Chipping and Pitching Fundamentals

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chipping and pitching fundamentals

Chipping and pitching are two of the most important shots in golf, especially when it comes to playing around the green. They require a different technique and mindset compared to full swings. The short game is the most important aspect of golf, so mastering these short shots can improve your overall game.

Chipping is a shot that is usually played from short grass around the green, while pitching involves hitting the ball higher and longer, usually from taller grass or uneven lies. Both shots require precise ball striking and control of the clubface, and the right technique can make all the difference in getting the ball close to the hole or ending up in a bunker.

Here at the Golf Experts, we’ve researched all the chipping and pitching fundamentals for you. In this blog post, we will delve into these fundamentals in greater detail, offering tips and drills to help you improve your chipping and pitching game. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced golfer, by understanding and mastering these shots, you’ll be able to save strokes and shoot lower scores

What is the difference between a chip shot and a pitch shot?

The main difference between a chip shot and a pitch shot is the trajectory and distance of each shot.

Most golfers do not understand the difference between chipping and pitching. Both terms are often used by players for the same shot. I definitely struggled with this concept when I first started hacking my way through golf courses. I would say I’m going to chip on to the green when I meant pitch on and vice versa.

What is a chip shot in golf?

A chip shot is a short, low-flying shot used to get the ball onto the green and close to the hole. It’s usually played with a lower-lofted club and the ball rolls more than it flies. Depending on the scenario, you can use any club to hit a chip shot. Because you need to keep the ball low to the ground, a mid-iron is normally used. Mid irons have a lower loft meaning the trajectory when using one is naturally lower and doesn’t need any manipulation.

If you have a small obstacle between you and the green, a wedge can be used to get a higher trajectory. Wedges have more club head loft meaning the trajectory will be higher. 

The club you decide to use for a chip should be based on:

  • The distance the ball needs to travel in the air before landing on the green
  • How far the ball needs to roll out towards the hole once it’s landed on the green
  • Are there any obstacles between you and the green
  • Your chipping skill level and how comfortable you are with certain chip shots

You can read more here about how to decide which club to use for chipping

When to hit a chip shot?

A chip shot is typically used when the ball is near the green but not on it. It is used to get the ball onto the green and close to the hole with a low trajectory and minimal air time. Some other scenarios include:

  • The ball is just off the green, lying on the fringe or rough.
  • You have a good idea of how the ball will react once it hits the green
  • The green has a small slope or undulation that would cause the ball to roll more than fly if you were to putt it instead.
  • You are within a few yards of the green and want to minimize the risk of a miss-hit or skulling one over the green.
chipping and pitching fundamentals

What is a pitch shot in golf?

A pitch shot is a higher-flying shot with more backspin that lands softly on the green. It’s used when the golfer is further from the green and needs more control over the ball’s landing spot.

Pitch shots travel further and go higher than chip shots. Because you need more height with a pitch shot, you would normally use a higher-lofted club like a wedge. Again, the loft determines how high your shot will go up in the air naturally so a wedge shot will make the ball go higher.

There are fewer options when hitting a pitch shot. Choosing a club to use for a pitch shot should be determined by the following:

  • Using a club with enough loft to get you up into the air and land softly on the green
  • Choosing a club that you are comfortable using

When to hit a pitch shot

You should choose to hit a pitch shot when you require the ball to go higher in the air and land softly. Adding height to a shot means you can control the ball better and ultimately get it closer to the hole.

What is the ground like around the ball? If you can’t make a clean strike with the ball a pitch shot will probably be better. Can you predict how the ball will react once it hits the ground and starts rolling? If not, then a pitch shot is the way to go.

What type of shot is required?  Do you need to carry the ball over an obstacle like a water hazard or a bunker? Or do you need to get it to stop more quickly near a tricky pin placement? Maybe you don’t have a lot of green to work with and need to get the ball higher. If the answer is yes to any of these, you should hit a pitch shot.

How to setup and hit different chip shots

The short game is probably the most important part of golf. All golfers, regardless of skill level, will at some point in a round of golf be faced with a chip shot. Even the professionals don’t hit the green every time. The average green in regulation across the PGA tour in the 2021-22 season was 65.57%. Getting the ball as close to the hole as possible will undoubtedly have a positive effect on your scores.

Chipping stance

When chipping you stand closer to the ball with your feet a lot closer together than they would be for a full swing shot. How close they are is down to personal preference. If you’re really unsure or can’t decide, then aim for roughly a foot in distance between your feet. Always make sure you are comfortable with the distance you choose.

Ball position for a chip shot

The ball position for a chip shot should be slightly back from where your clubhead bottoms out during the chipping stroke. This will allow you to hit down on the ball and apply some spin. Be careful not to place the ball too far back that it causes you to chunk your chip shot

Club choice

Don’t assume that just because you’re next to the green that you should immediately grab your sand or lob wedge. It takes a while to perfect using these clubs around the green. Instead, grab your pitching wedge or a high iron like an 8-iron or 9-iron. Using these clubs instead of a sand wedge will get the ball closer to the hole and gives you a higher margin of error when hitting not-so-perfect shots.

chipping and pitching fundamentals

Weight distribution when chipping

For chip shots, your weight should be more on your lead side. Aim for a 60/40 weight distribution in favor of your lead side. Having your weight forward like this, will help you hit the ball first, cleanly, and avoid hitting the ground before the ball.

