There are many different types of shots that golfers need to use around the course. Two important shots to know are the pitch and chip shots. These shots are similar enough to often be mixed up.
So, how does chipping and pitching compare?
Pitch shots generally occur farther away from the green than chip shots. Pitching involves using half swings, quarter swings, or hitting approaches under 50 yards. Chip shots generally occur closer to the green, with the stroke resembling more of a putting motion than a partial swing.
While that’s a general and basic overview of chipping and pitching, there’s a lot more that goes into each pitch and chip. For more information on when you should pitch or chip, what club to use, and much more, keep reading!
What Is a Pitch Shot in Golf?
A pitch shot occurs when a player is close enough to the green to use a wedge and can reach the green on the carry. As an example, if a player usually hits their 56-degree sand wedge 100 yards, then they would use a pitch shot of approximately a half swing to hit the ball 50 yards.
Trying to figure out pitching yardages is a more advanced aspect of the game. Typically, people who play a couple of days a month struggle with these types of shots because they are based largely on feel. The only way to dial in the pitching game is repetition and practice.
One method of pitching is to think of the golf swing like a clock. On a full swing with a wedge, typically the club would point straight up in the air, which would be referred to as twelve o’clock. With that same idea in mind, a half swing is where the club is taken back straight to parallel with the player’s hip, which is considered a nine o’clock swing.
Of course, this process is easier said than done. Being able to consistently feel the correct location in the backswing to stop the club takes a lot of practice. These types of shots are the first to go when a player doesn’t have the opportunity to practice on a regular basis.
It is natural for a player to find the top of their swing on full shots. It is not as natural to take swings that are only a small portion of your regular swing.
Pitch shots generally occur from within 100 yards of the green. However, there could be circumstances that arise during a round, such as trying to get the ball back into the fairway after an errant drive, that requires a pitch shot away from the green. A shot is still characterized as a pitch until the stroke falls below eight o’clock on our imaginary golf swing clock.
What Club Should You Use to Hit a Pitch?
The basis of pitching and the distances that clubs carry the golf ball is the same as full swings. The clubface angle on a player’s wedges creates the variation in the distance that the ball travels. The longest wedge in most golf bags is a pitching wedge, which generally is around 47 to 48 degrees in face angle.
Wedges should absolutely be used for pitch shots. The idea behind a pitch is to carry the ball a shorter distance than a full swing but to continue to get the ball in the air and sit softly upon making impact on the green.
These distances remain consistent among different lofted wedges. So, a half swing to nine o’clock should hit the ball half the distance of a full swing with that wedge, regardless of the loft of that wedge.
Let’s walk through an example. A player keeps three wedges in their golf bag: a 48-degree pitching wedge, a 52-degree gap wedge, and a 56-degree sand wedge. If a player hits each of these clubs 150, 125, and 100 yards respectfully on full swings, then half swings with each club should then, in order, travel 75, 62.5, and 50 yards, respectfully.
So then, the question becomes what combination of club and type of swing a player should use to hit different distances. In the previous example, a 3/4ths swing with a sand wedge would travel 75 yards, which is also the distance that a half swing with the pitching wedge travels.
So, which is the better method for hitting an approach of that distance into a green?
There is no definitive correct or incorrect answer, but many players find it easier to hit a variety of shots with their shorter wedges than to attempt to hit partial shots with longer wedges. These types of shots are based upon feel and the ability to be repeated. Therefore, whatever a player finds to be the best type of swing to repeat consistently will provide the best option.
When Should You Hit a Pitch Shot in Golf?
Pitch shots should be utilized when a player finds their ball within a distance from the green that does not require a full swing with a wedge. Generally, this distance falls somewhere under 100 yards away from the green but can vary depending on the distances that a player hits the ball, as well as what wedges that they carry within their golf bag.
A pitch shot should also be utilized when a player has to carry a bunker or water hazard from a short distance away from the green. Pitch shots are meant to keep the ball up in the air, which will help the player to navigate the hazard(s) that lies between them and their target.
It should also be noted that a pitch shot requires the player to have a clear line between themselves and the green. Players who attempt to pitch out of a wooded area may have difficulty missing branches or other overhanging obstacles.
Finally, there is a type of pitch shot for hitting very high angle shots near the green. The approach, referred to as a flop shot, involves either a very high lofted lob wedge or opening the face of a sand wedge to create additional loft that will hit the ball higher with a softer landing.
What Is a Chip Shot in Golf?
Pitch shots are not the only helpful swing variation that golfers should utilize while out on the course. A chip shot is similar to a pitch shot in that it is often conducted within a short distance to the green and players will often use a wedge in order to perform both types of shots.
The differences start with the manner in which the club is taken back. While a chip shot can be utilized at a number of different distances and with varying wedges, the swing itself is pretty consistent. Players use their wedges in a similar type of stroke to putting whenever they are executing a chip shot close to the green.
This varies from the usual pitch shot because a pitch can require the player to take the club back to any number of varying points on our imaginary clock example. Chipping generally stays around a seven o’clock swing, similar to what would be performed with a putter while on the green.
