Chipping vs. Pitching
A chip shot is a short game shot used around the putting surface with a low trajectory and generally travels mainly along the ground.
A pitch shot is a short game shot with a higher trajectory and more spin, designed to keep the ball in the air more as it travels to its target.
Learning how and when to use each kind of shot will help most amateur golfers become more proficient around the greens and have more fun on the golf course.
A chip shot is the simplest way to get the ball moving toward your target when there is nothing obstructive in your path. Chipping relies on the golf club doing the work to get the ball rolling on the ground. This technique takes some of the “guesswork” out of the short shot you have to hit.
The first thing you must do correctly to hit quality chip shots is getting set up properly.
Stand closer to the ball than you would on your full swing. Open your stance slightly and move your feet closer together. The golf ball should be back in your stance, closer to your back foot. As you stand over the ball, feel more weight on your lead foot.
Your hands should be slightly ahead of the ball, resulting in a forward shaft lean. You don’t want to have too much forward shaft lean, as this can result in the club’s leading edge digging into the turf and a poorly struck shot.
The technique used to hit a chip shot is quite simple. The stroke is similar to the putting stroke, a back-and-forth pendulum motion, with the length of the stroke varying by the distance of the shot. Your wrists should not break during the stroke.
You use a wide variety of clubs when hitting a chip shot. The less lofted club you use, the lower the ball will fly and the more it will roll without changing your backswing length. Of course, you can use a club with more loft, like a sand wedge or pitching wedge, but many players use a lower lofted club like a 7 or 8 iron on longer chips. The best way to determine what each club produces and which you like best is to experiment on the practice green.
When to Chip
The best time to use a chip shot is when you don’t have to hit the ball very far to get to the hole and when the ball can travel most or all of the way on the ground. When hitting a chip shot, you want the ball rolling quickly after hitting it. A chip shot is usually the best shot to hit when the green between the ball and the hole is level or uphill, without any significant obstacles in the way. In many ways, a chip shot is essentially a long putt with an iron.
Pitching the ball can be very versatile, offering many different ways to play the same shot. If you need to get the ball in the air quickly, you will need to be able to pitch the ball. With that versatility comes a bit more difficulty, but there are some basics that will allow you to hit consistent pitch shots and improve your short game.
A pitch shot is just a miniature version of the full swing. Unlike chip shots that employ a straight back-and-forth motion, pitch shots require body rotation and some wrist hinge.
Like with chipping, setup is essential. A neutral setup to hit a basic pitch shot places the ball in the middle of your stance and the club without any noticeable forward shaft lean. The butt end of the club should point back at your sternum. Keep your weight distribution centered over the ball as well.
There is more flexibility involved with pitch shots, as there are many different shots that can be hit. Ball position affects the flight of the shot you’re hitting. Moving the ball forward in your stance will result in a higher flight while moving the ball back in your stance will result in a lower flight.
When hitting a basic pitch shot, think about taking the club back to about waist level, with a slight amount of wrist hinge. Rotate your body as if you were starting a full golf swing. From there, start rotating back toward your target to strike the ball. The distance you’re trying to carry the ball will impact how big of a swing you take. Like with chipping, you can hit a pitch shot with many different clubs, so practice and experimentation are recommended.
When to Pitch
Pitch shots are used when the ground between the ball and the hole is less straightforward, requiring the ball to get higher in the air and land more softly. Adding loft and backspin to a shot allows for more control to get the golf ball close to the hole.
The most obvious time to use a pitch shot instead of a chip shot is when there is an obstacle like water or a bunker between the ball and the hole. When determining exactly what shot you want to hit for these situations, you have to look at the proportionate amount of green to the total length of the shot. The less green there is to work with, the higher shot you will need.
When the hole is tucked just over an obstacle like a bunker, with very little green to work with, a player might use a specific type of pitch shot called a flop shot. This requires a great deal of loft, so a lob wedge is usually the club of choice. A long flop shot that goes seemingly straight up in the air and drops down softly often requires a full swing.
Another scenario that favors hitting a pitch shot is when the ground between the ball and the hole is downhill. A higher shot that has more backspin allows the ball to not roll so much, even when the green is going away from the player.
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