A chipping launch monitor analysis and the “4x3x5” method – written by Andrea Zanardelli PGA Teaching Professional.
Chipping has often been considered “the most banal” among golf’s approach shots. Consequently, this part of the game (also known as chip shot, chip and run and bump and run), has never received enough credit or attention from the most meticulous technicians that study and analyze the game of golf in depth.
Yet, its importance is equivalent to that of putting, as it is inevitably replacing it most times a green is missed. And this happens very often. There can be infinite chip shots, as many as any possible situation happening around the green. Uphill and downhill, towards fast and slow greens, with good and bad lies, from hard or wet ground and towards short and long pin positions… each of these small approaches is truly unique and requires trajectories and ball rolls totally different from any other.
All these different situations could discourage anyone from really wanting to get into the “numbers” of this small shot. Whether this is right or wrong, it is a matter of points of view. If the goal of analyzing and studying a shot as varied, complex and subject to infinite and unpredictable external influences as chipping was to classify it into rigid categories in order to presumptuously offer a “certain” answer to each question, a “precise” number for every situation and a “perfect” solution for every approach then, we might as well… not even start.
But if the purpose is, instead, to collect data and observe them in all their disparity to seek, if there could be, a “logic”, a “common thread”, a subtle “relationship” between them, in order to build (on a purely conceptual and theoretical level) a method of a strategic approach to the chip shot that can help every golfer to achieve the right small approach at the right time with more ease and predictability… so yes, I believe that, if driven by this purpose, trying to “measure” this little shot could make sense. And that’s what I did.
I took a dozen premium balls and hit them (and collected them) continuously in front of my TrackMan. Every day for three weeks, until almost 6000 chip shots were taken. And I spent many evenings pondering over the collected numbers, hoping they would tell me a “story” that made sense. And I found something meaningful.
I am very happy to share with you the data of my little (but tiring!) research and the “logic” that I found within it and that I have called the “4x3x5” chipping method. I believe that this method will concretely help players to make intelligent strategic choices more easily around the green and will also help teachers to teach the chip shot more consciously and precisely.
Nothing, around a green, will ever replace the talent and feeling of the player… but knowing a little more about this little shot will certainly be useful. I wish you a good reading and thank you for your interest!
I did the research in March 2021, at the Campodoglio Golf Club located in Chiari (Brescia district, Italy), using a new dozen balls of Titleist Pro V1. Each ball was cleaned and dried before every single shot.
To measure my approach shots, I used a TrackMan 4 carefully detecting: club speed, ball speed, smash factor, dynamic loft, angle of attack, spin loft, launch angle, height, landing angle, spin rate and carry.
I tested eight different clubs from my bag, starting with a Titleist T100 6 iron with 30° loft up to a Vokey Design SM8 lob wedge of 58°. Each club used differed from the previous one by 4° of loft.
Both the club faces and the grooves of each club were cleaned and dried before any shot, performed by varying and testing different ball positions in my stance and different backswing lengths, in order to achieve different club speeds at impact and different angles of attack.
The chip shots were performed from a dry and perfectly clean golf mat of synthetic grass (to make the interaction with the ball as free from external interference as possible), from a dry and carefully cut fairway and from a collar, obtaining consistent and similar results.
All approaches were performed on a flat surface, at a temperature between 59 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit and at an altitude of 460 feet above sea level.
Therefore, I tried to analyze the chip shots in very “normal” conditions, avoiding too hard or too soft ground, differences in height, bad lies as heavy rough and impacts outside the sweet spot of the club, all of which would have altered the conditions of ball speed, launch angle, spin rate, carry and roll.
The “average” data collected and the relative simplification graphs are contained in the .pdf file “The Chip Shot Code | Numbers” attached here.
What do we mean by the term “chip shot”?
First of all, it is advisable to define the shot subject of this research, in order to avoid misunderstandings or false expectations. By “chip shot” or “chip and run” or “bump and run” or “running shot” or in its more general term “chipping”, we intend a small approach shot to the flag (or to any other target) that has trajectory characteristics and spin rate of the ball suitable to facilitate its rolling after the first bounce on the ground. From the tests performed, I can say that the ball maintains enough tendency to “roll” towards the target when both of these requirements are met:
- Landing angle of maximum 37 °
- Spin rate below 3750 rpm.
