Chipping vs Pitching (The Major Difference)

Does the difference between chipping and pitching seem confusing to you?

You are not alone!

Many golfers do not understand the difference and what to do differently when faced with these different golf shots on the course.

The short game is so important to shooting quality scores and reaching whatever target score or goals you may have for a round of golf or the overall season.

If you are looking to get good at the game quickly, the quickest route is through the short game. 

Much of your understanding of the difference between the chip and pitch will play a role in helping you execute the proper shot at the proper time to get the results you desire.

Distance control is vital. Check out our tips below to create your own system to control your distances!

Chipping vs Pitching

A chip shot is a basic shot that occurs from right off the green up to around 15 yards.  The pitch shots are longer shots typically hit from 15 to 45 yards.  The technique will vary between the chip shot and pitch shot.

Below we will dive into the difference between the chip and pitch shot in many different areas and help you develop the proper mindset and technique to help you execute the shots

The main topics below include:
  • The definition of a chip shot vs a pitch shot
  • The club selection of a chip shot vs a pitch shot
  • The technique used in a chip shot vs a pitch shot
  • Controlling distance used in a chip shot vs a pitch shot
  • The mindset used in a chip shot vs a pitch shot
  • How to test out different shots with both the chip shot and pitch shot

Let’s start off with exactly what each shot is.

The Definition of a Chip Shot vs a Pitch Shot

What is a Chip Shot?

A shorter shot that carries very little carry with a significant amount of roll.  The goal should be to reduce the numerous variables and get the ball rolling as soon as possible.  Over time this leads to greater consistency with these simple shots.  The technique is a simple motion.


What is a Pitch Shot?

A pitch shot is a simple shorter shot played with the wedge.  The goal is to get the ball up in the air and have it land with either some roll out or spin depending on the placement of the pin.  Various techniques are used to control the spin or the roll out and the overall height of the shot.

You can use a variety of club for chip shots! Check out below the system to determine the right club for each shot.

The Club Selection of a Chip Shot vs a Pitch Shot

What club to use when chipping?

Golfers can use anywhere from a 6 iron up to a 60 degree wedge for the basic chip shot.  The landing spot of the chip shot will impact the club selection along with the length of the swing and the speed of the swing.

I would recommend getting comfortable with 3-5 different clubs in your bag.  I prefer to use my 8 iron, pitching wedge, sand wedge and lob wedge depending on the length of the shot and where the pin is in relation to the green.  Another factor that comes into play is how far from the edge of the green I am.

Resource: The Basics of Chipping (Plus 5 Tips)

If you have plenty of green to work and limited undulation you may go with the 8 iron to get the ball rolling right away.  Too many golfers try playing too high of a shot here.  A simple motion that gets the ball rolling similar to a putt can become a golfers best friend!

If you have a moderate length shot and want to have some roll you may select your pitching wedge and get the ball going with a simple, medium paced swing.

If you have very little green to have the ball roll, you may select the lob wedge and just simply get the ball on the green and let it roll the minimum distance you have left to the hole.

My goal is to keep the shot as simple as possible and execute the task I give myself.  Below, I will get into the technique and the different variables that you control that impact club selection.


What club to use when pitching?

Golfers will typically use three different clubs.  These would include a pitching wedge, sand wedge and a lob wedge.  The landing spot of the pitch shot will impact the club selection along with the length of the swing and the overall distance that the ball will roll out.

I would recommend getting comfortable with a similar length motion such as taking your front arm to the position where 9 O’clock would be on a clock and see how far each of these clubs flies with that motion of the swing. 

You can vary the speed of your swing from slow to medium to fast and judge the overall distance the ball flies and carries with each swing.

If there is limited space for the ball to roll out because you have short sided yourself, I would recommend going with your highest lofted club which will more than likely be a lob wedge that ranges in loft from 58-64 degrees.

If you have a moderate amount of space between the front edge of the green and the pin, you may select the sand wedge in your bag.  You will need some height in the shot, but you have space to allow the ball to roll out.

If you have plenty of space on the green you may choose to select your pitching wedge and allow the ball to roll almost as much as it carries.  This will often come down to the lie and your comfort as a player.

My goal is to select the shot that I feel most confident with.  Your nerves during a round a golf vary from hole to hole and round to round.  Go with what feels comfortable that day and execute the shot. 

Some days you may be able to throw one up the air and let it land soft.  This shot is often high risk, high reward.  Other days, you may play a more moderate shot and attempt to get inside of 15-20 feet if you short side yourself.

Knowing your distance on pitch shots is essential! I prefer to use a laser on these shorter shots!

The Technique Used in a Chip Shot vs a Pitch Shot

What technique to use for a chip shot?

The golfer will want to use a simple, putting like motion with the chip shot.  The golfer can control the loft, the speed of the swing and the length of the swing to control the overall distance the ball will travel.

The setup for chipping

Stance: The golfer will set up with their feet closer together with the sternum just in front of the ball.  This will help control the low point.

