The definition of ‘chip’ shots and ‘pitch’ shots can change from person-to-person or coach-to-coach, but whichever way you look at it, the ability to play both shots is crucial for having a good short game and lowering your scores.
The main factors that differentiate chipping and pitching are flight and roll, with chip shots generally being played lower and rolling out more, whereas pitch shots are played with more flight and are intended to stop closer to the pin or target area.
A chip shot is going to be a great option to use when you are close to the green and have the ability to get the ball rolling quickly, running out towards your target (otherwise known as a bump and run).
Pitch shots will be a much-needed weapon when there are obstacles you need to carry, such as a bunker or even a second tier on the green you need to clear to prevent the ball rolling all the way back down the slope again.
So, how exactly do we execute these two shots and determine which club and situation is best suited to each? Let’s take a look.
What is the difference between chipping and pitching?
The difference between chipping and pitching comes down to two key factors: height and roll out. Chip shots will be played low and with minimal flight, intended to roll out to the pin. Pitch shots will be played with a higher trajectory, flighted to the pin and stopping quickly.
The ability to play both shots is a must for any golfer, even a weekend hacker, as there will be multiple occasions where you find yourself needing to execute a chip or a pitch.
Chipping, when you don’t have obstacles in the way, is thought to be a better option for a lot of players, as it is less dependent on strike and more reliant on feel and roll.
For amateur golfers who just see a glaring leading edge – and only dread of thinning it with a 60-degree wedge in hand – being able to bump a chip with less loft, or even use a chipper, will feel more comfortable.
Despite this, chips won’t help with a bunker right in your line to the hole, so confidence in pitching is an unavoidable weapon you must possess.
If you really struggle with your chipping, check out our top picks for chippers article as these clubs can really help you regain your confidence around the greens.
How to play a chip shot in golf
To play a chip shot, stand close to the ball and grip down the club shaft to add feel and control.
Your weight should shift into your lead side – about 60% – so that you are leaning forwards a little towards your target.
From this position, the motion your club should make is far more back and through, rather than around the body, and you might feel as if your right palm is always facing towards your target during the shot.
This weight shift forward will help create some shaft lean, crucial in keeping the leading edge down.
If you don’t do this and play with an upright shaft or with weight on the back foot, you are creating a recipe for thinned strikes that run through the green.
As for ball position, back in the stance will work best; never chip with the ball between your legs.
Now, for the motion itself, chip shots are driven by the shoulders, with wrists and arms quite rigid and inactive, but not tense, in the golf swing.
You want a chip shot to feel almost like a big putting motion where your shoulders rock back and through the ball on a fairly straight path.
Your shoulders will rotate a little, but the lower body, hips and legs shouldn’t be too active at all.
Once you have mastered this set up and action, it’s all about making good contact through the shot by hitting ball first, and then ground, without digging into the turf too much.
If you want more flight and less roll, loft up, and for a lower flight and more roll, loft down.
A great way to practice with different lofts and work on adapting flight distance is through using some targets such as the Eyeline Golf Target Circle.
How to play a pitch shot in golf
To play a pitch shot, you’re going to need to use a club with high loft, something like a 56- or 60-degree wedge (you can check out our top picks for wedges here.
A club not quite as high in loft, such as a pitching wedge, just isn’t going to be able to get the ball up in the air and stopping as quickly as required for this type of shot.
When pitching, the weight needs to be forward – at least 60% in the lead leg – and your upper body will lean towards the target.
In order to promote a higher flight, the ball should be played from a little inside the leading foot.
The technique of a pitch differs to a chip largely in the arm and wrist movement.
Like a chip shot, the shoulders will start the swing, but the arms will rotate and the wrists must hinge when playing a pitch.
While your club, depending on the distance you are flying the ball, may only come to a position parallel with the ground, the toe should be pointing more upwards, in contrast to the very ‘back and through’ motion of a chip.
Rather than changing clubs for shots of differing distances, the length of your backswing can be used to determine how far you will fly the ball.
A longer backswing will be needed if you are flying the ball 30 or 40 yards up onto the putting surface.
The follow through for a pitch shot will also be different to a chip, with a full turn of the hips through to be facing the target being necessary to complete the shot.
The interaction with the turf may be a little more severe with a pitch shot, and rather than scuffing the ground you could need to take a small divot or scrape if needing to fly the ball a long way.
Focus on making a confident strike that accelerates through the ball in a slightly downward motion and allow the loft to pop the ball up into the air.
Not only are they great for your technique, but they can double up as a fun game to play with family, kids, or your buddies when they are over on the weekend.
Is it better to chip or pitch in golf?
If possible, it is usually better to chip the ball. Most amateur golfers find it challenging to play shots with high lofted clubs, as poor technique often causes the leading edge to wreak havoc and create either fat or thin shots. The chipping motion is more consistent and easier to use, but ultimately, it is important to also be able to play a pitch shot to fly the ball over obstacles.
There’s no avoiding the fact that both shots are required to play golf, but people can get away with chipping the vast majority of the time, unless a bunker or water hazard is unavoidably in the way.
I have no doubt there’s an older golfer at your club who seems to work magic around the greens with a 7-iron, but it only takes one bunker in the way during a stroke round to blow up their score and ruin their day (if this sounds like you, read our guide to better bunker play).
The chip shot will do the heavy lifting and probably be your go-to shot, given that the shoulder driven pendulum motion is far more comfortable and easier to do well.
But if you can’t pitch the ball with some accuracy, you need to develop the shot if you want to shoot low, especially on hazardous, bunker-filled golf courses.
What golf club is used for chipping?
