The short game is so vital in shooting lower scores. However, it can be a challenge for many golfers. Oftentimes, players are not sure which is appropriate to use, either pitching or chipping. Other times, golfers have only one short game shot because they do not know when to use other shots. With decades of expertise, Tell Me More Golf will demystify the purpose behind each shot and explain how to practice the right technique and save shots around the greens.

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Table of Contents

Chipping and Pitching Fundamentals Explained

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The game of golf can be challenging enough, and the short game can lead to uncertainty. Most golfers would benefit from focusing on the fundamentals of the different techniques which will provide the foundation for hitting crisper, cleaner chips and pitches.  

It really comes down to using the proper club selection, with the right technique, and being able to recognize the right golf shot to use. We aim to give you the fundamentals to make the right shot choice.

That is really all it takes to have a good short game. The best instructors will teach beginners how to play golf from the green backward, meaning that they will teach putting, chipping, and pitching first. This is because well over half of a beginner’s shots are going to be from 75-100 yards and in. When you add it up, even if a golfer averages two putts per hole plus their chips and pitches, that alone is going to be well over fifty shots per round. 

What is a Chip Shot Versus a Pitch Shot?

The main difference between pitching vs chipping is that a chip is a shot that is generally farther away from the green, has a lower trajectory, and allows the golf ball to roll out to the hole. These shots can be played with a variety of clubs but are usually an 8 iron, 9 iron, or a pitching wedge

A pitch shot is the inverse of a chip shot in that it travels farther in the air and is intended to have less roll. In addition, the pitch is a shot that is closer to the green and has a higher trajectory.

To visualize this, think of a shot from 20 yards (60 feet) away from the hole. You would hit a chip shot and would ideally fly about 8-10 yards and roll out the rest of the way. 

A pitch shot would be used when you are a little closer to the green and need to fly the ball closer to the hole with less roll out.  


How to Chip in Golf for All Skill Levels

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The golf course where I learned to play had a driving range that only went about 150 yards which limited my full swing practice. Turns out that was actually a good thing as it forced me to put the time in around the practice green. Having spent hours upon hours hitting different shots with different clubs, I am confident in saying that I can teach you the proper fundamentals of chipping. 

Follow these steps, practice your technique and you will quickly gain confidence in your chipping ability:

1) Start with a pitching wedge from 5-10 feet off of the green. You’ll want your target hole to be at least twenty feet away so you can get used to letting the ball roll out after it lands. 

2) Set up to the ball with a narrow stance and the ball back in your stance (closer to your right foot for a right-handed golfer and vice versa). A good way to find the middle of your stance is to hold a golf ball by your nose and drop it straight down. Wherever it lands indicates the center of your stance. Play the ball about 2 inches towards your back foot from that point.

3) Once you have your ball position correct, grip down a little bit on your pitching wedge so your hands are no higher than the waist. The golf club and clubface should feel much within your control. Your lower body should be stable; not rigid and not too loose. 

4) You will want to take the club back in a smooth motion so that the club can accelerate through the downswing without you forcing it. A good way to visualize this is your backswing and downswing should travel about the same distance. 

5) As the clubhead moves through the ball, continue all the way to the completion of your follow-through. This thought helps make sure that you have accelerated through the ball. 

6) If you have followed this technique, you will make solid contact. It will feel effortless. Focus first on the technique to make solid contact. From that point, start to practice taking the club back shorter and longer distances and take note of how far the ball carries in the air and rolls out.


What Club To Use for Pitching

As a pitch shot is a shot that flies higher than the chip, the sand wedge should be the go to piece of equipment with which to practice this shot. First, eliminate the notion that a pitch shot is just a shot with a sand wedge and you just shorten your full golf swing. I have heard a lot of golf tips from unqualified golfers and that is a common one. Short game tips need to come from a qualified professional. 

Similar to a chip shot, if you get the setup right, you’ll be primed for proper technique. The method is similar except in a pitch shot the arms are going to travel above the waist up to the shoulders with some wrist hinge to accommodate a longer shot and higher ball flight. The result of a properly struck pitch shot will be that the ball flies at least halfway to the hole, has a little bit of backspin, and rolls out the rest of the way. 

