When to Chip, When to Pitch From Near the Green, Golf Tip

What's the difference between a chip and a pitch?

Quite simply, a chip is a shot from near the green that spends more time on the ground than in the air. A pitch does the opposite, flying most of the way toward the hole and rolling little, if any, after landing. Also, chips tend to fly very low, whereas pitches are designed as a vertical escape route.

You should chip the golf ball when:

• The ball lies very close to the green, with at least 15 feet between the green's edge and hole.

• The ball lies within five yards of the green, there's no sand or major undulation to play over, and at least 20 feet of green to work with.

• The greens are slow, allowing for an aggressive, running shot.

You should pitch the golf ball when:

• There's a sand trap between the ball and hole.

• The pin sits on top of a shelf or tier with little room in front of or behind the hole.

• The ball lies at least five yards off the putting surface with no more than 20 feet of green to work with.

• The greens are fast, requiring a lofted shot to control the ball.

When to Chip and When to Pitch from Near the Green

When to Chip and When to Pitch from Near the Green

It can be frustrating to barely miss the green with your approach shot. You will feel like you were so close to setting up a birdie putt, but now you have to deal with a potentially challenging chip or pitch. Of course, golf doesn't allow for any time to sit around and feel frustrated or disappointed – you just have to get on with your round. No matter what the outcome of a previous shot may have been, your only option is to get prepared to play the next shot to the best of your ability.

In this article, we are going to talk about the decision you need to make with regard to chipping and pitching from near the green. In other words, how do you decide when you hit a chip shot, and when to hit a pitch? This can be a difficult choice, as there are pros and cons to each approach. Decision making is always important in golf, and that certainly applies to the short game. Choosing the right short game shot could enable you to place your golf ball right next to the hole – while picking the wrong shot could cause you to miss the green altogether.

Before we dive too far into this discussion, the first thing we need to do is differentiate between a chip and a pitch. While there is no official definition for these shots – each golfer is free to have his or her own interpretation – we are going to divide them up cleanly for the purposes of this article. In the content below, a chip shot is going to refer to a shot which is played low along the ground, only carrying a short distance in the air before bouncing and rolling toward the target. A pitch shot, on the other hand, is going to have a longer carry distance, and it will often use spin to help the ball come to a stop. Both of these shots are valuable, and you should practice each of them regularly to make sure they are available when needed.

Of course, it will be worth your effort in practice to fine tune your technique in order to execute these shots at a consistently high level. However, in this article, we are not going to dive into the physical side of the equation – that is a topic for another time. Here, we are only interested in when you should use one shot rather than the other. This is a course management discussion more than anything else. Since most amateur golfers fail to think much about course management as they play, we feel this is a discussion which can benefit nearly every player.

All of the content below is based on a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.

A Different Path to the Same Target

A Different Path to the Same Target

In many cases, it would be perfectly acceptable to hit either a chip or a pitch up toward the hole. When the circumstances that you are facing on the golf course don't dictate that you pick one option or the other, you will be free to choose the one which fills you with the most confidence. Some players are naturally better at chipping than pitching, while the inverse is true for others. Be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses on the course, and lean toward your stronger categories whenever possible.

One of the things that makes golf such a great game is the fact that there are endless possible ways to get the job done. You don't have to shape your shots like anyone else in order to have success – you just need to get the ball in the hole in as few strokes as possible. As the old saying goes, there are no pictures on the scorecard. Therefore, in the short game, you can feel free to take whatever path suits your eye. On a straightforward chip shot with no obstacles in the way, you'll be able to take your pick between a chip and a pitch. Some players will prefer to keep the ball down, bouncing it along the turf until it rolls out to the cup. Others like to go higher, spinning their pitch shots such that they stop within just a bounce or two after they land. Again, there is no right or wrong here, unless the layout of the course demands you make a specific choice.

To understand better the differences between a chip and a pitch, let's walk through a few key points related to each type of shot. The first list of points will cover features of a standard chip shot.

