A good short game is vital to become a low handicap golfer.
This means you need to master the art of chipping, putting, bunker, and pitch shots. In this post, I focus on two of the areas: chipping vs pitching.
I will teach you what you need to know about chipping and pitching to ensure you save strokes around the green. For starters, you learn the difference and similarities between the two shots. Then, I shall explain when to play which type of shot and how.
The Main Differences Between Chipping vs Pitching
The main difference between a chip and a pitch shot is the flight distance of the golf ball. A chip shot rolls further than it flies, which is why it suits short shots around the green.
Conversely, a pitch shot requires a higher trajectory as the ball flies further than it rolls.
A chip shot is designed to roll further than a pitch shot. The lower trajectory of this shot causes the ball to hit the turf and roll up to your target. The higher flight of a pitch shot causes the ball to bounce a couple of times before coming to a stop.
Therefore, a chip shot is a better option if you are trying to run the ball up to the pin.
Chipping gives you the freedom to use a different club for each situation. If your sand or lob wedge doesn’t offer sufficient muscle, you can employ a 9-iron. Alternatively, you can look to your stronger lofted clubs. I often use my 2-hybrid iron to chip from the greenside rough.
The added weight in the head gives me the necessary forgiveness, while the sole produces excellent turf interaction. The combination delivers a consistent, forgiving strike for optimal results.
Conversely, your choices are restricted with a pitch shot. You need a club that offers sufficient loft to clear a greenside bunker or pond. However, excess loft could impact your carry distance. I suggest using a pitching, gap, or sand wedge for this shot.
Golf coach Chris Ryan explains that you need to adjust the ball position in your stance for each shot. For example, he suggests placing the ball in line with the back of your sternum for chip shots. However, you are urged to move the ball forward in your setup for pitch shots. The golf ball should align with the center of your sternum:
Adjusting the ball placement in your stance helps you produce optimal contact on your downswing. This leads to the desired trajectory, backspin, and ball roll.
Like your ball position you need to adjust the weight distribution at address to execute each shot. Ryan recommends placing your weight on your lead foot for chip shots, which creates forward shaft lean.
This setup helps you induce a downward strike that leads the clubface into the back of the golf ball. As a result, you produce a clean strike and the desired launch and roll.
On the other hand, Ryan urges golfers to shift some weight to their back leg, which is the right foot for right-handers. Approximately 55% of your weight should remain on the front leg at address for a pitch.
The relatively even mass distribution reduces shaft lean, which prompts the sole of your clubhead to catch the turf and get under the ball. As a result, the ball flies longer than it rolls.
Forearm Rotation and Wrist Hinging
When you play a chip shot, you rely on your shoulders and lower body rotation to send your ball traveling towards the pin. That differs from a pitch shot which demands forearm rotation and wrist hinging. This motion helps you generate the power and clubhead speed to get the ball airborne and flying towards the pin.
The Similarities Between Chipping and Pitching
Short Game Shots
The core similarity between chipping and pitching is that they both fall under the category of short-game shots. Therefore, they are both played when golfers are close to the green and need to get up and down.
Wedges Are Used For Both Shots
In addition, to both these shots being employed in your short game, they typically require the same clubs. You have more freedom to select a lower lofted club on chips. Some golfers may opt for a 7 or 8-iron should they desire lower launch and added run.
However, for the most part, you are swinging sand, lob, or pitching wedges. These clubs produce the necessary spin and loft for you to achieve maximum greenside control.
When to Hit a Chip Shot
A chip shot is designed for instances when you cannot putt and need to clear a few feet of ground before allowing the ball to run-up to the hole. As a result, you only chip the ball when you are around the green.
On occasion you may have no shot and decide to chip a 7-iron or pitching wedge out from trees. The point is that a chip is a short shot and does not require a full swing.
Since this shot causes the ball to roll further than it flies, you need to have green to work with. If the pin is set close to the front edge, you may want to play a flop shot to stop the ball instantly. Otherwise, your ball could run well past the hole and leave you in danger of a bogey.
