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Golf teaching and playing articles > The low road or the high road

27 Feb 2004

The low road or the high road


When to pitch or chip the ball onto the green is a dilemma all golfers face.  In determining the better choice between pitching and chipping, we first need to define the two shots.


A chip shot is a low flying shot which carries only a short distance onto the green and then rolls to the hole.  You use a short controlled swing, with very limited wrist action involved . 


A pitch shot is a high trajectory shot which carries most of the distance to the hole and has little roll.  The wrists are much more active on this shot.


Golfers who have trouble with their short shots often have no plan.  Frequently the only shot they attempt is a high lob shot, trying to land the ball near the pin and have it stop immediately.


While there are many excellent wedge players who can do this with a lot of success, for the average golfer this a risky shot.  The safer choice, when the situation is right, is to play a low flying shot that lands just on the green and rolls the rest of the way to the hole.


I hear from many of my students that they are confused about which shot to use, and which club to use when they are on the golf course.  To help them make the right choices, I developed a plan as follows:


·      You must pitch the ball if you need to carry over an obstacle between your ball and the hole, such as a bunker or if the green is elevated and sits much higher than your ball.

·      You should also pitch the ball if it sits in heavy rough, as a more descending blow is required to lift the ball out.

·      Use your most lofted clubs for the pitch shot.


Chip the ball anytime there is no need for much height on the shot. Chipping is the safer of the two shots and should be used whenever you can hit a low shot because there is no obstacle between your ball and the green.


 Here is a simple formula to help you choose the club that will roll the amount needed.


·      Divide the green into thirds- front, middle, and back.

·      The goal is to stop the ball in the correct third of the green where the hole is.

·       Use a sand wedge to a front third as little roll is required

·      Use a 9 iron to the middle third as this will create a medium amount of roll.

·      Use a 7 iron to a back third because maximum roll is needed.


This simplifies choices and confusion about club selection until you gain more experience and can decide for yourself which club to use.  When you become more skilled, divide the green into smaller portions, quarters or fifths, and add more club choices to your arsenal.


Please view my website for the correct set up positions for both of these shots.