Learning how to execute in the short game is one of the keys to improving as a golfer. The short game consists of your approach shots to the green, plus your putting. Chipping and pitching make up a big part of the short game, and you'll shoot better scores when you execute these shots properly.
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A pitch shot is hit high into the air. A well-struck pitch shot will land within 20 feet of the pin and then stop or roll backwards, since the grooves on a wedge put backspin on the ball. Pitch shots can be executed anywhere from just off the green to a distance of 120 yards. The pitch shot should be hit over water hazards or bunkers. The chip shot, on the other hand, is a low, bouncing shot that is appropriate from 40 yards in. The chip shot is effective when there is no trouble on the way to the green, and the hole has an uphill profile that will help the ball come to a stop.
The pitch shot is often used as a second shot on a short par 4 or the third shot on a par 5. Often, there will be a bunker fronting the green on these holes, and a pitch shot will fly over the bunker, yet land softly on the green. A chip shot can be used in many situations. You may not want to take a chance on flying the ball over the green with a pitch; chipping the ball up to the hole can avoid this. Chipping also keeps the ball low, which can be key if it is windy during your round.
Golfers use a lofted club such as a pitching wedge, a gap wedge or a lob wedge when hitting a pitch shot. Some golfers also pitch with a sand wedge. A chip shot can be hit with any club, but chipping is usually done with less-lofted clubs like a 7-, 8- or 9-iron, which will keep the ball lower and provide more roll.
You need to be in the fairway or the first cut of rough to execute a pitch shot successfully. Pitching the ball is extremely difficult when you're in the deep rough or in wooded areas. A chip shot is better for getting your ball out of these trouble areas. For example, if your ball is in the deep rough, chip the ball back onto the fairway with an 8- or 9-iron, so you can attack the green with the following shot. You should also chip the ball if there are hanging branches that will prevent you from pitching the ball high.
Chip shots and pitches will help a player become a more complete golfer, according to teaching pro Don Trahan. While one shot is high and the other is low, both shots require significant arm movement and hardly any weight transfer. "Chipping and pitching are like putting and involve good setup and swing technique to develop touch and feel, which everyone can do," Trahan said. "The ball is played in the center of the stance. The weight is moved left (for right handers) to the forward foot with as much as 70 percent on the front foot and leg."