In this regard, it is interesting to remember that:
- The optimal landing angle of a drive, in order to capitalize on the roll in the fairway to optimize the total distance, is about 37°
- The landing angle of a pitch shot or of any shot to the flag with the intention of “stopping” the ball in a short space, must always be greater than 45°.
Ironically, we could therefore say that a well-optimized drive is our longest chip shot!
Loft, launch angle, spin rate and chip shot “shape”
Analyzing the data, I noticed that the lowest chip shots tended to start with a launch angle of about 6° and a spin rate not exceeding 1000 rpm, while the higher ones started with a launch angle of about 35° and a spin rate of about 3750 rpm. Observing the different approaches with the eight clubs tested (from 6 iron to lob wedge), I deduced that it is possible to categorize the “shape” of the chip shot into four main categories:
- Low chip shot (launch angle between about 6° and 14°) with low spin (on average 1500 rpm) and long roll
- Medium/low chip shot (launch angle between about 15° and 20°) with medium spin (on average 2000 rpm) and medium/long roll
- Medium/high chip shot (launch angle between about 21° and 26°) with medium spin (on average 2500 rpm) and medium/short roll
- High chip shot (launch angle between about 27° and 35°) with medium/high spin (average 3000 rpm) and short roll
As I kept reading the numbers, I realized that a “concrete” difference in terms of shape and trajectory of the chip shot was only noticeable by varying the loft of the club by about 8°, i.e. “jumping” a club.
For this reason, of the eight initially selected and tested, I focused my data collection using only four clubs from my bag, precisely leaving an 8° loft difference between them. The selected clubs were:
- Titleist T100 7 iron 34°
- Titleist T100 9 iron 42°
- Vokey Design SM7 gap wedge 50°/F10
- Vokey Design SM8 lob wedge 58°/M08
Every 8° of loft it was possible to appreciate:
- A variation of the launch angle of the ball of about 5/6°
- A spin rate variation of about 500 rpm
- A limited gap in terms of carry but a considerable gap in terms of roll and relative total distance
- An average variation in terms of % of rolling equal to about +50% compared to the next more open club
To get the four different chip shots trajectories, it is possible to:
- Use a club with a 30°, 32°, 34° or 36° loft (equivalent to a 6 or 7 iron or a modern delofted 8 iron) to obtain a low trajectory and promote an indicative roll of the ball greater than 3.5 times its carry on a medium fast green and about 5.5 times on a Tour fast green
- Use a club with a loft of 38°, 40°, 42° or 44° (equivalent to an 8 or 9 iron or a modern delofted pitching wedge) to obtain a medium/low trajectory and promote an indicative roll of the ball equal to about 2.5 times its carry on a medium fast green and about 3.5 times on a Tour fast green
- Use a club with a loft of 46°, 48°, 50° or 52° (equivalent to a gap wedge or pitching wedge) to obtain a medium/high trajectory and promote an indicative roll of the ball equal to approximately 1.5 times its carry on a medium fast green and about 2.5 times on a Tour fast green
- Use a club with a loft of 54°, 56°, 58° or 60° (equivalent to a lob wedge or sand wedge) to obtain an high trajectory and promote an indicative roll of the ball equal to no more than its carry on a medium fast green and about 1.5 times its carry on a Tour fast green
|30° 32° 34° 36°||6i 7i 8i||Low||Long|
|38° 40° 42° 44°||8i 9i PW||Mid/Low||Mid/Long|
|46° 48° 50° 52°||PW GW||Mid/High||Mid/Short|
|54° 56° 58° 60°||SW LW||High||Short|
Other interesting observations:
- The lowest recorded chip shot peaked at about 0.25 feet, while the highest recorded peaked at about 12.5 feet
- The difference in terms of smash factor between two clubs with a loft difference of 8° is about 0.1 (10%)
- The minimum recorded carry was about 1.25 yards, while the maximum recorded carry was about 24 yards
- Unlike the long game, a higher carry is reached by the more lofted clubs, while the maximum carry is reached with the gap wedge
- The landing angle of each chip shot, regardless of the club used, tends to be very similar to the launch angle value (generally greater than this by only 1 or 2°)
