By Austin Peters, PGA
Ah, the short game. It seems like this is every amateurs’ Achilles heel.
When it comes down to it, this is what makes or breaks your round–even as a pro. Let’s face it, we all miss greens. If you didn’t, you’d be ranked #1 in the world by a long shot. The trick is salvaging those misses by getting up and down.
Chipping and/or pitching are both used, but each have their own definition and approach to hitting the shot. Chipping is where you generally use a lower lofted club and try to roll the ball to the hole. Pitching is just the opposite, you generally use a higher lofted club and try to fly the ball closer to the hole. Now, while each shot selection has its time and place, I find that most amateurs instantly select that lob or sand wedge and go straight to hitting a pitch shot no matter what. This is, in fact, the first step that many of you must overcome. Your thought process should be the other way around. Whenever possible, always try to choose a lower lofted Club and “bump and run,” or roll the ball to the hole. This is by far the better option in terms of improved consistency on ball contact, but also better consistency on proximity to the hole. Wrap your mind around this: Which is easier, putting or chipping/pitching? The correct answer is most definitely putting. Which is easier, hitting a spot with a shot a few feet in front of you or hitting a spot possibly 30 feet in front of you? When given the option between hitting a chip shot or hitting a pitch shot, always try to lean towards the chip.
Now let’s go into the swing dynamics of each and once again show why hitting a chip, when you can, will prove to be more beneficial throughout the round. A chip shot is a shot you generally try and roll to the hole. When choosing to hit this shot you generally will use a less lofted club (8 iron, 9 iron, PW or sometimes a Gap wedge). By choosing one of these clubs you help lower the trajectory into a low running shot which is very similar to a putt. Like a putt, you will use the same short swing by only using your shoulders and, for the most part, locking everything else in place. Now while I say locking I don’t mean turn into a robot. After all, short game has a lot to do with “feel” so keep that in mind. The only difference really with the chip swing compared to the putting swing is the stance. Your stance should be slightly open at about a 30-40 degree angle facing your target. The ball should be slightly farther away from you than it normally would be with a putter, and it should be slightly back (towards your back foot or away from the target) in your stance. The pitch is much different in just about every way. You’ll use a more lofted club, swing harder at the shot, to the point you may even have to break your wrists and the ball position is slightly up in your stance if not in the middle. If you do break your wrists, it should be a natural motion of the swing. NEVER try and set your wrists, this will only lead to more complications. The only similar part to the chip and pitch is the same open stance. Get work on these two green-side saves and you’ll see your scores lowering faster than you can say “Chip In!” If you follow these simple ideas, I promise that after a couple practice sessions you’ll be getting up and down more often, and more consistently.
Austin Peters is a PGA Pro based out of the Los Angeles area. In 2015 he earned his entry to the PGA Championship after he placed T-5 in his debut at the PGA National Championship qualifying event. Today he continues to play in PGA Tour Events and offers lessons to professional, amateur, and beginning golfers alike. You can contact Austin via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (303) 475-0692.