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Pitching vs Chipping - Golf Course Management

Do you take the time to think about what golf shot you want to hit and why? Or do you go into default mode and just grab the club you usually use and hope it works out?

A lot of players take the ladder approach and the lack of intention is often noticed by the result. Having a clear intention is crucial to executing our best golf and getting the most out of our golf game and our life endeavours. Once the intention is apparent, we can quickly go through a few questions to determine the shot. This is when course management comes into play in a big way.

Specifically with the short game, course management often involves determining if we should hit a pitch shot or a chip shot.

Below we are going to discuss the main differences between a pitch shot and a chip shot as well as when to put them into play to get the best results and optimize your game.

The three main facets of a Pitch Shot are:

  1. Use a more loft club; example is a 60 degree

  2. Ball usually spends a longer time in the air than on the ground

  3. The impact creates more spin on the ball for it to stop more quickly and even check back

An easy way to remember a pitch shot is think of pitching a tent. The balls path creates an arc, resembles the shape of a tent.

The three main facets of a Chip Shot:

  1. Use a less lofted club; example is a 9 iron

  2. The ball spends more time moving on the ground than in the air

  3. Focus on getting the ball on the green and rolling quickly

A fun way to remember a chip shot is to reminisce about delicious guacamole. As you think of dipping your tortilla chip in your bowl of goodness, realize how we might roll out the ingredients to make tortillas which become the perfect vehicle for you guac.

Just as tortilla chips are a perfect vehicle to delivery the guacamole to our mouth, the chip shot is often the best choice to delivery to golf ball to the hole.

Mainly because a chip shot is much simpler to execute, resulting in a smaller margin for error.

The body movement of a chip shot is minimal and the club moves back and through in a very simple pendulum motion, similar to a putting stroke.

It is helpful to know the specific differences between the pitch shot and chip shot, but it is also very important to know when to use them.

When should you pitch a tent and when it is better to dig that chip into the guacamole?

There are a few key factors to consider, which I will explain below, but usually for a beginner it is better to enjoy that delicious guacamole chip. The chip shot requires less technical skill, which helps minimize major errors. As a new golfer, the best course of action is not to hope and pray a shot works out, but to play smart by choosing the easier shot to execute. We tend to want to mimic the golf professions we see playing the PGA Tour or LPGA Tour, but that approach is not going to help with our score or your confidence without the constant practice and instruction. It's helpful to remember the pros practice all day, everyday for most of their life. Unless that is your current situation, opt for the play that will bring the best results for your game.

What are the key factors to consider when choosing between a pitch and chip shot?

Question #1: Do you have to hit over an obstacle? I.e. a bunker or water hazard

  1. Yes: Pitch it - go up and over the obstacle

b. No: See question #2

Questions # 2: Is there enough green to work with? Meaning: is there enough distance to the pin for the ball to have length to roll out?

  1. Yes: Chip it - roll that ball to the hole

b. No: Pitch it or chip it with a more lofted club (i.e. a 60 degree) to minimize the roll distance.

In summary, when around the green opt for the chip shot to help minimize error and set yourself up for par putts. Golf can be a complicated game if we let it. But if we keep it simple in our approach and play the shot that best suits our ability, the game becomes a lot easier and much more enjoyable.

Let us know your approach to shot decision making in the comments below.

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Happy Golfing!

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