A pitch shot and a chip shot look the same from afar. The term even sounds similar! The differences lie in the spin, swing, and club choice to set it straight.
We understand the confusion between these two short game shots. Let’s break it down, shall we?
Defining Chipping and Pitching
First, let’s lay down the definitions and goals of these two shots.
A chip shot is a lower shot with as little spin as possible. It has less airtime, and you want to keep the ball rolling closer to the hole.
You don’t need an advanced skill level to do chip shots correctly. The fact that it’s closer to the ground lessens the chance of committing errors, which you want to avoid in a short game shot.
A pitch shot has more spin, more air time, and does not roll. It has a higher trajectory and requires a higher swing.
The intention is to hit the ball farther than a chip shot. Amateur golfers may find it tricky at first since you need more control for precision.
Chipping vs. Pitching Similarities
Before diving into the distinctions, we also acknowledge that both have similar attributes. There’s a reason why many golfers interchange them and why beginners confuse the two.
Both Are Short Game Shots
Let’s explain what a short game is for the sake of those who are new to golf. It’s the category term used when the golfer is already on the greens or near it.
That said, chipping and pitching have the same goal. You hit a chip or pitch shot to get the ball close to the greens.
Both Are Not Full Swing Shots
Since you are near, a full swing will only send the ball farther than necessary. Though we mentioned pitching is meant for longer distances, the range should still be closer than a full swing.
Both Have the Same Setting Up
The pitch and chip shots start with a narrow stance with your feet less than a foot apart.
Keep the trail foot closer to the target line. Make sure that you can easily rotate your lead foot and your weight is centered here. Ensure that your alignment and shoulders are square or slightly open, not closed.
Don’t tilt your spine back, since as mentioned, this isn’t a full shot.
Chipping vs. Pitching Key Differences
Now for the actual discussion, let’s get to the difference between chipping and pitching. We’ll discuss the following categories in this section:
- Purpose and Use
- Stance and Technique
- Club Selection
Purpose and Use
While the goal is the same, the usage is different. The proper use will depend on distance, ground conditions, and obstacles along the golf course.
You do a chip shot under the following conditions:
- When the pin is in the back of the green
- When there are no obstacles along the way
- When there isn’t a considerable distance between where you are and the hole (15-20 feet)
- When there’s no sand or bumpy ground to work with
In easier words, when you’re close and if the ground is even, you hit the ball low and do a chip shot.
You do a pitch shot under the following conditions:
- When you’re not working with many greens
- When you’re at a farther distance in the rough or short grass
- When the ground is uneven, and greens are sloped
- When there are obstacles on the way and a ball roll can’t do
When you’re far and need the ball to stop quickly at a precise position, you hit a pitch shot.
Stance and Technique
One main difference between chipping and pitching is the stance and technique. There are steps and tips to follow to perfect the different shots.
How to Hit a Chip Shot
Calculate your aim and lie: It may seem like an obvious tip, but many golfers fail to evaluate the situation, resulting in poor shots. General Rule aims for at least 20% near the hole, if not all the way.
Fix your stance: Stand closer to the ball and place about 60% to 70% of your weight on the lead foot. It would be best to look like you are leaning forward, which helps create a leading edge. This makes it easier to hit a clean strike. Always make solid contact with the ball first and then the ground.
Ball Position: The ball position should be at the back of the center or inside your back foot. When it comes to chipping, never place your golf ball between your legs. The goal is to have your hands slightly ahead of the ball so that the club shaft can do a forward lean.
Chipping Grip: The chipping grip is highly similar to a putting grip. Although you don’t have to swing hard or have a high backswing length, choking or gripping down will help stroke control. You want a compact and low swing with straight arms.
Chipping Golf Swing: Keep the swing like a pendulum with equal back and front swing lengths. The backside of your wrist should be flat and stable to avoid any wrist hinge. Use more of your upper body and shoulder and keep it rigid but fluid. Do not engage the lower body.
Finish: Since chip shots are only low swings, your finish and address shouldn’t differ. Your clubface must be square to the target line with your hands down and your weight distribution the same.
How to Hit a Pitch Shot
Calculate your aim and lie: Aim to land at about 50% on the way to the hole. It’s all the more important to visualize your shot when pitching since you’ll get the ball higher.