- The flight of a chip shot, unlike longer shots, can therefore be described as “perfectly symmetrical”
Position of the ball, angle of attack and shaft lean
Each club played was tested using the three most classic ball positions in the stance:
- Centered between the feet
- Back (under the shoulder further from the target)
- Forward (under the shoulder closer to the target)
The data collected by TrackMan clearly revealed the following:
- A ball set back in the stance tends to favor an angle of attack between -8° and -10° and a deloft/shaft lean of about -18/20°
- A ball centered in the stance tends to favor an angle of attack of about -5° and a deloft/shaft lean of about -15°
- A ball set forward in the stance tends to favor an angle of attack between -2° and 0° and a deloft/shaft lean of about -12/10°
- Moving the ball back reduces the launch angle by about 4/5°, reduces the carry of the ball but increases its roll, varying slightly the total distance of the approach
- Moving the ball forward increases the launch angle by about 4/5°, increases the carry of the ball but reduces its roll, varying slightly the total distance of the approach
- Lower lofts, compared to higher ones, suffer a greater influence on carry and roll from different positions of the ball in the stance
- Moving the ball back or forward in stance does not change the average spin loft and therefore the average spin rate given to the ball
Backswing lenght, swing speed and covered distance
Performing several chip shots at different speeds and distances, I observed that the maximum club speed required to obtain a “running” shot (i.e. to maintain landing angle and spin rate characteristics in the flight of the ball suitable for favoring rolling after the first bounce ) is 30 mph.
This speed can be obtained by executing a maximum backswing that brings the hands to the height of the right side and maintaining a rhythm of execution of the pendulum “one, two”, very common in the short game and in the putting, where the backswing requires approximately 2/3 of a second while the downswing 1/3 of a second, for a total of 1” between the takeaway and the impact and an indicative downswing: backswing ratio of about 2:1.
Imagining being inside a clock whose 9 o’clock corresponds to your side, I calculated that every “half-hour” difference in terms of the conceptual position of the hands at the apex of the small backswing corresponds to a difference in speed of the club at impact of approximately 5 mph.
Having determined this, I have identified five main swing lengths equivalent to five different club speeds at impact that can determine five distinct approach distances in terms of carry and total distance for each club and ball position.
The five main swing speeds are:
- 10 mph, corresponding to a conceptual hand position at 7.00 o’clock
- 15 mph, corresponding to a conceptual hand position at 7.30
- 20 mph, corresponding to a conceptual position of the hands at 8.00 o’clock
- 25 mph, corresponding to a conceptual hand position at 8.30
- 30 mph, corresponding to a conceptual hand position at 9.00 o’clock
Five easily visualized swing lengths (as if to imagine the five gears of a car) which, combined with the right pace of execution and the individual feeling of the player, can easily allow anyone to cover five distinct and fundamental carry distances.
The five main carries are:
- Short distance with carry of about 2.5 yards (1st gear with hands at about 7.00 o’clock)
- Medium/short distance with carry of about 5 yards (2nd gear with hands at about 7.30)
- Medium distance with carry of about 10 yards (3rd gear with hands at about 8.00)
- Medium/long distance with carry of about 15 yards (4th gear with hands at about 8.30)
- Long distance with carry of about 20 yards (5th gear with hands at about 9.00 o’clock)
The data collected by TrackMan clearly revealed that the average change in terms of carry equivalent to a change in swing speed of 5 mph is approximate:
- 3 yards between 10 and 15 mph
- 4 yards between 15 and 20 mph
- 5 yards between 20 and 25 mph
- 6 yards between 25 and 30 mph
For an average of about 2.5 yards between first and second gears and about 5 yards between the remaining gears or swing lengths.
