Practice Pitching, Chipping to Lower Golf Handicap
By: Bob Burns
Every golfer, I don't care how well they hit the ball, is going to have days when they miss a lot of greens, and that is when they must rely on their short shots.
Chip and pitch shots are even more important for the weekend golfer, who misses more greens than the golf professional. I can think of no quicker way to lower one's handicap than to develop the ability to consistently chip close enough for a one putt instead of two.
A chip shot assumes a lower trajectory than does the pitch because it is hit with a less-lofted club. Most chips are really nothing more than long putts, except that the ball starts out by going a little way through the air to miss the surface irregularities between you and the green.
A pitch shot, hit with a more lofted club, such as a "wedge" flies high to the green, lands near the flag stick, and because of the backspin, quickly comes to rest.
On this shot, I may use any club from the 5 iron through the 8 iron. The exact club selection depends on the specific situation—the lie of the ball in the grass, the length of the shot, the amount of green between the ball and the hole, the character of the green's turf, the terra in between the ball and the hole, and even the direction and velocity of the wind.
There is a less chance of scuffing behind the ball with a less-lofted club, such as a 5 iron, than with the more lofted 8 iron.
Therefore, I always try to use the least-lofted club, which will take my ball just onto the green in flight and still not let it roll passed the hole.
As you choose your club for the shot, you should also select an exact landing spot on the green. This spot may be a light or dark patch of grass, blemish, or something similar.
The roll of the green should also guide your selection of a landing spot. You should "read" the green, just as you would on a putt.
To assure hitting the ball first, make certain that your hands are well forward of the club head, both at address position and at impact.
It also helps to keep most of your weight on your left foot (right foot for left handers), and use a slightly open stance. The ball should be played in the middle or just outside of the left heel.
The word "chip" sounds the way the shot should be executed—a short, crisp, but rhythmical, stroke—much like slapping a baby on its bottom. Since it is a short shot your feet should be quite close together and your hands near your body. The knees should be slightly flexed to avoid tension in the legs. The swing is mainly with the arms and hands while the ball should be struck with a descending blow.
When chipping, you must make certain that you see the blade and hit the ball, but don't let your chin move forward before the hit. Hit passed your chin and then follow the ball's flight.
THE PITCH SHOT: As I mentioned before, the chip shot is best when you have a great deal of green between you and the hole. It's a bad policy to use a pitch shot with a wedge or a 9-iron in such a situation because often the ball will take on a great deal of backspin and stop short of the hole.
However, that short pitch is a valuable shot around the green when you must stop the ball in a hurry. Such as when the green slopes away from your ball, or when you need a high shot to clear a sand trap with little green beyond.
This pitch shot is similar to the chip in that the stance should be narrow with the knees flexed, your weight should be toward the forward foot with the hands ahead of the club head at all times until impact.
If I want the shot to fly high and stop quickly, I open my stance slightly so that my left foot is pulled back from the target line. This allows me to take the club back more to the outside than on the chip. The outside-in swing helps to prevent hitting with a closed club face, which would reduce backspin.
Keep your game sharp around the green and shave strokes off your score.