Because you will have the ball up in your stance on this shot, you will be using more of the loft and bounce of the clubhead. It is less of a chipping motion as you are trying to return the club to the ball with less shaft lean than a chip. 

Today’s PGA Tour professionals have amazing short games, but those at the top of the world ranking are in a league of their own. Two of the best pitchers of the golf ball are Jason Day and Phil Mickelson. Their styles are different from one another but their positions through the impact area of the shot are very similar. They are not hitting down into the ball. The shaft is not leaning a great deal toward the target. This allows them to make clean contact and control the backspin and height of the pitch shot especially with a good lie in the fairway or around the closely mown areas around the green.

What Club To Use for Chipping

Many golfers successfully chip with anything from a 6 iron all the way through a sand wedge. Some even use a chipper, which is essentially a lower lofted club that allows you to use a putting-like motion to hit shots around the green. 

To become a good chipper, start out with one club like a 9 iron or pitching wedge. Practicing with one club gives you the chance to focus on technique and consistency. You will soon realize that you can use the same chipping technique with other clubs varying the distance and trajectory. But, if you do not get the technique down first, you will not see positive results.

Chip Vs Pitch Vs Flop Shot Explained

The difference in chipping vs pitching should be clear by now. These are the two most common and important shots to learn. There is another short game shot that golfers can practice and use as needed. We are talking about the flop shot. 

The flop shot is a shot around the green that has a very vertical trajectory and does not roll much when it lands. This is generally played with a lob wedge. It should be used when you are trying to fly the ball over rough, a bunker, or other obstacle and you have very a limited amount of green between you and the hole

When we think of flop shots, two golfers immediately come to mind. Tiger Woods and Phill Mickelson have each perfected versions of the flop shot that many try to duplicate. 

A flop shot is similar to the pitching technique in that we are using a narrow stance with 60% of your weight on the lead foot. You open the face quite a bit to add loft to the clubhead and take a longer and more aggressive swing to create the high ball flight. This technique combined with a lob wedge produces a shot that should go straight up and land softly.

Frequently Asked Questions: Chip or Pitch?

What is a Pitch Shot in Golf?

A pitch shot travels in the air at least halfway to the hole and rolls out the rest of the way. It is generally played with a more lofted club like a sand wedge. It has a similar technique to a chip shot with the major differences being ball placement in the setup and club choice.

How to Chip a Golf Ball Consistently?

Practice technique to develop your feel around the greens. Not everyone has hours to spend at the practice green so hone in that technique and get a few shots in before each round so you can dial in your feel. 

Is it Better to Chip or Pitch?

When in doubt, go with the chip shot. It is a safer play and has a higher margin for error when you are not feeling confident about a pitch shot. 

What Club is Used for Chipping?

A 9 iron or pitching wedge should be used until you perfect your chipping technique. Once you feel comfortable, you can try a 7 or 8 iron. You can even try hitting chip shots with your sand wedge as well.

What is the Rule of 12 in Chipping?

The Rule of 12 in chipping refers to a framework to help golfers visualize how far a club should travel in the air versus on the ground. For example, if you have a twelve-yard shot, a pitching wedge would ideally fly six yards and roll the remaining six yards. If you have an 8-iron, the ball should fly four yards and roll the remaining eight.

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Whether you want to hit chips closer, learn a new shot, or just have a better all-around short game, the veterans at Tell Me More Golf have answers that you will not find from our competitors. Our decades of golf experience and passion for the game have driven us to provide our readers with guides to simplify the game, shoot lower scores and impress their friends.


Patrick Corley Tell Me More Golf Instructor and Coach
Patrick Corley
From a golf scholarship to a Southern California University, to a private golf coaching career and an instructor position at a nonprofit organization, I’m here to help you get better at golf! With my 50+ years of golf experience; I bring you Tell Me More Golf. A golf coaching website that helps your game with instructional golfing content that’s ultimately geared toward making you a better golfer and having more fun!
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