|Gear||Length ~||Speed ~||Carry ~|
|1st||7.00 o’clock||10 mph||2.5 yards|
|2nd||7.30 o’clock||15 mph||5 yards|
|3rd||8.00 o’clock||20 mph||10 yards|
|4th||8.30 o’clock||25 mph||15 yards|
|5th||9.00 o’clock||30 mph||20 yards|
Other interesting observations:
- A variation in swing speed of 5 mph corresponds to an average variation in terms of spin rate of 500 rpm
- The variation of the swing speed does not alter the launch angle but the height of the ball flight of about 50% every 5 mph
- The minimum distance from which it is likely possible to execute a chip shot is about 5 yards (lob wedge at 10 mph)
- The maximum distance from which it is probably possible and logical to execute a chip shot I have estimated may be 50 yards (6 iron at 30 mph), but the unevenness of the ground, its hardness and speed as well as the wind can triple the estimated roll and even double the total distance covered by the ball (imagine a bump and run shot performed on a hard and windy Scottish links)
My “4x3x5” chipping method
In the face of all the data collected, their interpretation and above all “combination”, I have come to the conclusion that the player, in order to make the most of his chip shot, whatever it is, has a strategic choice in front of him consisting of 60 main options, the result of the combination of the following factors:
- Choice of one of the four different trajectories or “flight/roll shape” of the ball, determined by the individual display of the shot, i.e. the player’s position with respect to the desired landing spot and his position with respect to the target
- Choice of one of the three different angles of attack, as a function of a downward or upward “fine-tuning” of the trajectory of the approach (especially useful in case of approach towards an uphill or downhill terrain) and of the lie of the ball
- Choice of one of the five different swing lengths to develop the most appropriate speed for the carry distance to be covered.
4 for 3 is 12 and 12 for 5 is… 60!
60, therefore, I believe they may be the “macro-categories” with which to classify each of our chip shots in a purely theoretical and conceptual way.
The logical process to follow
- Evaluation of the game situation: distance to cover, difference in height and slopes of the terrain, speed and hardness of the green, lie of the ball.
- Visualization of the “shape” of approach and identification of the landing spot
- Choice of the initial trajectory of the ball among the four possible (low, medium/low, medium/high or high), according to the desired roll quantity
- Choice of the ideal angle of attack among the three possible ones (vertical with the ball set back in the stance, intermediate with a centered ball or flat with the ball set more forward), according to the chosen trajectory and the lie of the ball
- Choice of the club with the loft suitable for realizing the trajectory or “shape” of the displayed chip shot, taking into account the angle of attack chosen
- Instinctive execution of a couple of practice swings to give to the club the right speed in relation to the distance to be covered and indicative identification of the position of the hands at the apex of the backswing among the five possible: 1st gear at 7.00, 2nd gear at 7.30, 3rd gear at 8.00, 4th gear at 8.30 or 5th gear at 9.00
- Chip shot execution by instinctively recreating the pendulum length and rhythm displayed and experienced during practice swings
- Observation of the result to correct, improve and adapt, in the future, the method to one’s own and unique playing characteristics
With training and habit, this logical process will become more and more intuitive and faster. All those who, around the green, play very precise and apparently “without thinking” chip shots, actually go through this logical process in a quick and totally unconscious way. On the contrary, ignoring or avoiding processing such options rationally or, even better, unconsciously makes it almost impossible to systematically perform good chip shots.