Fix your stance: Stand close to the ball, but not as close as you would when doing a chip shot. Lean towards your lead foot. Make sure that you have a narrow stance.
Ball Positioning: Place the ball at the center of your feet and opposite a chip shot; you want little to no lean when pitching.
Pitching Grip: Use your shoulder, and your wrist movement will rotate and hinge in pitch shots. Your fingers and not your palms should hold the vast majority of your club. Imagine having a hammer.
Pitching Golf Swing: Your backswing must not be significant. Avoid swinging above your waist when doing pitch shots. Aim your clubface perpendicular to the target line as much as possible.
Finish: Similarly, it must be equal to the backswing.
Key Factors to Remember
If you notice, the stance with chipping and pitching is almost similar but with specific vital distinctions. You must understand these factors as those will determine the success of your shots. Take note of these differences:
- Ball positioning (chip shots: the back of center; pitch shots: center)
- Wrist movements (chip shots: stable and no hinge; pitch shots: with rotations and hinge)
- Ball target (chip shots: 20% to the hole; pitch shots: 50% to the spot)
- Shaft lean and leading edge (chip shot: forward lean; pitch shots: no lean)
- Club selection
We have dedicated the following section to the clubs to discuss them in-depth. It’s one of the most critical considerations in chip and pitch.
Golf Club Selection
All of us in the golf industry know how vital the right club is in playing. That’s why it’s expensive, and most of us scramble to get the best clubs!
The same stance with different clubs produces varying results. It’s the same for a chip and pitch shot. Let’s get down to the differences!
Clubs for a Chip Shot
Most chip shots can be done well with any club since it doesn’t require many technicalities. But the best and most common choices are the following:
- Pitching wedge (ironic name, we know)
- 7-iron club
- 8-iron club
- 9-iron club
A pitching wedge is helpful to get the ball rolling rather than spinning. The 7, 8, and 9-iron are best suited for a minimal golf swing movement.
Some golfers prefer a wood, hybrid, or mid-iron club for a chip shot, but it’s not as frequent. If the sole goal is to get the ball to roll, then a wedge club will be sufficient in applying force.
Clubs for a Pitch Shot
To hit a pitch shot, these are the recommended club choices. Note the commonality of having more loft:
- Lob wedge
- Sand wedge
- Gap wedge
- Higher lofted clubs
- 56-degree wedges
Don’t get confused. While wedges are recommended for pitching, the list doesn’t include the pitching wedge.
Club choices like the lob wedge have a higher loft which makes the ball spin more, and it’s precisely what you need for a pitch shot. Though we recommend it for a chip shot, you can also try a 9-iron club to hit a pitch.
Chip and Pitch Shot Golf Tips to Master Your Short Game
Now that we’ve laid down the basics, let’s go to the tips and tricks to help you master these two golf shots.
Don’t Ignore the Lie
The lie is the angle between your golf club and the ground for those unfamiliar with golf terms. More specifically, it’s the angle formed when your club comes into impact to the ground and golf ball.
It’s not an aspect you can easily calculate, so most ignore the lie. However, understanding this helps you know the right shot to hit.
If you have a clean lie, go for a chip shot. You can hit the ball lower and let it roll when your surroundings are even and free of obstacles.
If you have a poor lie, go for a pitch shot. You would want to get the ball up since the ground won’t allow the ball to roll correctly.
Don’t Move Your Lower Body A Lot
It’s not only in chip and pitch; this tip is generally applicable for golf. Getting a perfect shot means engaging your upper body. Your shoulders, wrist, and upper body movement are most crucial.
You only need to mind where to put your weight and ensure the correct positioning of your lead and back foot for the lower part.
Practice the Bump and Run Shot for Chipping
Some call the bump and run shot a “stroke-saving chip shot” since it’s easy to do and it eliminates chances of errors. It’s all in the setup, where the ball started and the right swing.
Watch this video from Breaking Par for some “cheats” and tips:
Stay Close to the Ball
For both short game techniques, staying close to the ball is crucial. A pitch shot requires you to stay farther than a chip shot, but both need a closer distance than a full golf swing.