When to Hit a Pitch Shot
I typically employ a pitch shot when I am too close to the green for a full golf swing, yet too far for a chip. The higher launch of a pitch shot enables you to carry the rough or fairway ahead of you and land it close to the pin.
The idea of a pitch shot is to get the ball to stop after a couple of bounces, leaving yourself a short putt.
How to Hit a Chip Shot
Golfers struggling to get up and down with the chip shot, should learn about our 7 proven chipping drills. These exercises aid in building your confidence, creativity, and control around the green.
However, beginners who are unfamiliar with the shot are about to learn how to execute it with precision.
Step 1 – Soft Hands
A quality chip shot starts with a loosened grip to enhance your feel and embrace the bounce of the sole. Lighten your grip on the club, and let your shoulder and lower body rotation take the club back and through.
Step 2 – Back Foot Ball Position
Chris Ryan suggests that you place the ball in line with the aft of your sternum when setting up for a chip. This positions you optimally to strike the ball cleanly with a downward strike. Placing the ball in this position makes it easier for your shorter shafted club to connect the ball cleanly and produce the desired launch:
Step 3 – Weight on Your Front Foot
Once your ball is set up towards your back foot, shift your weight to the front leg. This helps you produce forward shaft lean, further encouraging a downward strike. When your weight is on the back foot, you risk getting under the ball and delivering more flight than roll.
Step 4 – Optimize Shoulder and Lower Body Rotation
Ryan further recommends eliminating wrist hinge and arm rotation from your chip shots. This is done to enhance the accuracy of your strikes and eliminate erratic results. Removing wrist action helps you produce a pendulum motion and take the club straight back and forward.
This way, you are more likely to land the ball in your target spot and allow it to run to the hole. Excess wrist or forearm movement could cause you to pull or hook your chip, leading to a loss of accuracy.
Step 5 – Strike the Ball With Downwards Force
By now, you know that a chip shot is crafted to make the ball roll further than it flies. Therefore you need to produce a lower launch to achieve this feat. That is why you need to strike the back of your golf ball with downwards force.
Connecting your golf ball at this angle produces a lower flight and increased roll, enabling you to run the ball up to the flag.
How to Hit a Pitch Shot
Step 1 – Neutral Grip
A pitch shot requires an element of wrist hinge and forearm rotation. This helps you generate the prerequisite power to impart optimal ball speed and spin on the ball. If your grip is too loose, the clubhead could veer off path leading to a pushed shot.
That is why you should employ a neutral grip. It gives you control and an element of feel required for a successful pitch shot.
Step 2 – Center Ball Position
Opposite to a chip shot, Ryan suggests positioning the ball in line with the center of your sternum. This gives you enough space to get the clubface under the ball at impact to launch it into the air.
Step 3 – Distribute Weight
When you set up for a chip shot, you position all your weight on the front foot. That encourages a downward strike, encouraging your ball to roll more than it flies. You must reposition some weight on your back leg for this strike. But, 55% of your mass must remain on your front leg.
The relatively equal weight distribution prevents you from ballooning your strikes or topping the golf ball. If you lean back too far when hitting under the ball, it pops into the air and does not travel the required distance.
Step 4 – Produce Arm Rotation and Wrist Hinging
A pitch shot demands arm rotation and wrist hinging. These actions help golfers generate the clubhead speed and angle of attack necessary to launch the ball skywards. This trajectory enables you to get your ball up to the hole and stop it after one or two bounces.
Step 5 – Connect Under The Ball
When you strike the ball for a chip, you compress it at impact to produce a low flying shot with optimal roll. However, with a pitch shot, it is necessary to fly obstacles in your path and stop the ball close to the flagstick.
As a result, you need to get under the golf ball at impact to launch it into the air, ensuring it has sufficient club to reach the target. The trajectory then helps the ball land softly before coming to a halt after a couple of bounces.
Related Reading: We have a host of additional game improvement tips to boost your performance. I recommend starting with the 9 best short game drills to lower your handicap.