Strategic examples of application of the method
|Game situation analysis||Technical and strategic choice|
|Carry required||Roll required||Difference in height||Ball position||Trajectory & Loft||Swing speed|
|< 5 yards||Short||Flat||Centered||High 54/60°||~ 1st gear|
|~ 10 yards||Short||Flat||Forward||Mid/high 46/52°||~ 3rd gear|
|~ 5 yards||Short||Downhill||Forward||High 54/60°||~ 2nd gear|
|~ 15 yards||Short||Uphill||Centered||Mid/high 46/52°||~ 4th gear|
|~ 20 yards||Short||Uphill||Back||High 54/60°||~ 5th gear|
|< 5 yards||Mid/short||Flat||Centered||Mid/high 46/52°||~ 1st gear|
|~ 5 yards||Mid/short||Flat||Back||High 54/60°||~ 2nd gear|
|~ 10 yards||Mid/short||Flat||Forward||Mid/high 38/44°||~ 3rd gear|
|~ 15 yards||Mid/short||Downhill||Centered||High 54/60°||~ 4th gear|
|~ 15 yards||Mid/short||Downhill||Forward||Mid/high 46/52°||~ 4th gear|
|~ 20 yards||Mid/short||Uphill||Centered||Mid/low 38/44°||~ 5th gear|
|~ 20 yards||Mid/short||Uphill||Back||Mid/high 46/52°||~ 5th gear|
|< 5 yards||Mid/long||Flat||Centered||Mid/low 38/44°||~ 1st gear|
|< 5 yards||Mid/long||Flat||Back||Mid/high 46/52°||~ 1st gear|
|~ 5 yards||Mid/long||Flat||Forward||Low 30/36°||~ 2nd gear|
|~ 5 yards||Mid/long||Downhill||Centered||Mid/high 46/52°||~ 2nd gear|
|~ 10 yards||Mid/long||Downhill||Forward||Mid/low 38/44°||~ 3rd gear|
|~ 10 yards||Mid/long||Uphill||Centered||Low 30/36°||~ 3rd gear|
|~ 15 yards||Mid/long||Uphill||Back||Mid/low 38/44°||~ 4th gear|
|~ 5 yards||Long||Flat||Centered||Low 30/36°||~ 2nd gear|
|~ 5 yards||Long||Flat||Back||Mid/low 38/44°||~ 2nd gear|
|< 5 yards||Long||Downhill||Centered||Mid/low 38/44°||~ 1st gear|
|< 5 yards||Long||Downhill||Forward||Low 30/36°||~ 1st gear|
|~ 10 yards||Long||Uphill||Back||Low 30/36°||~ 3rd gear|
The following different chip shots will tend to cover a similar total distance:
|~ 20 yards||Short||Flat||Centered||High 54/60°||~ 5th gear|
|~ 15 yards||Mid/short||Flat||Centered||Mid/high 46/52°||~ 4th gear|
|~ 10 yards||Mid/long||Flat||Centered||Mid/low 38/44°||~ 3rd gear|
|~ 5 yards||Long||Flat||Centered||Low 30/36°||~ 2nd gear|
How to train
If possible, get a 20 or 30 yards measuring tape.
Find a large and mostly flat chipping green or any carefully mowed fairway that tends to be flat.
Roll out the tape to its full length and highlight the distances of 5, 10, 15 and 20 yards with a recognizable sign even from a distance. I recommend the use of alignment sticks fixed in the ground or headcovers.
As an alternative to the tape, you can rely on five of your long steps to identify the 5 yards distance.
Get a dozen or more of the balls that you will use in competition and practice with all the clubs in your bag that you will use to perform your chip shots.
Start by choosing a club with a loft between 54 and 60°, place the ball in the center of the stance and take a few shots in the 1st gear of the small swing with a high trajectory and short roll.
Watch its short carry (less than 5 yards) and roll.
Repeat varying the length of the swing and hitting the ball at approximately 5, 10, 15 and 20 yards.
Instinctively vary the length and pace of the small swing (as you would in putting) to hit the ball at intermediate distances of 7.5, 12.5 and 17.5 yards.
Try experimenting with new trajectories by moving back and forward the ball in the stance and by testing different lies. Observe the trajectory generated by every chosen combination chosen and memorize the indicative roll offered by each combination of approaches.
Do the same process with a 46 to 52° loft club, developing medium/high trajectories and medium/short rolls.
Do the same process a 38 to 44° club, developing medium/low trajectories and medium/long rolls.
Do the same process with a 30 to 36° loft club, developing low trajectories and long rolls.
Shot after shot, you will become more and more technically skilled at giving your approach the right shape and the right carry, but only the constant observation of the behavior of the ball on greens of different nature, height, hardness, moisture and speed can make you really capable of guessing and visualizing, on the course, the roll that the ball can actually produce.
A small tip to develop feel on distance: A useful routine for those who struggle to find the right swing length and therefore to “feel” the distance is to always perform a first practice swing in 1st gear (hands conceptually at 7.00 o’clock) and imagine the carry. If you feel this might not be enough, perform a second practice swing in 2nd gear (hands conceptually at 7.30) and imagine the carry. If still not enough, perform a third practice swing in 3rd gear and so on, until you can imagine/feel the right carry.
This training routine will allow you to more easily “map” in your mind the correct amount of swing to perform in order to give the club the right speed and thus achieve the desired carry.