Grip: The grip can be the full swing grip or the putting grip that the golfer uses.  The advantage of hte putting grip is that it often raises the hands a bit, which helps the golfer utilize the bounce on the club.

Hand placement: The golfer will keep the club at its natural loft with the hands just slight ahead of the ball.  If the hands get too far forward, the leading edge comes into play and can lead to the chunk shot if the leading edge hits the ground too far in front of the ball.

Resource: Chipping with a 9 iron (5 keys)

The motion for chipping

The motion will be a simple back and forth motion similar to putting.  There is minimum wrist hinge because the golfer does not speed in the swing as they do in a full swing.  The simple motion without wrist hinge allows the golfer to reduce variables leading to better contract and distance control.

The golfer can use a picture of a clock in their head to determine where to take the front arm to.  At address this would be considered the 6:00 potion. 

As the golfer begins their backswing, the front arm moves to 7:00 and the 8:00 and then to 9:00.  These three positions are the basic positions of the length of the backswing for the simple chip shot.


What technique to use for a pitch shot?

The golfer will have various swing lengths with some utilizing wrist hinge depending on the desired height and the length of the swing.

In chipping the motion stays very simple with minimum if any wrist hinge.  With the pitch shot the golfer will take the front arm back to the different lengths such as the 7:00, 8:00 and 9:00 positions but may also add some wrist hinge.

The setup for pitching

Stance: The golfer will set up with their feet closer together with the sternum just in front of the ball.  This will help control the low point.  Some golfers will choose to have a bit of an open stance to help them keep the chest moving through the shot.  This is different than the chip shot where the golfer is lined up more square.

Grip: The grip will be the golfers regular golf grip because of the potential wrist hinge that may be utilized.

Hand placement: This is where the chip shot and the pitch shot really start to differ.  Depending on the shot the golfer wants to hit with the pitch shot, the hands could be moved more forward or back. 

For a more driving, lower shot, utilizing the leading edge of the club the golfer can move their hands forward.  With a lob wedge this reduces the loft and turns into a pitching wedge loft or more depending on how far the hands are moved forward.

The golfer may also move the hands slightly behind the ball to add more loft and utilize the bounce even more.  This is a high risk, high reward shot because the golf is trying to use as much loft as possible. Moving the hands back and opening the face adds loft to a club such as a 60 degree lob wedge.

The motion for pitching

The motion for chipping is based on a clock system once again, but will vary with the amount of wrist hinge.  Golfers will have different preferences on the amount of wrist hinge used based on comfort level and what shot they see.

What wedges should a beginner carry?

When you think about golfers on the PGA Tour, golfers like Phil Mickelson use plenty of wrist hinge and will often put their hands forward or back.  Phil is a master with his 60 degree wedge and can hit all types of shots.

Golfers like Steve Stricker or Jason Day use far less wrist hinge and keep their motion much more simple.  They can vary the loft through club selection, where a golfer like Phil Mickelson will push his hands forward or back and use the same club more often if not 100 percent of the time on the majority of chip and pitch shots.

The goal should be to get all chips shots inside of 3 feet. With the right system this is a reasonable expectation!

Controlling Distance Used in a Chip Shot vs a Pitch Shot

How to control distance on a chip shot?

Loft of the club, length of the swing and the speed of the swing are the three main factors that control the distance of the shot.

If you stay with a simple setup and keep your hand in a neutral position the chipping motion becomes easy to control the distance.

The golfer controls three variable that they decided on prior to hitting the shot.  After assessing the situations, the golfer will determine the club (loft), the length of the swing and the speed of the swing.

Some golfers may be more comfortable with a 7:00 (length) fast (speed) with an 8 iron for a specific shot.  While another golfer might be more comfortable with an 8:00 (length) medium (speed) with a 8 iron for a specific shot.  Chances are the ball might travel the same overall distance with the different variables.

I find depending on the day, somedays I am more comfortable with the faster swing and other days I prefer the medium or slower swing.  The good news is that with enough practice the golf can build a variety of shots and options.  The main goal is to determine one and stick with it.  Give your mind the task of the target in mind, 7:00, fast swing to stay focused on the shot.


How to control distance on a pitch shot?

Loft of the club, length of the swing, speed of the swing, hand placement and wrist hinge will impact the total distance the ball will travel

Some golfers may select to eliminate the variety of the hand placement and wrist hinge similar to a Steve Stricker or Jason Day, while others may get really good and be comfortable controlling those variables like a Phil Mickelson.  A golfer like Phil has great hands and is incredible at controlling the club face.

You have to know your game and spend time around the green to know what is best on that particular round.  Some of it may come down to your comfort level and how much you have practiced recently. 

Early in the season or if I haven’t had the chance to practice much I will hit pitch shots more like Steve Stricker.  However, in the middle of the season when I have practiced more I may hit more Phil Mickelson type of shots depending on the variable.

The Mindset Used in a Chip Shot vs a Pitch Shot

This is one area where there isn’t a difference.  The main goal with both shots is to go through a routine and get your mindset right before stepping over the ball.  The outcome you desire is a quality shot, one that is hit with confidence and allows you to execute the motion.

