slope. Stand with your spine at right angles to the gradient; it neutralises the effect of the slope, helping you deliver the club on an effective angle. Feel more weight on your lead side. If you’ve got a fluffy lie, you need to generate lots of speed to get through the grass. If you’re faced with a tighter lie, a lower-lofted wedge will reduce the risk of thinning it.
3. Swing to maintain balance… and loft
Move the club through rotation from your core, while keeping your hands as passive as possible. This action encourages the club to move on a shallow arc through impact, promoting a solid strike while maintaining the loft on the clubface. As you swing through, feel your chest turning to face the target, the clubface facing up to the sky. Don’t be afraid of hitting it hard. If you try to get too cute, the natural reaction is to decelerate into impact, which can severely compromise your strike. Be confident.
4. Identify the shot’s perfect landing spot
As with any greenside shot, the key to success lies in identifying and hitting the ideal landing spot. While there are times you can land the ball on the fringe, it’s safer to carry it to the green where the bounce is more predictable. Look for a flattish, evenly-coloured spot a step or so onto the green, allowing for sideslopes. Chipping is all about confidence, so try to visualise the trajectory of the flight and how the ball is going to release. Block out any negative thoughts. How many times have you duffed it and said, “I knew I’d do that”?