The simplified version of the method
If you are not a professional player and do not feel the need to adapt your chip shot to infinite game situations, you can still take advantage of this strategic approach by simplifying the method from 60 to just 15 options.
- Always keep the ball in the middle of your feet, so as to adapt very well to each lie of the ball and promote a “neutral” flight path. You will reduce the variables from three to one
- Avoid the extremely low trajectory and choose one club to execute a medium/low trajectory, another to execute a medium/high trajectory and a third to execute an high trajectory. You will reduce the variables from four to three
- Keep all five gears/swing lengths to perfectly match club speed to varying playing distances
If you are a beginner or high handicap player, you can further simplify the method by reducing it to just 6 options.
- Always keep the ball in the middle of your feet, so as to adapt very well to each lie of the ball and promote a “neutral” flight path. You will reduce the variables from three to one
- Avoid extremely low or high trajectories and choose one club to execute a medium/low trajectory and one to execute a medium/high trajectory. You will reduce the variables from four to two
- Keep only three gears/swing lengths to sufficiently match club speed to varying playing distances. A short swing for shorter distances, a medium swing for medium distances and a long swing for longer distances. You will reduce the variables from five to three
The mere application of this method will not make anyone a “Severiano Ballesteros” from the green edge because only the talent, the touch, feel and endless hours spent in the proximity of a chipping green could do it.
However, the application of the “4x3x5” chipping method that summarizes the numbers obtained from the “The Chip Shot Code” research, I believe can concretely help any player to think more carefully before making a small and trivial approach shot.
It can help to “open the mind” to new scenarios, imagining different trajectories and shapes of shots using different clubs in the bag, instead of just one (as it often happens), to pay more attention to the small details that characterize the lie of the ball and to the interaction that the sole of the club must have with the ground and, finally, to execute a pendulum arc that is more coherent and proportionated to the distance to be covered.
In short, be able to guide and choose the right club among several, to consciously move the position of the ball in the stance and to give it a speed suitable for making it hit in the right spot on the green and to end its race in the flag “zone” and, why not, even so close to the target and hole it more often. Ultimately, the “4x3x5” method, based on “objective data”, wants to help the player make “smarter” strategic choices around the green and I hope it can help you, or your pupils, to save many more pars in the future. I wish you a good practice and endless wonderful chip shots!
The data detected by TrackMan 4 such as club speed, ball speed, smash factor, dynamic loft, angle of attack, spin loft, launch angle, height, landing angle, spin rate and carry were collected with great precision and attention.
The data relative to the flat rolling of the ball on the fairway or on greens of different speeds are, on the other hand, to be understood as “purely estimated” and can vary considerably according to the infinite possibilities that the nature of golf courses present.
Only one’s ability and skill to “visualize” the approach shot by drawing on one’s personal experience built both in training and on the course can help to adapt the method and predict a hypothetical roll in relation to the game situation and the characteristics of the terrain on which you will hit and roll the ball.
However, even if the numbers presented here and collected in optimal conditions will certainly be conditioned by the always different game situations, I believe the rules that connect the 60 different options of the method will tend to remain unchanged, while keeping intact the logic to be applied to give the most appropriate shape to the chip shot to be performed.
Anyone in possession of a professional launch monitor suitable for measuring shots at low speed (as TrackMan) or with mathematical knowledge superior to mine will be able to perform further tests by verifying the numbers I have collected or will be able to perfect my capability to estimate the rebound and the theoretical roll of the ball on the different surfaces, can share feedback by writing to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will be more than happy to update and refine this research with everyone’s contribution.
Andrea Zanardelli was born in Brescia (Italy) on April 23, 1975 and has been a golf professional member of the Italian PGA since 1999. He currently lives in Brescia, where he works as a teacher. TPI, K-Coach, BodiTrak, TrackMan, Capto and AimPoint certified, he is part of the technical staff of Chuck Cook’s golf school. He collaborates with Titleist/Scotty Cameron and Evnroll companies of which he is an official club fitter.
Andrea Zanardelli PGA
TPI K-Coach BodiTrak TrackMan
Capto AimPoint & Chuck Cook Certified
Club Fitter Titleist Scotty Cameron & Evnroll