Canadian Fade - Play, Practice, Enjoy

Is It a Pitch Shot or a Chip Shot?

Derek Highley - Sunday, April 01, 2012

I get asked this question quite a bit during short game clinics. "What is the difference between a pitch shot and a chip shot?"  Well, the easiest way to think of it is, swing mechanics aside - a chip shot has more ground time than air time and is more of a low running shot while a pitch shot has more air time than ground time and is more of a mini version of a full swing.

Now, as far as the mechanics for each shot, the main difference between the two is “wrist hinge”.

With the chip shot there really isn’t going to be much wrist hinge at all, for all intents and purpose your chipping stroke is not much more then a putting stroke with a lofted club.  That is assuming that your current putting stroke does not have a bunch of wrist hinge in it and if it does … well … that’s not good, and I’ll have to get another article together for you.

With the pitch shot we introduce a bit of wrist hinge and the amount of hinge plays a roll in the distance control of the shot, the more wrist hinge the farther the shot will travel.  To control the height of your pitch shots play around with the ball position.

If you place the ball “back” in your stance, the ball flight will be lower and have the most roll.  Positioning the ball in the middle of your stance will produce a shot with a bit higher/mid trajectory with a little less roll, while a ball positioned forward in your stance with produce the highest lofted shot with the least amount of roll out.  Practice varying the height of your pitch shots using this technique; you want to avoid at all costs getting into a habit of trying to lift the ball up into the air.  If you want a higher shot, use a more lofted club and move the ball forward in your swing, keep the same swing technique.

Knowing what height of pitch shot to play depends on how much green you have to work with. For example, if you have 30 or 40 feet of green between you and the hole, you may be able to put the ball back in your stance and hit a lower, running pitch that may only have to fly half way to the hole and release the rest of the way. This shot can be done with a sand wedge or even a pitching wedge. This is the more favorable type of pitch shot, as it is the easiest and allows the most room for error.

Some situations may call for a higher, softer pitch shot.  Situations where you have to go over a bunker, water or to a pin that may only be a few steps onto the green. A lob wedge is best utilized for this shot. While this is a prettier shot and may draw a few oohs and aahs from your playing partners, most would agree that this shot is one of the harder ones to play and most often you are better off simply avoiding this shot.  But if you really feel a need to pull out your best Phil Mickelson impersonation do yourself a favour and practice the shot a few times before breaking it out on the golf course.

I believe the chip shot is a much easier shot to play and is not used often enough. The chip is a low shot that is only in the air for a pace or two and then rolls most of the distance to the hole.  To effectively play this shot, position the ball in the middle to back of your stance.  Make sure that your weight remains on your forward leg, this will help you stay steady throughout the shot.  There is no weight shift for this shot.  Once you feel comfortable with this set-up, play around with the clubs you chip with.  The lower lofted the club (a 7 iron for example) should be used for long chip shots while shorter shots may call for a more lofted club like your pitching wedge.

Both the pitch and the chip are “stroke saving” shots, meaning there is no better way to lower your scores then by getting very skilled with your short game.  One key to remember is hitting slightly down on the ball with both these shots is what makes the ball go up into the air.  If you're constantly "sculling" or “chunking” these shots, you're most likely trying to help the ball up in the air, commonly referred to as "scooping" or "flipping" your hands.  This is the biggest killer of most short games and trust me, no matter how often your partners tell you this, I promise, your poor chipping and pitching is NOT because you are "lifting your head or looking up"!

Good luck with both of these shots.

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