To Chip or Pitch

Jay Davis, PGA

Problem Area: Short Game
Series: Instruction Feature

Published: Tuesday, October 26, 2010 | 3:26 p.m.

Any golfer wishing to lower his or her scores needs to learn how to control the ball's height and speed around the green. This key aspect of the short game is largely determined by a player's knowledge of two important shots -- the chip-and-run and the pitch.

A chip-and-run shot is a low running shot played either with a 7-iron, a 9-iron or a sand wedge (7-iron producing the most roll), depending on the length of roll required. Use this shot when you are close to the green and you do not need to elevate the ball to get to the hole. Practice the following steps.

-- As you set up the shot, stand with the ball aligned with your back foot while holding the club vertically and gripping with your hands forward of the ball. -- Then, control the swing with the arms only, using minimal hand action and no body turn.

-- Be sure your grip is "ahead" of the club head at impact. Therefore, for a right-handed player, the right hand will be bent or flexed on contact and the left hand will be firm.

A pitch shot is used to create loft from around the green when you need the ball to travel over bunkers, mounds, tall grass or water hazards. This shot can be played from distances of up to 40 yards and is played with a sand wedge or lob wedge. Proper technique for this shot includes:

-- Address the ball with it forward (opposite your left heel for a right-handed player) with your grip even with the ball (not forward pressed or behind the ball).

-- Swing with your arms while turning the body slightly and setting or cocking the left wrist on the backswing. Backswing length and arm speed through impact control the distance the ball flies.

-- From the end of your backswing, release or rotate your arms as if you were making an underhanded pitch with a ball. This style of release will produce a high shot with very little roll, and should feel as if your arms have just "floated" through the ball with hardly any resistance. Feel the club head pass the grip as you go through impact.

You now have a plan for your two shots around the green and will end any doubt or second-guessing of your technique.

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Excellent and straighforward advice.

Thank you,