The ultimate chipping question – up or along?

“Golf’s three ugliest words: still your shot” - Dave Marr

By Ian Hardie

Many times over the years I have been asked by golfers;

Should I use a wedge and get the ball up in the air

Or should I run the ball along the ground

When chipping

The first part of my answer is always

“It depends”

Which is not the most definitive answer, I guess

But it’s the truth

As the first part to consider is whether there is anything between the ball and the hole

Like a sand trap

A reasonable patch of rough

A ridge running through the green

An upper tier of the green where the hole is positioned

Not to mention how the ball is lying in or on the grass

So the rule of thumb I use to decide

As you might have guessed by now

Is that I generally look to play a chip shot when there is no trouble between the ball and the hole

Which leaves me looking to play a pitch shot when there is something between the ball and the hole

Something that would be simpler to play over

If you’re not sure of the difference between the two types of shot

Here it is

With a chip shot you are trying to strike the ball with a club that will get the ball briefly into the air

Come down on the green as soon as possible

Then the ball rolls the rest of the way to the hole

As you will have guessed by now – the chip shot has a low trajectory because it is not intended to be used to hit the ball over any trouble

When playing it you are usually fairly close to the green

Most golfers would use a 7 or an 8 iron but it can be played with longer clubs

An exceptionally long chip could easily call for a 5 iron to be used for example

A pitch shot on the other hand is a higher trajectory shot

That is intentionally played up in the air quickly

In an effort to land the ball close to the hole

And have it stop very quickly afterwards

A very effective shot to play when there is trouble between the ball and the hole

It is generally attempted with the golfers pitching, sand or lob wedge

So while the first part of my answer to this question is always

‘It depends’

The second part of my answer is usually

‘It depends’ as well

Way to definitively answer the tough questions Ian!

But it really does depend

On your personal competence with both types of shot

And your preference and experience when it comes to deciding which way to go

My suggestion is that you need to go spend some time either on the course or around a practice green

And put a few balls down in a bunch of different situations

Then hit each ball with a different club

Watching how the ball reacts

Where it finishes

And taking note of whether you feel confident in reproducing that shot in a game

Or did the shot go poorly

As it simply wasn’t the right one to play?

After a few weeks of doing this you can build up a very good mental framework

As to which shot and club

Suit which situations around the green

For you personally

A final point that may help

Many years ago as a young professional I played almost every shot as a pitch shot

Mainly because I was pretty good at it

As well as the fun I had putting a load of backspin on each shot

Which if you can do it – you know what it’s like!

Anyway, one day I was playing a round with a very experienced tour professional

Having missed the green in regulation, I played a shot towards the hole

I expect I was probably trying to demonstrate my pitching prowess to the tour professional

Even though there was no trouble between my ball and the hole

I struck it perfectly and as a result it hit the green with a significant amount of spin

But instead of stopping by the hole

It bit and spun sideways about 4 feet from the hole

Next to play from a similar position

The tour pro calmly selected a 7 iron from his bag

Played a simple chip and run shot

That rolled on a direct line to the hole

And fell in for birdie

After I subsequently missed my par putt

He took me aside and explained that many years ago

He played a lot of shots like I had tried to play on that hole

But years of experience on the tour had taught him

That the most consistent way to play those shots

And in the process avoid stupid bogeys – like I had just made!

Was to select the club and the shot

That gets the ball onto the green and rolling towards the hole as soon as possible

Instead of trying to figure out if the ball will spin sideways when it lands

And inviting the possibility of bogey or worse

It was good advice

You should try it sometime

Play well

 

Related Posts

Should you leave the flag stick in or take it out when chipping?

A helpful chipping tip from Phil Mickelson

Don’t hit the ball out of a sand trap

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