For the sake of simplicity, all advice on swings and drills is provided from a right handed perspective; lefties …. well, you know what to do!
“To Chip or To Pitch, That is The Question” – golf’s version of Shakespeare’s “To Be or Not To Be – That is The Question” 🙂
The answer depends on many factors:
Distance From The Green
Most players opt for a chip method from greenside, and for a pitch shot from around 10 yards and longer. I think that type of thinking for the average golfer costs him or her strokes. A pitch shot requires more “feel” than a chip shot, and “feel” is only developed after a lot of practice. There are some who have been blessed with a more natural ability to experience “feel”, but there are no shortcuts to developing “feel” to a high level. It’s practice, practice, practice.
Most players also think that because the hole is close to the near edge of the green, that they must hit a high pitch shot to get it close. If you are good at that shot fine, but most average golfers will leave the ball short of the green and still have to contend with an up and down vs. two putts for the same score if they had hit the green with the first shot.
Layout of The Area Around the Green
Just because there is a little elevation to a green doesn’t mean that you have to pitch the ball. A chip swing bumping the ball into a hill in the fringe is still a safer option for an unpracticed player. If there’s a sand trap or water between you and the hole, a pitch shot with it’s higher trajectory may be warranted.
Slope of The Green
If the green runs away from the hole severely, then a high, soft pitch shot may well be the better option – providing that your lie allows for it and that you KNOW you have the skill to pull it off.
Wind into your face may be a good reason to chose a pitch shot to certain hole positions if you have excellent distance control, but a chip shot bores through the wind very well.
Very wet or moist conditions may mean that flying the ball further may be the better option if your roll out could be affected by wet conditions.
The Type of Ball You Use
If you are a practiced player and play a “spin” type ball, a pitch shot should be in your repertoire. If you don’t practice much, and play a “distance” type ball, chipping will almost always be a better option.
In situations where it’s a toss up, which swing should you choose?
The swing you’re best at (and here are a couple of ways to determine that.)
Practice each swing with “left hand only” swings.
If you are more comfortable with a feeling of pulling the club through the ball with your left wrist staying very flat or even bent back (palmar flexed) with good forward shaft lean, and the result is a low trajectory shot, you will usually be better with a chip shot.
If, however, your natural tendency is to allow the club to get a bit vertical at impact, losing some of the flatness in your left wrist and losing some – but not all – of it’s forward shaft lean, producing a higher trajectory shot, you may be better off with a pitch shot as long as you can strike the ball cleanly.
Test each swing method – chip and pitch shots with your usual grip – from 10, 20, 30, and 40 yards and see which one gets the ball on the green more consistently.
If you practice both chipping and pitching techniques a lot and own them both, evaluate the conditions and go with your gut.
If you are like the other 95% of the golfing population and don’t “own” both swings, you should usually opt for a chipping technique. It’s a safer bet to at least get the ball moving in the right direction at a trajectory that will allow for some roll out, even if the strike is imperfect.
Personally I almost always opt for a chip swing whenever possible, even from as far as 100 yards from the pin. For me it’s usually a more reliable technique to help me keep the ball under the hole. I trust my putter from there. Also for me, if it’s windy in any direction, a chipping technique shot is more reliable than a pitch shot.
The addition of three new permanent outdoor Tour Greens synthetic greens at Plum Creek will allow me to conduct pitching lessons this year to a target green from varying distances, helping me to evaluate whether either pitching or chipping would be the better option for individual students.
I’m pumped to have that new resource available for my instruction!
Love your practice, own your swing, own your health,