Knowing when to chip vs when to pitch can save you loads of shots around the greens. Hannah Holden and Jack Backhouse show you the difference.
A lot of club golfers get stuck knowing the difference between the chip vs pitch shot and knowing which situation demands which shot. In the video below, Hannah Holden and Jack Backhouse debate the differences between the shots and give a run down of how to know when to play both.
What is a chip shot?
By Jack’s definition, a chip shot is when the ball is going to run further than it carries and is often played low. This shot is employed when a golfer has missed the green, and there is a lot of green between the ball and the flag. In these situations, it rarely makes sense to hit a high shot that carries most of the way to the flag, as the length of swing required for this shot brings in added risk for little to no reward.
A chip shot can be played with a lob wedge or something lower lofted like a 9 iron, but with the shot being generally low and running, it is easier to play with a lower lofted club. Tour players will often hit a chip shot with a lofted wedge, but with all the practice they are afforded to do, they are much sharper at making consistent contact, whereas amateurs are better using a mid to short iron.
How to play a chip shot
A chip shot is played similarly to the technique used for putting. A golfer will want to stand fairly close to the ball, with their hands at the bottom of the grip and the heel of the club resting slightly in the air. The golf ball position should be fairly back of centre, and the hands forward of the ball, creating some forward shaft lean and de-lofting the club.
The golfer should then rock their shoulders, keeping their wrists and arms fairly firm, creating a putting-type stroke where the club stays fairly close to the ground in the backswing and downswing. We don’t need much ‘hit’ in this shot, as we are just trying to nudge the ball onto the green to get the ball rolling close to the hole.
A common mistake made by golfers with the chip shot is using too much wrist hinge or making a backswing that is too long. When chipping with a low lofted club a golfer can often hit the shots way too far, this because irons are designed more for speed than wedges are, making the faces springier than wedges. Keep the chipping stroke short, similar to a putting stroke, and a golfer will make far more up and downs.
What is a pitch shot?
A pitch shot is defined by Jack as a shot close to the green where the ball will carry more than it runs out, generally played with a club with lots of loft. This shot will be employed when a golfer misses a green in a position where they have to hit over something in order to get the ball onto the green or close to the flag. this shot is easily discernable from a chip shot as the swing looks a lot more like a miniature full swing than a putting stroke.
This shot game shot is played a lot with a lob or sand wedge and can be seen a lot on the PGA or European Tour, as players hit a lot of high shots that land closer to the flag and stop quickly. Doing this shot can be a higher risk than a chip shot as with a longer swing, the potential bad shots are worse, but often, from tricky situations around the green, a golfer will have no choice but to hit a pitch shot to get the ball on the green or close to the flag.
It also helps to have a specialised wedge to use in the sand, not just the sand wedge that comes as part of an iron set. This is because they are designed with specialised grinds and lower leading edges that help the club move through the sand smoothly and not dig. Keeping the divot shallow helps get the ball out more often, too.
How to play a pitch shot
The set up to a chip and pitch shot is quite similar. A golfer will want a narrow stance, ball roughly in the centre and stood closer to the ball than a normal full shot. The hands won’t be quite as pressed forward as with a chip shot as this short game shot wants to be played with some loft as the ball needs to get up in the air for the shot to finish close. Weight distribution should be 60/40 front foot and wont change much throughout the swing.
The big difference between the two shots is the swing used. A pitch shot requires a much longer swing due to the shorter club and more loft, and also pitch shots will also be longer than chips. A golfer will use softer wrists and elbows on this shot to have the club swing more throughout the stroke, and the club should make contact with the ground roughly 1 inch ahead of the ball in order to strike the ball before the ground.
Jack suggests opening the club face at address roughly 5 degrees in order to expose some of the bounce of the club, which just gives the player a little more margin for error with their contact and will still allow a golfer to get the ball close if they catch the ground slightly behind the golf ball.
A simple way to think about chip vs pitch is to consider the shot in front of you. If there is plenty of green to work with and nothing to go over, it is a sensible idea to hit a low running chip shot as it is much lower risk and statistically a golfer is more likely to hit a 9 iron close around the greens compared to a lofted wedge. If in doubt, chip it.
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