The distance between you, the ball, and the club make all the difference for a short game.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Golf is a game that you’ll never be 100% perfect. Even pros commit mistakes from time to time. Just because you have the right golf club or stance doesn’t mean you’ll have an ideal shot.
Between chipping and pitching, a pitch shot has more room for errors. Especially beginners, don’t get too frustrated when you struggle to hit or roll the shot right.
The main difference between pros and amateur golfers is the amount of practice.
Use Devices to Monitor Your Swing or Do Some Drills
Multiple devices in the market aid you in your golfing skill improvements. They monitor your swing, and some even come with devices that help you keep your arms aligned.
You can also go for a more cost-efficient way to perform drills that will help you with your swings!
Difference Between Chipping vs. Pitching Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs] [Q&A]
Let’s address some FAQs about this topic.
Is It Better to Hit a Chip or Pitch Shot?
Both are great shots to learn as a golfer. There’s no “better” shot without context. Instead, each shot has its circumstance to fit.
Do a chip shot if you need the ball to roll rather than fly. If you need the ball to fly rather than roll, hit a pitch shot. They are exact opposites, so side-by-side comparisons are frequent for these two.
Why Is the Club So Important in a Pitch Shot?
What gets the ball flying in golf is not your wrist movements. Although they play a role, the club loft lifts the ball in the air.
No matter how good your wrist and body movements are, sending a ball airborne without a suitable loft isn’t easy. You can use a pitching club to chip since you only need it to roll, but it’s hard to use a chipping club to pitch.
What Is the Rule of 12 in Chipping?
If you’ve been researching this topic, you have undoubtedly encountered the Rule of 12. It pertains to the relationship between the club loft and how many rolls you’ll get. The ideal distance we want the ball to carry is 12 yards.
Do I Need to Keep Your Left Arm Straight When Chipping?
Assuming that you are right-handed, it’s your left hand that controls the stroke. Keep it rigid but not too tense, so it can fluidly control the swing.
Think of chipping as sweeping the ball but with both hands. Imagine how your left-hand moves as you sweep.
Chipping and Pitching Summary [TL;DR]
Let’s recap everything we’ve discussed so far!
Chipping and pitching are golf techniques during short games or when you’re close to the greens but not close enough to make a clean sweep.
The two are often used interchangeably because of their similarities, but they are opposite. Take note of these distinctions.
- You want to roll the ball to ensure it gets as close to the hole as possible.
- You chip when the ground is even (without humps or bumps) and when the pin is close.
- You chip when there are no obstacles on the way (no ponds, puddles, etc.).
- It’s best to use a pitching wedge or a 7, 8, or 9-iron for the best chip shot.
- The ball must be back center, NOT center
- No wrist hinge.
- You want the ball to be airborne and not simply roll.
- You pitch when the ground is uneven and when the pin placement is in a difficult place.
- You pitch when you need to avoid obstacles (a branch, ponds, etc.)
- The ball must be in the center, in-between your feet
- It’s best to use wedges or a higher-lofted club (lob wedge, gap wedge, sand wedge).
Tips to Perfect the Chip and Pitch
- Evaluate the lie. Please don’t ignore it!
- Engage the upper parts of your body (shoulder, arms, and wrists) more, not your lower body
- Practice the bump and run shot for chipping
- Stay close to the ball; mind the ball placement for each shot.
- Practice a lot. Pitching is not something you can master at once.
- Try out some devices or drills to help with your swing alignment.
Videos and Tutorials to Watch
For visual learners, you’d be glad to know that there are a lot of videos and materials on the internet to help you. Thanks to generous golfers, they happily share their tips and tricks so you can perfect your skills.
- Chipping Vs. Pitching by Top Speed Golf – Clay Ballard
- PITCHING vs. CHIPPING and the ONE Key You Must Know by MrShortGame Golf
- Phil Mickelson: Chipping 101 by Callaway Golf
- HOW TO MASTER THE 50 YARD PITCH SHOT by Meandmygolf
- 3 SIMPLE CHIPPING TIPS by ChrisRyanGolf
Being a pro golfer goes beyond learning the definitions of chip and pitch. It’s also crucial to understand when you’ll use them appropriately. Remember, practice is key!