Golfers can use anything from a mid-iron through to wedges to chip. A 7-iron will work well for a shot that requires a lot of run out, whereas a 52-degree wedge will fly the ball a little farther and help it to stop. Any more loft than a 52-degree wedge is better suited to pitching, as it will probably fly the ball too high and won’t roll out enough for a chip.
The club you choose to chip with will depend on a couple of things: how far you want to fly the ball versus how far you want it to run out.
If you have a flat, tight lie right next to the green, something like a 7-iron or a chipper (seriously, check them out) will be quite suitable, as you can play them low and still carry it on to the surface, allowing it to run up to the hole.
Similarly, if you do have to carry the ball a few metres but need it to stop relatively quickly with some backspin, a club like a 52-degree could be more suitable.
Both shot types will still use the chipping technique explained above, but the variation in loft will lead to different outcomes.
I don’t recommend using the highest lofted wedges – 56 degrees and above – for chipping, as the significantly open face will lead to a higher flight and more or less requires a pitching technique to get a sound result.
You could, theoretically, take a 60-degree wedge and deloft it to chip with, but in this situation it would make more sense to just use a club with less loft.
What club should you pitch with in golf?
You should pitch with a high lofted club, something like a 56- or 60-degree wedge, to help fly the ball high in the air and stop it quickly near the hole. Pitching with a lower lofted club isn’t a good option, given you’ll have to open the clubface too much, which will expose the leading edge.
Most pros will pitch with only one or two clubs in their bag, usually a 56- or 60-degree wedge (although some may carry three or four).
To adjust the flight of the ball, they may open or close the clubface, impacting trajectory.
However, the best way to fly the ball shorter or longer distances is to increase the length of your backswing, ensuring you always accelerate through the ball at impact.
Should you break your wrists when chipping?
When chipping, you shouldn’t break the wrists. This doesn’t mean they should be overly stiff or tense, but a chip ideally is played with the wrists in a fairly locked position. A chip shot should be played using a pendulum motion with the movement coming from the shoulders.
To reiterate, you don’t want your arms, elbows and wrists to be that tense and locked up you start to lose blood flow to them, but apart from a rocking movement of the shoulders, there shouldn’t be any real hinging, bending or flailing of the arms.
If you start hinging the wrists when chipping, you’ll be adding in an extra variable that will affect the point at which the club shallows out in the swing.
Unless you have superb hand-eye coordination and touch, wrist hinge will probably add inconsistency to your strike and cause a tendency to hit fat and thin shots in amongst some occasional good ones.
What degree wedge is best for chipping?
The best, most versatile wedge for chipping is a 52-degree wedge. A wedge with this loft will give you the option to play higher and lower flighted chip shots by experimenting with backswing length and openness of the face. However, anything from about 7-iron to 52-degree wedge can be appropriate for chipping.
Once you have mastered the chipping technique, experimenting with and adjusting lofts is the best way to fly the ball different distances and get varied amounts of roll out.
A 52-degree wedge is probably going to offer the best mix of loft and forgiveness, allowing you to perform most chip shots that you need to from fairly standard lies.
As mentioned above, you can find the top picks for wedges in our comprehensive review guide here.
How do you play a pitch and run shot?
To play a pitch and run shot, use a club with medium loft, such as a pitching wedge or 48-degree wedge, and set up as if you were going to play a chip shot off your back foot. Using a chipping technique and a semi-lofted club, make a decent backswing and accelerate through the ball. This will see a reasonable amount of flight, but still allow the ball to run out.
There are a couple of keys here to playing this shot well: ball positioning and club choice.
The pitch and run or ‘long chip’ shot should be played with the ball back in your stance, but even with the correct technique, using the wrong club won’t give you an optimal result.
If you use a 60-degree wedge off the back foot, it will still have too much loft, coming out extra high and stopping quickly; something we want from a standard pitch, rather than a pitch and run.
Using a club such as a pitching wedge works nicely for this shot, as it has a good amount of loft to get the ball airborne but will still generate a nice amount of run after landing.
It is important to note, however, that for the pitch and run shot, a regular chipping technique is needed, rather than a pitching technique.
The reason for this: if you try and hit a pitch shot with a pitching wedge, it will be very risky, and you’ll create a good chance that the leading edge will strike the equator of the ball, thinning it through the green.
By performing a shot with a pitching wedge and chipping technique, the result will be somewhat of a hybrid between the two: a well flighted shot that still generates a decent amount of run when on the green.
What is the rule of 12 for chipping in golf?
The rule of 12 refers to the idea that, when chipping, there is a ratio of flight to roll that can be expected from each club. For example, a sand wedge is expected to roll out the same distance as it flies when chipping, a ratio of 1:1. A 7-iron has a ratio of 1:5, rolling out five times farther than it carries. If you add the club number and the roll distance together, it will always equal 12.
Obviously, this is only an estimate and there are a range of factors at play, but if you have the absolute chipping yips and need something to guide you around your club choice and what shot to play, the rule of 12 could be a place to start.
Clearly, a 7-iron won’t always roll out 5 times farther than it flies – depending on conditions, strike, incline and more – but it could be a strategy worth tinkering with, especially on holes where the approach to the green is quite flat.
Chipping and pitching are two vitally important shots on the golf course, each with differing techniques and suited to certain situations.
Chipping requires a more rigid set up, with the shoulders rocking back and forth in a putting motion, whereas pitching uses rotation and wrist hinge to complete a more ‘standard’ golf swing action.
High handicappers are best served by chipping, but if you can develop a good pitch you’ll have far more versatility in the shots you can play and won’t feel as snookered by bunkers or hazards in the way of the green.
Just remember: pitch shots need to be played with a high lofted club, whereas chip shots can vary in club selection to get different results.
Master both, and your short game will come on in leaps of bounds, with lower scores undoubtedly following.