After 18 years of teaching, I still have clients that get confused between a pitch and a chip. I even hear accomplished players refer to a chip as a pitch and vice versa. So what is the easiest way to define these shots? A chip is a shot that will roll on the ground a greater distance than it travels in the air and a pitch is a shot in which the ball will have more air time than roll time. So when do you use one over the other?
A great adage is to putt when you can putt, chip when you can’t putt and pitch when you can’t putt or chip. The reason is simple – the lowest shot available is the easiest to pull off. A putter has around 3 – 4 degrees of loft. When putting there is no expectation of getting the ball air born. I know this makes me breathe a bit easier when just off the green. Use the putter whenever possible and you will avoid the big miss.
The chip shot motion is similar to a putting stroke from the stand point that there better not be any wrist hinge. Chipping is also referred to as the bump and run. You can use all irons to chip including SW to a 6 iron. Use a more lofted club when you have a short chip and less loft when faced with a longer chip. A great rule is to always land a chip 3-5 feet onto the front of the green and let the ball roll from there.
A pitch shot, used as a last resort, should fly higher and land softer. This is most commonly utilized when having to hit over a bunker or some sort of obstacle. Naturally hitting the ball up in the air with a more lofted club has a greater margin for error. It is very easy to hit the ground before the ball or catch the ball thin on the equator. Unlike the other two shots, a pitch motion uses wrist hinge which steepens the angle the club head comes into the ball.
If you want to avoid the big miss around the green, putt when you can, chip when you can’t putt and pitch as the last option.
John Stahlschmidt, PGA is the Director of Instruction at Camelback Golf Club located in Scottsdale, Arizona. John is currently ranked #12 in the state by Golf Digest Magazine and is a Golf Tips “top 30” instructor. To comment or to schedule a lesson, visit John’s website at jjsgolf.org or email him at email@example.com.