Chipping from Tight Lies: A Comprehensive Guide for Golfers

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chipping from tight lies

Imagine you’re on the 18th hole, just a few strokes away from breaking your personal best. Your approach shot lands just short of the green, leaving you with a tight lie. Your heart races as you judge the lie of the ball and prepare for the decisive chip shot. And then you blade your shot with the leading edge of your club across the green and into the rough on the other side.

If you’ve ever found yourself in this situation, you know that chipping from tight lies can be a real challenge. This guide will cover essential techniques and tips to help you master this crucial skill and elevate your golf game.

What is a Tight Lie?

A tight lie in golf is a shot where the ball sits on grass less than a quarter-inch high or no grass at all, making it tight to the ground. This type of shot requires a different approach and technique than other types of lies, such as a ball perched up or in heavy rough. Playing the ball from a tight lie requires precision and thought to execute the shot effectively. The margin of error on these shots is low, making it a particularly difficult shot for most.

Common Places to Find a Tight Lie on the Course

You can find a tight lie in a variety of places on a golf course, such as burned-out areas with little grass, parts of the course with poor irrigation, tightly mown areas, and hard ground. Tight lies can also occur on courses that don’t overseed their fairways in the winter or during the summer or warmer months when golf courses dry out. Additionally, you may encounter a tight lie when playing a links-style course, as the ground is naturally much firmer.

Why Tight Lies Can Be Difficult to Navigate

Golfers of any skill level often struggle with tight lies because of the increased likelihood of hitting the ball thin or catching it fat. Additionally, the fear of making a mistake can lead to tension in the swing, further complicating the shot. Even professional golfers can struggle with tight lies.

Essential Equipment for Chipping from Tight Lies

  1. Choosing the Right Club

Picking the right club is crucial when dealing with a short chip shot from a bare lie. Two popular options are:

  • Sand wedge: With a high loft, the sand wedge lets you get the ball in the air quickly, making it a solid choice for short-sided chip shots.
  • Pitching wedge: The pitching wedge is a less-lofted club that offers a lower trajectory, which can be useful for bump-and-run shots when there’s more green to work with.

In general, selecting a club with a higher bounce angle can help you avoid digging into the ground, making it easier to achieve solid contact.

chipping from tight lies
  1. Golf Balls with Optimal Spin Characteristics

When chipping from tight lies, choosing a golf ball that offers good spin control is crucial. High-quality urethane-covered balls can provide the necessary spin to help you stop the ball quickly on the green.

  1. Importance of a Proper Golf Glove

A well-fitting golf glove can enhance grip and control, which are essential when attempting delicate chip shots from tight lies. Wear a glove that fits snugly and comfortably, allowing for good feel and precision.

Fundamentals of Chipping from Tight Lies

  1. Addressing the Ball Correctly

Getting your club selection right is crucial for successful chipping from tight lies. Keep these factors in mind:

  • Ball position: Place the ball slightly back in your stance, towards your back foot. This helps promote a downward strike on the ball.
  • Stance: Stand with a slightly narrow stance, your feet shoulder-width apart and your front foot slightly open to encourage an easier release.
  • Weight distribution: Shift approximately 60-70% of your weight to your front foot, which helps promote a downward strike.
  1. Perfecting Your Grip and Wrist Hinge

A proper grip and minimal wrist hinge can help ensure clean contact. Use a slightly weaker grip than your full swing grip, and focus on maintaining a firm left wrist throughout the chipping motion.

  1. The Importance of a Steady Tempo

Maintaining a smooth, consistent tempo is vital to chipping success. Avoid rushing or decelerating through impact to ensure a clean, solid strike.

Techniques for Successfully Chipping from Tight Lies

  1. The Bump-and-run Shot

The bump-and-run is a low-trajectory shot that can be highly effective when there’s ample green. To execute this shot:

  • Choose a club with less loft, such as a pitching wedge or a 9-iron.
  • Position the ball towards your back foot and lean your weight slightly forward with the right foot.
  • Make a controlled, abbreviated swing, focusing on making clean contact with the ball.
  • Aim for a spot on the green where you want the ball to land, allowing it to roll toward the hole.
  1. The Hinge-and-hold Method

The hinge-and-hold technique, popularized by golf legend Phil Mickelson, effectively achieves consistent chip shots from tight lies. To master this technique:

  • Set up with a slightly open stance and a narrow, shoulder-width base.
  • Hinge your wrists during the backswing, creating a sharp angle between the club shaft and your lead arm.
  • Maintain this angle as you swing through the ball, with minimal wrist action through impact.
  • Hold the finish position, ensuring your hands remain ahead of the club head.
  1. The High-lofted Chip Shot

When you need to carry a bunker or other obstacle, a high-lofted chip shot can come in handy. To execute this shot:

  • Choose a high-lofted club, such as a lob wedge.
  • Open the club face slightly and address and position the ball in the middle of your stance.
  • Make a longer, more aggressive swing, focusing on sliding the clubhead under the ball.
  • Aim for a high, soft landing on the green, allowing the ball to stop quickly.
chipping from tight lies

Practice Drills to Improve Your Chipping from Tight Lies

  • Towel Drill for Crisp Contact

Place a small towel or handkerchief a few inches behind your ball. Practice chipping without hitting the towel, promoting clean contact with the ball and a small divot in front of the ball.

  • The Landing Spot Drill

Pick a specific landing spot on the green and try to chip the ball as close to that spot as possible. This drill helps improve distance control and accuracy.

  • The Gate Drill for Better Accuracy

Set up two tees, creating a narrow “gate” about halfway between your ball and the hole. Then, practice chipping the ball through the gate to hone your accuracy and trajectory control.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Chipping from Tight Lies

  • Decelerating Through Impact

Maintain a consistent tempo and avoid slowing down through impact, which can lead to fat or thin shots.

  • Overusing Wrist Action

Excessive wrist action can lead to inconsistent contact. Focus on maintaining a firm lead wrist and minimal wrist hinge throughout the swing.

  • Misjudging Distance and Trajectory

Carefully assess the situation and choose the right club and shot type to ensure optimal results.

Further Reading – For the most comprehensive guide on chipping, including flop shots, bump and runs, and bunker shots, see our golf chipping and golf chipping technique pages.


In summary, mastering chipping from tight lies requires lots of practice sessions, patience, and a solid understanding of the fundamentals. By applying the tips and techniques outlined in this guide, you’ll be well on your way to conquering challenging golf situations and improving your overall short game. So embrace the challenge, stay focused, and watch your scores drop!

See our guide if you struggle with chipping from downhill lies

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Tommy is a confirmed golf fanatic. He's been playing golf for 20 years and just loves everything about the game. His dad used to play golf a lot and watch the PGA and European Tours, so Tommy started watching too. Now he knows a lot about golf and loves to coach people and help them play better.

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