Of Chip and Pitch

Chipping and pitching are sometimes used interchangeably which is incorrect. They are both short game shots, used relatively close to the green and can be achieved with a wide range of clubs. Though they are both approach shots, they are very different from each other, especially in techniques.

chip-and-pitch-shot

Chip Shot

Chip is a short, low-trajectory shot with more ground time than airtime. It is used when you are close to the green (about 30 yards off the green) and you do not need to elevate the ball to get to the hole. Clubs used when chipping can be anything that you like. Most golfers use sand wedge, 9-iron, utility clubs or fairway woods with short type of swing, the shaft not parallels with the ground

Chipping Technique

  1. Address the ball using a narrow stance. Stand with the ball aligned with your back foot while holding the club vertically and gripping with your hands forward of the ball with your knees slightly flexed, most of your weight over your front foot and your hands set ahead of the ball.
  2. Play the ball a bit back in your stance, closer to your back foot than your front.
  3. Take the clubhead back a short distance – typically 1 to 3 feet, depending on how far you wish to hit the ball.
  4. Swing your arms back with your shoulders, cocking your wrists only slightly. Control the swing with the arms only using minimal hand action and no body turn.
  5. Hit the ball at a descending angle while rotating your hips and be sure to follow through. Swing the club smoothly, much as you would a putter.

Tips on Chipping

  • When chipping, use clubs with less loft such as 8 iron to chip it low, to hit it higher, simply use more lofted clubs
  • Position the ball off the right toe to chip it low. To hit it higher, play the ball in the center of your stance.
  • The best chips end up rolling just like a putt.
  • When performing the chipping stroke, the golfer should maintain a consistent radius of the swinging clubhead.
  • Changing the swing radius by hinging or breaking the wrists will create a lot of speed and loft control by maintaining the structural integrity of the arms and wrists throughout the stroke.
  • The chip shot will typically have a more rigid feel to the stroke. The ball first strike of the chip is dictated in the setup by putting the ball slightly back in the stance and the majority of weight on the lead foot. This ball position helps the golfer keep the loft reduced and create a low, rolling shot. 
  • When you need to roll the ball a long way, use a middle or even a long iron.
  • If you’re on the fringe and just need to bump the ball over the edge of the green you may wish to use a hybrid or a fairway wood. Use a putting motion and the club’s lost will pop it briefly into the air before it lands and begins to roll.

Pitch Shot

Pitch is a short, high trajectory shot played only when the ball is too far away to chip or when the ball is 40 to 100 yards off the green. It is much higher in the air than a chip shot and used when you need to get the ball up in the air quickly, father distance with more spin and stops faster when it hits the green. Pitching is used when there is rough or when you want to get over tall grass, water, mounds, bunkers or any hazard between you and the green, or if roll is not possible or when you need the ball to come down in a steep angle of ascent and descent to softly hit the green with less rolling. It is played with a highly lofted club or wedges especially pitching wedge because it was originally designed for this shot. Other wedges, gap wedge, sand wedge, lob wedge which have a higher loft than a pitching wedge are also used for hitting pitches.

Pitching Technique

  1. Begin with an open stance, aiming your feet to the left of the target, if you’re a right-handed golfer.
  2. Open the clubface a bit, meaning the clubface should be angled slightly to your right as you’re looking down at the club.
  3. Play the ball forward in the center, about even with your front foot with your grip even with the ball (not forward pressed or behind the ball).
  4. Take your hands back about hip-high, but cock your wrists completely to form a 90-degree angle between your lead forearm and the club shaft.
  5. Swing through the ball with a normal amount of effort with your arms while turning the body slightly and setting or cocking the left wrist on the backswing and follow through completely. Backswing length and arm speed through impact control the distance the ball flies.
  6. From the end of your backswing, release or rotate your arms as if you were making an underhanded pitch with a ball. This style of release will produce a high shot with very little roll and should feel as if your arms have just floated through the ball with hardly any resistance.

Tips on Pitching

  • Use a lofted club to hit a pitch shot. You may hit a longer pitch with a 9-iron, but you’ll more frequently use one of your wedges, all of which contain more loft than a 9-iron.
  • For longer pitches, use appropriately named pitching wedge. As you get closer to the hole you may select a club with more loft, such as a gap, sand or lob wedge.
  • The tension in the grip feels softer, the impact with the ball is softer, and the ball’s reaction on the green is softer in a pitch shot than that of a chip shot. Thus, the golfer will get the feeling of a “soft” strike.
  • The wrist angles should still be kept in control, but it is okay to let the club head pass the hands sooner in the downswing on a pitch shot.
  • Great pitching is to control trajectory shots by altering grip pressure.
    • To hit low, grip the club a little lighter to prevent your hands to release early and decrease the loft of the club and let you hit it low.
    • To pitch high and soft, grip the club softer than normal to let your hands release through impact to add loft as the club slides through the ball.
  • The best pitches have some amount of spin (depending on the club and shot type) to help control and predict the ball’s reaction on the green.

Additional Tip

Mark Blakemore is a class A PGA Professional teaching for 20 years and an author of pgaprofessional.com. Here are Blakemore’s three general rules for short game play:

  1. Putt whenever feasible that means whenever the ball will roll rather than bounce.
  2. Chip and run when you can’t putt.
  3. Pitch only when you have no choice.

Usually, when choosing which short shot to employ, a chip shot or a pitch shot, it’s best to go with a chip because pitching the ball into the air decrease the odds of controlling the shot for most golfers, especially when hitting from a marginal lie. Understanding the differences between the two is the first step to mastering short game play because the subtle differences between chipping and pitching can have a significant impact on your game.