To pitch or to chip

Published 13/10/2008 20:55:40

Pitches and chips are the shots that can make all the difference to your score by the end of the round. While both are played from anywhere between 40 to 100 yards, that is where the similarity ends.

A pitch is a high trajectory shot, usually played with a wedge, which lands the ball softly on the green. It's a useful shot for flying high over trouble. In wet conditions when the ground is soggy underfoot you can land the ball close to the flag and be confident of stopping it quickly.

A chip is the complete opposite and is often played from closer range than a pitch. A low flight means the ball is on the ground for about the same distance it's in the air. It's a good links shot - ideal when the wind is blowing or the greens aren't holding. A 7 or 8 iron is usually the best club for the job.

Choosing the right shot at the right time is one of the keys to successful scoring - it helps keep you out of trouble and can turn three shots into two. The factors which should make up your mind are the hazards and ground conditions between you and the green, and the strength and direction of the wind. Only when you've taken stock of the situation should you consider techniques.


High Flying Pitch


An approach shot over some form of hazard - whether bunkers, water or deep rough - is a situation you face on all types of golf course. Whatever the wind conditions, there's really only one way you can hope to finish close to the flag and that's to play a high pitch.

Think of the positive aspects of the shot to boost your confidence. The major benefit of pitching the ball on the green is that you can rpedict the bounce. This helps you attack the flag and removes some of the guesswork from the shot.

Remember, accuracy is all important - you must feel in control of the shot. Swing smoothly and strike with authority. There's seldom a call for hitting a wedge with all the force you can muster.

If there is trouble immediately beyond the green, play a high pitch to land the ball softly. The less run on the shot, the slimmer the chance of the ball bouncing through the green into serious danger.


Percentage Play


When there are no hazards lying in wait you have the luxury of choice. In these situations it's important to play the percentages - choosing the shot that is least likely to go wrong.

In a strong crosswind your ball can easily be knocked off line, particularly if you play a high pitch. With a stiff breeze behind or into your face distance can be difficult to judge accurately. The lower to the ground you keep the ball, the less likely it is to be affected. A low chip and run is often the safest shot, but you need to be a little more creative than for a pitch shot.

Reach for a 7 or 8 iron and keep your swing simple. Visualize the ball landing on the fairway and running up towards the hole. Predict how humps, hollows or slopes are likely to affect the path of your ball.

You may have to accept the occasional bad bounce which kicks your ball slightly off line. But it's unlikely to be one so severe that it makes the difference between hitting and missing the green.


Taking Charge


If you learn to make the right decisions about when to pitch and when to chip, you're bound to see an improvement in your scores. This course management ability has you thinking before you reach for a club. You find yourself hitting the ball close to the target more often and missing the green less.

But even the best golfers in the world make errors of judgement from time to time. Don't be hard on yourself if you make the same mistake twice, but include those specific points in your practice routine.


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