  • Chip shots tend to be played with less loft than pitch shots, so you'll frequently be using something like a nine iron or pitching wedge. However, there is no rule regarding which clubs can be used for a chip shot, so keep an open mind and adapt to the situation at hand.
  • Your chip shots are only going to fly a short distance before landing, usually just onto the edge of the green. In certain situations – like when the course is dry and firm – you might actually choose to land your chip shots off the edge of the green before bouncing them onto the surface. The majority of the distance which needs to be covered by any chip shot is going to be covered along the ground.
  • A chip shot is hit with a simplistic motion, similar to one you would use when putting. The club is going to be put in motion mostly through the use of your shoulders rocking back and forth. A small amount of hand action is permitted, but it should be kept to a minimum in order to ensure solid contact.
  • Most chip shots will be played from a square stance, again mimicking what you do on the putting green.

By contrast, the following points outline the keys for a standard pitch shot.

  • You will use more loft when pitching the ball, unless you are facing a particularly long shot. Most of the time, it will be either your sand wedge or your lob wedge which is pressed into action to produce a pitch shot.
  • The bulk of the distance in a pitch shot is going to be covered in the air. The exact ratio of distance covered in the air as compared to on the ground will vary based on many factors, but 75/25 is a good starting point. That means that the typical pitch shot will cover three quarters of its distance in the air, while using bounce and roll to cover the last quarter of the distance to the hole.
  • You are still going to want to use a relatively simple motion when pitching, but you'll need to incorporate more hand action if you want to generate the kind of spin you need to stop the shot effectively. The right wrist should hinge a bit on the way back, and you should release the club slightly on the way through.
  • It is common for golfers to open their stances slightly when pitching the ball. An open stance gives you a better view of the target and it will also encourage the generation of extra backspin.

They might look somewhat similar when you watch another player hit chip and pitch shots, but the two are really quite different. Teaching yourself how to hit both of these shots is an important step in your development as a golfer. If you aren't yet comfortable with chip and pitch shots, learning how to hit them should be near the top of your golf priority list. With the shots added to your arsenal, you can then think about when they should be used.

Three Main Factors

Three Main Factors

When you are assessing any short game shot which you need to play from around the green, there are three main factors that you need to take into consideration. There are certainly other, smaller points to think about as well, but these three keys are where your planning and decision making process should start. Once you view the shot you are facing through the lens of these three points, you can move on to consider anything else that will influence your final choice.

For a quick explanation of each of the three factors, please review the list below.

  • Required carry distance. This is the distance that you are going to need to hit the ball in the air before you can allow it to land and roll out the rest of the way to the target. It is not always necessary to land the ball directly on the green, especially when the ground is firm and you can count on a good bounce off of the fringe. However, you will want to carry the ball over the rough, and obviously you will be forced to carry a specific distance when there is a bunker in your way. Generally speaking, you will need to be rather close to the green in order to hit a chip shot, as trying to carry the ball far enough from farther back while hitting a chip would be difficult.
  • Slope of the green. You need to pay careful attention to this point, as you can easily chip the ball off the other side of the green if the slope is not in your favor. Since chip shots don't use spin to stop the ball, you are generally going to get a lot of roll out until the ball finally comes to rest. That is fine when you are playing uphill or across flat ground, but it can be a problem when chipping downhill. On a downhill shot, it may be best to use a pitching technique in order to generate spin that can help the ball stop before it runs off the other side. When chipping uphill, on the other hand, you should feel free to play either kind of shot. The ball is going to stop relatively easily anyway, so your choice between chip or pitch can be left to other factors (and personal preference).
  • Lie of the ball. This is a big one, yet it is often overlooked. When you are playing a short game shot from near the green, you need to evaluate the quality of your lie and proceed accordingly. It is easier to chip than pitch from a questionable lie, so always favor chipping when you aren't quite sure how the ball is going to come out. You need to make clean contact in order to produce a nice pitch shot, and that may not be possible if the ball is sitting down in longer grass. There is nothing you can do to 'fight' the lie of the ball, so an experienced golfer knows to simply accept the limitations of the lie and make the best of the situation.

Once you have thought about these three main factors in the debate between a chip and a pitch, you will be most of the way to your decision. Often, the decision is basically made for you by the terrain that is waiting between your ball and the hole. Have to hit the shot over a bunker before you can land on the green? A pitch shot is the necessary choice. Only need to carry the shot a foot or two in the air before a quick roll out to the hole? Sounds like a simple chip. Do your best not to overcomplicate the decision you are making here – trust your eyes and your past experiences on the course to make the right call.