Mastering the short game is essential for any golfer aiming to lower their scores and improve their overall performance on the course. Two fundamental techniques that play a pivotal role in the golfer’s short game arsenal are chipping and pitching. While both shots involve finesse and touch around the greens, understanding the differences between chipping and pitching, as well as knowing when to utilize each technique, can significantly enhance your ability to navigate various scenarios.
What is the Difference Between Chipping and Pitching in Golf?
Chipping involves a low-trajectory shot where the golfer aims to have the ball roll more upon landing. Chip shots are great for uphill shots and tight and uphill lies.
Pitching is a higher-trajectory shot played with more lofted clubs when a golfer needs the ball to fly through the air longer and land softly on the green. Pitch shots are great for longer distance chips, for when there’s a lot of obstacles and variabilities in the way and when a hole is located near the edge of a green.
How to Chip in Golf?
Chipping is a low-trajectory shot played with a variety of clubs, including a pitching wedge, 9-iron, or even a 7-iron in some cases when you need a lot of roll once the ball hits the ground.
For a chip, the ball is positioned back in the stance, closer to the back foot with your feet, hips, and shoulders pointed slightly in front of the ball (an open stance). About 60-70% of your weight should be on the front foot. Maintain a neutral grip with your hands ahead of the ball.
With the ball position and your stance, you will be striking the ball with a downward stroke. The swing will be made with a pendulum motion driven by the shoulders and upper body. Allow your club to continue moving smoothly after impact, with the hands leading the way. The follow-through should be shorter than a full swing.
When to Chip in Golf?
Chipping is typically used when the golfer is close to the green with little to no obstacle between the ball and the hole. They usually take place around the collar of the green. Here are some situations where chipping is a great option.
Chipping is great for shots that require a tight lie where there is little grass underneath it (where it’s slightly more difficult to get loft on the ball).
Chipping is also great for running shots where there is a significant distance between your ball and the hole, but the green surface is relatively flat and free of obstacles. A chip allows the ball to release early and roll towards the target.
Shots with an uphill lie can also be attacked with a chip. A chip shot can be more effective in maintaining control and preventing the ball from launching too high or losing distance upon landing (via backspin from a higher lofted shot).
How to Pitch in Golf?
Pitching is a higher-trajectory shot played with loft clubs such as a pitching wedge, sand wedge, or lob wedge.
Short-distance Pitch Shots
For a shorter pitch shot, your stance should be open with your body and feet pointed in front of the ball. For shorter shots we want less of a body turn so already having an open stance will prevent that from happening. So your weight should be placed slightly more on your front foot. This will ground your lower body more so your upper body will do most of the work to create more control in your swing (less moving parts).
Long-distance Pitch Shots
For a longer pitch shot, your stance should be more square so you can leverage your lower body for the longer stroke. Your weight should be distributed between the left and right leg 50/50
Your pitching stroke should start with a controlled takeaway led by your shoulders and upper body. Your weight on the backswing should shift slightly to your back leg. On the downswing your grip should be loose so you can feel the clubhead lag as your body transfers weight to your front foot. You should feel the clubhead release (full extension of arms, wrists, hands and club) at impact.
When to Pitch in Golf?
Pitching is used to clear obstacles like bunkers, longer grass, or when the golfer wants the ball to stop quickly upon landing. The higher trajectory of a pitch shot allows the ball to carry over hazards. Here are some situations where pitching may be a better option than chipping.
If the hole is located close to the edge of the green, leaving you with little room to work with, a pitch shot can provide the necessary loft and height to stop the ball quickly upon landing, preventing it from rolling too far past the hole.
When you need the ball to land softly and stop quickly on the green, especially on faster or sloping greens, a pitch shot with more loft and backspin can help control the ball’s descent and minimize roll after landing.
Variable Green Conditions
If the green has varying slopes, undulations, or is uneven, pitching can be advantageous. The higher trajectory and increased backspin of a pitch shot allow for you to avoid those variabilities and land the ball in a specific spot on the green.
When faced with longer distances to the pin where a chip shot may not provide enough carry or control, pitching allows you to hit the ball higher in the air and achieve more distance while still maintaining accuracy and control.