Landing spot

It is really important when lining up for a chip shot to visualize where you want the ball to land. You should aim to land the ball about 25% of the distance between your ball and the hole. This will allow you plenty of room for the ball to roll out to the hole once it lands.

Low running chip shot aka the bump and run

The bump and run is a low, running shot used to get the ball close to the hole on the green. Set up with your weight forward and the ball slightly back in your stance. You should adopt a narrow stance, like the stance you would adopt for a putt. Take a short, compact swing keeping your follow-through low to the ground. Aim to make a shallow divot and let the ball roll out towards the hole. The key is to control your speed and trajectory while maintaining a consistent swing throughout the shot. Remember that like a putt, you should keep your wrists stiffer in the swing and don’t allow them to bend.

A chip shot that spins and stops quickly

If you need to hit a chip shot that “bites” and stops quickly, grab your highest lofted club. A 60-degree wedge works particularly well for this shot. Keep your weight forward, take a very narrow stance, and position the ball off your back foot. Make your backswing and hinge your wrists quickly. As you swing down, keep it steep making sure that your hands lead the way so that the clubhead is delivered into the back of the ball cleanly. Accelerate through impact to create spin. The ball will come out low because the club face is delofted, but it should stop quickly.

How to setup and hit different pitch shots

Pitching is an essential skill to learn as just like the pros, you won’t always be close enough to the green to chip on. Unlike a chip which usually requires a small compact swing, a pitch shot is more like a full swing shot. You should allow your wrists to hinge in the backswing. The length of your backswing should match the length of your downswing.

Pitching stance

The stance for a pitch shot will be similar to the stance for your normal full-swing shot. Your feet should roughly be shoulder width apart.

Ball position for a pitch shot

In a pitch shot, the ball should be placed more in the middle of your stance. Setting the ball further back increases how steep the club will be at impact and decrease the amount of loft. Setting the ball further forward will mean the club is more shallow at impact and increases the amount of loft.

Club choice

Pitching requires more loft than a chip shot. You should use a higher lofted club such as a sand wedge or lob wedge this will allow you to get the ball higher into the air and land more softly.

Weight distribution when pitching

Just like a chip shot, you should move your weight more toward the lead side for a pitch shot. This will allow you to hit the ball first and the ground second.

Landing spot

Try to pick a landing spot that is roughly halfway between your ball and the hole. Hitting with a higher lofted club means that the ball will go higher up into the air, land softly and roll out the rest of the way.

chipping and pitching fundamentals

Low pitch shot

This type of pitch shot is useful for hitting over an obstacle like a bunker or some green side rough and getting the ball to roll out to the hole. Grab a sand wedge or pitching wedge and make sure your grip is firm but relaxed to allow for a wrist hinge and a smooth swing. Position the ball towards the middle of your stance, with your weight slightly forward. Make a short compact backswing to limit the height of the shot. Focus on hitting down. The key to hitting a low-trajectory shot is to strike the ball before the ground. Focus on hitting down on the ball with a steep angle of descent. You should keep your hands ahead of the clubhead at impact and allow your wrist to release through the shot. After impact, continue the downward motion and allow your follow-through to be low and short.

High-pitch shot or “flop shot”

A high flop shot in golf is a high-lofted, soft-landing shot that is typically used from around the green to get the ball over a bunker or obstacle and stop quickly on the green.

Grab your lob wedge or wedge with a high degree of loft. Typically between 60 and 64 degrees, is the best club for hitting a high flop shot. Make sure your hands are positioned slightly forward on the club handle. Position the ball towards the front of your stance and lean forward slightly to create an upward angle of attack. Open the clubface at address to increase the loft and trajectory of the shot.

Take a low, sweeping backswing to build speed and power. Use a lot of wrist hinge to increase the loft and trajectory of the shot. Strike the ball first and then the ground. This will create a high, soft landing shot that stops quickly on the green. After impact, allow your follow-through to be high and upwards to maintain the loft and trajectory of the shot.

Bonus Tip – For the most comprehensive guide on chipping, including flop shots, bump and runs, and bunker shots, see our golf chipping page and chipping vs pitching page.

The Cut line

If you want to lower your golf scores or get up and down to save par, you must know which type of shot to play for any scenario you face. Knowing when to hit a bump and run versus hitting a flop shot will, in the long run, get you more pars or even birdies and save you from making bogeys.

Aside from the technical aspect, mental preparation and visualization play a significant role in chipping and pitching. Visualizing the shot, focusing on a specific target, and having a pre-shot routine can help build confidence and reduce anxiety around the green.

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Tommy is a confirmed golf fanatic. He's been playing golf for 20 years and just loves everything about the game. His dad used to play golf a lot and watch the PGA and European Tours, so Tommy started watching too. Now he knows a lot about golf and loves to coach people and help them play better.

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