#15 Pitch or chip?

Published on   2023-03-27 by Kai

After I have already described the way from the tee to the hole stroke by stroke on this page, today we have to deal a bit more intensively with the approach.

More precisely: with the question of when to use a pitch and when to use a chip. And where is the difference?

Comfortable range to the hole

One thing is clear with both terms: The ball is already within comfortable range of the hole, but you can't reach for the putter yet because the green hasn't been reached. One speaks of a maximum distance of 100 meters, for beginners rather less. So now a pitch or a chip is on the agenda. Which of the two clubs is the means of choice depends on several aspects.

First of all, how much space does the ball have around the hole? Or better: is it allowed to roll or does it have to stay in place as much as possible after landing?

Much or little rolling surface

If there is a lot of rolling area, the chip is the method of choice, if there is little space, a small landing zone, pitching should be used.

This also shows which way the ball flies on the respective stroke: With the chip rather flat to medium high. Accordingly, the ball will still roll one third to one half of the distance from the tee to the hole.

In a high arc

When pitching, it should at best describe a high arc so that as much energy as possible is dissipated into the ground on landing and only a little roll occurs.

Now to the technical basics. Pitch and chip generally differ significantly in the way they are executed. While the classic golf swing is used for the pitch, the chip is executed in a pendulum motion, just like the putt.

With or without wrist action

Another clear distinction is the use of the wrists, which are very much used in the pitch, but should be kept stiff in the chip.

From all this it can be seen that both types of stroke present their own challenges to the player: The pitch is technically more demanding, as the golf swing and movement of the wrist complicate the stroke. In the case of the pendulum chip, the correct landing zone must be targeted and achieved through the correct dosage of force.

Landing zone is important

Note: The pitch may land relatively close to the hole. With the chip, however, the landing point is not the hole, but an area half to two-thirds of the distance to the hole. This is because the ball will still be rolling.

So the trajectory makes the difference. For the pitch, it should look like you are throwing the ball out of your hand by swinging your hanging arm back and then forward again, releasing the ball just before the arm describes a parallel to the ground. Then the ball will tend to rise high and describe a parabola in flight that is not designed to go very far.

Do not forget etiquette

When the ball lands (at best on the green), the pitch mark is then created at the point of entry, which should of course be removed so that it does not obstruct the balls of the following golfers, for example, when putting. This is where etiquette comes into play, just as it does when raking after a bunker shot. The next golfers will thank you.

So, to achieve this parabola, the ball must be played with a club with as much loft as possible (i.e., standard 8 iron to sand wedge) clear from the bottom to a) make it rise quickly and b) to give it as much backspin as possible, i.e., backspin.

The intensity of the swing and the wrist movement (which is part of the swing in general) then determine the height, spin and distance of the ball flight. So here we deviate from the rule of determining the distance of the shot by the choice of club. Since a lot of loft is needed, the swing must be dosed when pitching. Here, experience plays a role in determining how much power is needed for which height or distance.

Several ways to Rome

With the chip, there are several ways to Rome, i.e. to the goal. The most commonly taught setup is a ball position centered between the feet to slightly to the left (for right-handers), i.e. offset towards the hole.

The club should then also be in the middle of the body (like a putter) perpendicular to the ground. Through more or less pendulum motion, the ball is then carried more or less far. Depending on the loft, it flies higher (much loft = pitching wedge or sand wedge) or flatter (8 or 9 iron) towards the hole.

Long club = long roll

It should be noted that the longer the club, the longer its roll. So with a wayde it will roll less, with an 8 or 9 iron it will roll a little more. Again, of course, it is important to gain experience on the practice range before using the club on the round.

The second way of chipping looks different: Already the positioning of the ball must be considered: If the ball is to rise a little higher and roll less, it goes roughly in front of the left foot (for right-handers), for a flat trajectory it is positioned more in front of the right foot.

Choice of club is secondary

Then you reach for the wedge (here the club choice is rather neglected), put your weight on the front foot and tilt the shaft to the left until the two gripping hands are at least clearly in front of the left leg. The wrists are thus clearly bent in and remain so during the stroke, while the club is guided only by a pendulum movement of the shoulders.

What sounds complicated here is surprisingly simple in practice. Professional golfer Phil Mickelson explains it in the video.

Which chip type is chosen is entirely up to the player. One player gets along better with the classically taught method, the other can achieve better results with Mickelson's way of chipping. If you try and compare both on the practice range, you will quickly know what your personal way to a good chip should be.

There remains the urgent advice to practice pitch and chip not only before the next round, intensively and meticulously, but on every visit to the course. The scorecard will show the success relatively quickly. Have fun with it.

Previous article in the series: How to Golf 14: Your friend, the putting green - Part 3

Next article in the series: How to Golf 16: Fairway wood or hybrid?

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How to Golf