The advantage of using a chip instead of putting is that the ball can carry a portion of the green that is in front of the player. This can be beneficial for a couple of reasons. First, chips take some of the contours of the green out of play, allowing the player to avoid more difficult sections to putt through, like a large shelf within the green complex.
Second, chips can create backspin on the golf ball, causing the ball to check up after making contact with the putting surface. This can make proximity to the hole easier to control with spin instead of relying on the contours of the green to deliver the ball to the hole while putting.
Chip shots also have some shortcomings. The first issue is that chip shots generally do not travel very far. They also do not get as high off of the ground as pitch shots, so they can’t really be used to clear a bunker or water hazard.
Chip shots checking can also lead to distance control issues if the player isn’t used to biting on their chips, or if the player is using a different golf ball since the type of golf ball makes a major difference in how much check goes on chip shots.
What Club Should You Use to Chip?
Players can use a wide variety of wedges to chip the ball. Just like hitting pitch shots, players utilizing a lower lofted club will hit longer chip shots. This can be helpful when a player has a large green complex to navigate.
For example, the player misses the green short, but the pin is in the back section of the green. In this scenario, it would be simpler to hit a chip with your gap wedge than to try to take a larger swing so close to the green with a sand or lob wedge.
Chipping is mostly performed with wedges, but players can utilize an iron for a particular type of shot called a bump and run around the green. This involves taking the same motion as described earlier with a wedge but using an iron to hit a low shot that rolls out further than a chip shot with a wedge would.
A bump and run can be utilized in the same way that the earlier example of using a lower lofted wedge to make the ball travel further on a large green complex is.
Should You Choke Up When Chipping?
Chipping, like the rest of the short game, is a very feel-oriented process. Players who become really talented in this area of the game often are comfortable moving their face angle, swing type, and grip location to accommodate a wide variety of shot techniques that help in proximity to the hole when chipping.
There is no rule stating that you have to move your hands closer to the bottom of the grip when hitting chip shots, but many players find that they feel they have more control making contact with the ball when they shorten the length of the golf club that is in their hands. This is especially important on bump and run shots, where your irons are significantly longer in club shaft length than your wedges.
When Should You Chip in Golf?
Chipping should generally be conducted around the greens in an effort to get the golf ball closer to the hole. A chip is generally a closer shot than a pitch, although that is not always the case.
Chipping also requires some more room for the golf ball to run out than a pitch shot does, as the ball comes into the green at a lower angle and will roll more after impacting the putting surface.
The exact time that a player should use a chip shot is really a matter of preference on the part of the player. The chip shot is a tool for players to utilize in an effort to lower their scores, and any time a player feels comfortable hitting a lower shot that may have some bite on it, they should look to the chip shot to help them make that crucial up and down around the green.
What Is a Pitch and Roll?
A pitch and roll, similar to a bump and run, is a similar approach where the ball is allowed to roll after making impact with the green. This is especially common when trying to hit a delicate flop shot into a green with a lot of slope between the player’s golf ball and the hole.
Generally, a pitch and roll will occur when the ball is being pitched into a downslope, meaning that the green runs away from the player towards the hole. On these shots, it is important to allow the golf ball enough space to take the slope of the green and continue rolling until it stops close to the hole.
What Is a Pitch and Putt?
“Pitch and Putt” is an expression used to describe very short golf courses. These types of courses can be found all over the place and fit into a few different categories.
The idea of a pitch and putt is that there is no need for a player to really utilize the longer clubs in their golf bag because the ball is either hit off of a tee to a distance that only requires a wedge, or the course only consists of Par 3s, foregoing the need of longer clubs. The different types of pitch and putt courses consist of Par 3 courses and executive courses.
Both types of courses can vary in setup, but the basic idea is that a Par 3 course will contain all or almost all Par 3s, whereas an executive course can contain all pars, but will have the holes be extremely short, generally under 6,000 yards and often under 5,500 with minimal to no Par 5s.
What Is the Rule of 12 in Golf Chipping?
The idea behind the Rule of 12 involves breaking each length of chip into 12 sections, meaning to take the total length of the chip and divide it by 12. Each club used then has a proportionate relationship between distance carried and distance rolled.
For an easy example, let’s take a chip of 12 feet. According to the Rule of 12, a 3 iron on this chip should land three feet in front of the current location and be allowed to roll an additional nine feet. By contrast, a pitching wedge would land nine feet away from the current location of the golf ball and allow it to roll three feet.
The concept states that as you move up and down in terms of the club being used to chip, the ball should be hit either one unit longer or shorter than the neighboring clubs you could use for the shot.
The Rule of 12 also requires proportionate use for longer or shorter chips. As an example, if the chip was 48 feet, a pitching wedge would be used to fly the ball 36 feet, before rolling out another 12 feet. The ratio for each club stays the same and can be used mathematically to analyze any distance.
There are a variety of opinions on this approach to chipping, with some players and coaches finding it helpful to analyze their chip shots, while others saying that the approach is outdated and does not have applicable use due to the many other variations that come into play when actually chipping on the course.