Chipping left hand low. For most golfers, this idea is too extreme to even warrant a single practice session at the range. They dismiss it, long before actually trying it. But you’re not like most golfers. In fact, you’ve probably dabbled with a few cross handed chips, only to discover that it feels sensational. You know it’s wrong, and yet it feels so right. Thankfully, there is a method to the cack-handed madness. In this post, we will take a deeper look at why left hand low chipping works so well, especially for golfers that struggle with the chipping yips.
Table of Contents
The Problem With Regular Handed Chipping
Traditional chipping instruction has made you super steep, and very inconsistent
Most golfers have been indoctrinated into a chipping technique which can only be described as ‘the stab method’. Conventional chipping wisdom suggests that you should:
- Place your hands well ahead of the ball (forward shaft lean)
- Play the ball back in your stance (more forward shaft lean)
- Do whatever it takes to hit the ball before the turf
- Accelerate through the shot (don’t you dare decelerate)
All of these actions make your angle of attack extremely steep and your tempo way too quick. The leading edge of your wedge turns into a knife that will dig straight into the ground if you don’t hit the ball with a near perfect descending blow. Problem is, you will probably never be good enough to execute this technique consistently. If this technique was easy and reliable, you wouldn’t be reading this article.
Advantages of Left Hand Low Technique
1. It can level out your shoulders and spine angle
One of the biggest challenges with traditional chipping is that when you setup to the ball, your left shoulder is above your right shoulder. When hitting driver, this is ideal, because it encourages an ascending blow. However, it makes chipping and pitching somewhat challenging, because you have to learn to hit down on the ball, in spite of the ascending angle between your left shoulder and your right shoulder.
When you chip left hand low, you reverse the relationship between your shoulders. Your left shoulder will naturally sit below your right shoulder, which makes it very easy to hit down on the ball. This is why Pete Cowen is such a big fan of cross handed practice drill. It can help you develop an intuitive sense of how to compress the ball.
You should find that your shoulders feel very level when you setup left hand low. Most golfers will tilt their spine away from the target naturally (even though it has draw backs when chipping). Left hand low shoulder alignment can counteract this spine tilt tendency, making it easier to address the ball with a neutral spine angle and level shoulders. This can lead to an instant lift in the technical proficiency of your chipping technique.
2. It's easier to maintain the angle of your left wrist (lead wrist)
This is arguably the biggest benefit of chipping cross handed. It is literally one of the most powerful cures for flipping that you can find. Because your left hand and wrist become the dominant driver of the follow through, your right hand is effectively kept in place by your left hand.
Keeping your left wrist firm should feel pretty natural. To exaggerate this feeling, try hitting a few chips with your left hand only. When you hit chips with your left hand only you should find that maintaining the angle of the left wrist is physically easier than flipping the club through impact. Now you simply need to add your right hand for additional stability and control. There’s no need to over complicate things.
3. Chipping Left Hand Low Feels Very Stable
It’s hard to explain exactly why, but’s it’s almost like you’re locking your left shoulder into place. It actually feels like you are transferring the feel of the chip from your hands to your shoulders. In most cases, this should lead to an added sense of stability. You basically just have to turn back and turn through with your shoulders and torso, almost like a putting stroke.
Disadvantages of Chipping Cross Handed
1. You may hit some thin chip shots in the beginning
There are two reasons that could contribute to skulling a few shots at the practice range.
Reason 1: Chipping cross-handed will alter your natural bottoming out point
You should find that your bottoming out point shifts further back in your stance (relative to what it normally is when chipping regular handed). It is perfectly natural for the club to start moving up after it reaches the bottom of the swing arc. If the ball is too far forward in your stance, the club might already be on the way up as it approaches impact. This can easily lead to a thin chip.
Reason 2: It will exacerbate your lean back tendency (if you have one)
I only became aware of my own ‘lean back tendency’ after reading the art of the short game by Stan Utley. Leaning back (away from the target) during the follow through of a chip shot is one of the worst mistakes you can make in golf.
The result of leaning back during the follow through is that you will increase the likelihood of sending the leading edge directly into the ball. This is what causes thin shots. The antidote is to maintain your spine angle, and continue rotating your shoulders and torso during the follow through.
2. Your playing partners may judge you
One of my pet peeves is overhearing average golfers giving instructional advice to their mates. If you aren’t breaking 80 regularly, you aren’t qualified to give people swing tips.
Sadly, these are the type of people that will feel the need to comment on why chipping left hand low is wrong. They’ve read all the books, devour all the latest magazines, and they can’t help but blurt out instructional drivel during a round of golf. They tend to be fans of David Leadbetter (probably the biggest phony in golf) and they are incapable of practicing what they preach.
Do not be deterred. It takes courage to go against the grain. If you put enough reps in, you can silence their criticism by getting it up and down more often then they do. If they still feel the need to chirp, just chop them off your player roster. There’s no need to tolerate douchebag playing partners.
3. It will add a whole new learning curve to your game
This is the biggest risk when learning how to chip cross handed, but there is a silver lining. The main problem is that you lose all the experience that you already have with chipping regular handed. You can never get those hours back.
However, for people that really struggle with chipping, letting go of all those previous memories could actually be a blessing in disguise. Some experiences can leave scars on your confidence that will never go away. Switching to left hand low is like pushing the reset button on your chipping technique. You can wipe away all those scars and get a nice fresh start on this particular aspect of your game.
4. It's better suited to short chips (rather than long pitches)
In my experience, the distance range for left hand low chips is about 5-30 yards. Anything beyond that requires a longer swing, which will probably feel more natural with your regular grip.
There are some players that choose to hit all short shots (anything less than a full swing) left hand low, but in my experience, the biggest benefits can be found in short range chips. You just need to be aware of this distance limit.
A lot of short game instructors talk about using your putting stroke for short chips. This makes a lot of sense, and it can simplify the chipping motion. If you’ve dabbled with left hand low putting, you should find left hand low chipping surprisingly easy to implement. You’re basically just applying a left hand low putting stroke to chip. Your backswing will be longer and there is definitely more speed involved, but that is ultimately the crux of the matter. Left hand low works for putting, and it can also work very nicely for short chips.
Lastly, this is not a method that you have to go all-in with. You can use it as a practice drill to help you get the sensation of compressing your chips, or you can give it the full monty and convert to hitting all your chips cross handed.
But before you go, a quick word of warning. Once you make the switch, you may never go back. In my case, the difference is night and day. I’m so much more confident with left hand low chipping, it simply doesn’t make sense to revert back to my regular grip.
Ultimately, if it helps you get up and down more often, it will be worth it. That’s all that really matters here.