When to Pitch, Chip and Putt

By John Lindell

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A golfer who gets his ball near the green must decide whether it is to his advantage to pitch, chip or putt to get the ball close to the hole. Making a poor decision can often add strokes to a golfer's score, while a correct one that is executed properly can keep a good round going. Knowing when it is time to pitch, chip or putt comes with experience and also depends on which of these three golf shots the player is most adept at.

The Pitch Shot

The pitch shot in golf is one that lofts the ball up into the air and onto the putting surface. The ball will spend the majority of the time in the air, and when it lands, there will be very little roll if the pitch is struck correctly. The golfer should attempt a pitch shot when she needs to clear a hazard, such as a sand bunker, tall grass, water or other obstacles that require the ball to fly over them to reach its destination. During a pitch shot, the golfer will cock her wrists and then get under the ball and lift it into the air. The goal is to land the ball as close to the hole as possible with a minimum amount of roll after it comes down. To accomplish this task, she has the option of using a number of different pitching wedges, providing she has a full selection. The lob wedge, the sand wedge, the gap wedge and the pitching wedge are all designed with different degrees of loft to the clubhead, and all are capable of getting the ball into the air quickly.

The Chip Shot

The chip shot is unlike the pitch shot in that the ball will not have a high trajectory, and most of the distance the shot carries will be on the ground as the ball rolls toward the hole. It is time to chip the golf ball when the golfer is close to, but not actually on, the green with nothing between himself and the flagstick but open area. The chip shot will carry over the fringe or rough around the green, which makes it impractical to putt the ball, and hit on the putting surface where it will ideally roll close to the pin. In many cases, a golfer will simply try to land his chip shot on the front edge of the green with enough roll to carry to the hole. Chip shots do not get up into the air, meaning they can be attempted with a 5 iron, a 9 iron or a pitching wedge. The player does not cock his wrists as he takes the club back to hit the ball, and his backswing is very short, as is his follow-through. Executed in the right manner, this will be enough to clear the grass around the green and land the ball on target where it will then roll.

The Putt

Obviously, once a golfer has managed to get her golf ball on the smooth putting surface, it is time to putt. However, there are other instances when it may make more sense to putt the ball from off the green than it does to try to pitch or chip it close. Since the putter will keep the ball on the ground, many golfers would actually rather putt a ball from the fringe. This is particularly true if a player has not yet mastered hitting pitches and chips cleanly; often, a golfer will hit the ball in the middle rather than underneath and send the ball careening over the green into further trouble. Beginners facing a downhill shot onto a green, for example, have the option of putting the ball if the grass is not too high and no hazards are in the way. Another time to perhaps choose to putt from off the green is when the player has a slight uphill shot to the flag but sees that the grass is low enough to allow the golf ball to roll easily. Striking the ball with authority while putting it can get it through the fringe and then roll it up close to the hole.

About the Author

John has written thousands of articles for Demand Studios, Associated Content and The Greyhound Review. A Connecticut native, John has written extensively about sports, fishing, and nature.