If you struggle with confidence over the ball or have the occasional yip, it is best to get lost in the process and give yourself a task for the chip shot.  There is where the clock system and speed system really can help a golfer.  

After you determine everything about the shot and lock in on the length of the swing and the speed of the swing, try to complete that task.  For example, on this shot I know I need a 9:00 swing with a slow motion.  

After I review my landing spot, I keep telling myself 9:00 and slow.  I maintain my pace as slow throughout the swing and get to the 9;00 feel.  I am not stressing over ball contact or get scared of embarrassing myself.  Instead I am lost in the task and increase my chances of hitting a quality shot.

Here are some simple steps or a routine you can follow:
  • Upon arriving at the ball, assess your lie.
  • Walk up the green and determine the slope and where is the ideal spot to land the ball.
  • As you head back to the ball, consider the length of the swing, the speed of the swing and the right club to make that happen (loft, length and speed).  For a pitch shot you may also need to determine hand placement and wrist hinge.
  • Check out your landing spot from back by the golf ball and focus on that landing spot.
  • Once you have selected your club (loft), length of swing and speed of swing, maintain your focus on the length and speed needed.  For example: 8:00 and medium.
  • Now step up to the ball and execute the 8:00 and medium swing.

Too often golfers start to worry about quality contact, have no idea on their length and speed and then yip at the ball. The end result is a bladed shot over the green or a chunk shot where the divot flies further than the ball. 

Should I carry a 60 degree wedge?

Anyone that has struggled with this understands the pain associated with the yips, but the system and mindset explained above can be a true game change.  Now it is time to test this system out!

Practice, practice and then practice some more. Create your system with both your chip shots and pitch shots!

How To Test Out Different Shots With Both Chip Shots and Pitch Shots

Your next steps in testing out this system is to go out and experiment.  When you think of the benefits and variety you can build into your game with a system clock system (7:00, 8:00, 9:00), speed of swing (slow, medium, fast) and a variety of clubs (6 iron through lob wedge) you will have plenty of options when you get onto the course.

I would recommend this process for chip shots when you first start out:
  • Select a sand wedge
  • Keeping the ball just behind your sternum with your hands in a neutral position.  Hit some shots.
  • These shots will consist of 7:00 and hit some slow, medium and fast.
  • Next move to 8:00 and hit some slow, medium and fast.
  • Finally move to 9:00 and hit some slow, medium and fast.

Which speed felt the best?  Did a certain length feel the best?

Next follow this same process with an 8 iron and then your lob wedge.  This gives you some feel and variety of different clubs, the different swing lengths and the speed of the swing.

Build your system and understand what your go to shots area.

I would recommend this process for pitch shots when you first start out:
  • Select a lob wedge
  • Start hitting shots with a neutral hand position with the ball just behind your sternum.  Hit some shots.
  • These shots will consist of 9:00 with slow, medium and fast.
  • Repeat this process at 10:00 and 11:00
  • Next move the ball forward and do the same thing at 9:00, 10:00 and 11:00
  • Now move the back towards the back of your stance and repeat at 9:00, 10:00, 11:00.
  • Introduce some wrist hinge and repeat the process above.

Which speed felt best? Did a certain length feel the best?  How about wrist hinge, is this something you were good at?  Finally, how did moving the ball around in your stance work out?

These are the key questions to consider and then determine what is best for your game.  The next time you play you might decide to keep the approach simple with the pitch shots until you have more time to practice and experiment.

Finally, test from different lies and come up with your personalized system that works best for you.

There is no perfect system or everyone on tour would chip and pitch the same and as we know from watching there are different techniques and different approaches to hitting similar required shots.

Chipping vs Pitching: Final Thoughts

Golf is supposed to be fun.  I have had my most fun playing the game when I am confident with my chip and pitch shots. There is nothing worse than playing these shots filled with fear. 

I have seen different golfers I have played with over the years destroy a round with a bladed chip shot not because of technique but due to a lack of system and losing complete confidence over the ball.  Each golfer needs to build confidence through the system and technique established.

Make sure you practice plenty and because the best short game player in your group!

A golf simulator has been quite the game changer for me. See below for some links if you want to make this dream a reality!

Take Action – What You Can Do Today to Get Better

What does this mean for you?  I believe in the following recipe to get better:

1 – Improve your motion in the golf swing by identifying a golf instructor.  Here are some options:

Here is a list of golf instructors that we have reviewed:

2 – Train to swing faster and improve your swing speed.  Here are some options:

Looking to gain more Speed and Distance in your swing. Two Options:

3 – Understand course strategy and work to break through your next barrier.  Here is a series on breaking through:

We have provided guides on how to break 100, 90, 80 and 70. Check out more below, if interested.

4 – Practice Frequently

Did you know that I build a golf simulator in my garage and have played over 500 rounds of golf on my SkyTrak system?  It has been a game changer and one worth checking out. Here are some of my other posts on golf simulators frequently asked questions:

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