Published on July 12th, 2013 | by Tim Good1
The Short Game Fix: How to Improve Your Pitching and Chipping
When it comes to the short game there’s always some confusion over what constitutes a chip and what is a pitch. How far should each of them go, and when do you use them? In what situations should you use a pitch rather than a chip? When is a pitch no longer a pitch?
The first indicator is to look at how much ground you have to cover between your ball and the putting green to get the ball airborne? The less ground you have to clear, the shorter the distance the more likely you are to chip. A chip typically will use a less lofted club like a 7, 8, or 9 iron, because the idea is to clear a shorter amount of rough, or fairway in order to reach the green and get the ball rolling towards the hole.
The stance of a chip is closer to that of a putting stroke than anything else. Your feet are close together and the movement is a quiet motion, of mostly shoulders with very little hand action. Weight should be more on the front foot than the back, with the ball played off the instep of the back foot. This will help with consistent contact and keep the ball low to get it rolling as soon as possible.
With that minimal hand action, the lead wrist should stay solid throughout the shot, making sure that lead wrist doesn’t break down. Another way to think about the shot is that the butt end of the club should always be ahead of your lead hip. You never want to finish a shot and have the butt end of the grip pointing towards your hip. If so, your wrist has broken down and this will lead to a lot of skulled or chunked chips.
A pitch on the other hand is used in a situation where more ground needs to be covered, say over a hill, or bunker, or over a greater distance than a chip can provide. Typically a more lofted club, like a pitching wedge or sand wedge is used, to maximized height. The distance varies by player, but the max distance for a controllable pitch is gauged by the player’s ability to keep the lower body quiet. Once you have to start using more lower body for the shot you’ve maxed out your pitch shot distance. So like the chip, the pitch is a shot that requires more shoulders than lower body. What I mean by this is that the body will “release” after the shot, letting the body follow the arms and turn through the shot a bit more.
The stance of a pitch is similar to the chip, but a bit wider with the weight slightly on the front side, but a bit more balanced. Again, you don’t want the butt end of the club pointing at your hip after impact, instead focusing on keeping the lead wrist solid through impact. For both the chip and the pitch there should be no release of the club head.
For both shots you want to think about having a steady, smooth pace to the swing. The same pace on the backswing, as you have on the downswing. If you’re too fast on the backswing the tendency will be to decelerate on the downswing, which will lead to chunks. If you take the club back too slowly, then tendency will be to try to “catch up” and you’ll over compensate, which will lead to skulling the chip or pitch.
Lastly, let the club do the work in both shots. A lot of players try to “lift” the ball and help it up in the air. This will result in very inconsistent results and frustration. Instead, allow the loft of the club to do the work, and you’ll be surprised with how consistent and accurate your chips and pitches will become.