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Chipping and Pitching - Playing the Percentages Game

Pretty much everyone will tell you that the goal when chipping or pitching in golf is to get the ball to travel the least amount of distance in the air and have it roll along the green. Most beginners will aim a foot or two before the hole and then get upset when they hit a perfectly struck ball past the hole and off the back of the green. Yes they hit a great shot, but they did not account for how much the ball would roll once it hit the green.

The reason is that the green rules the ball. Very rarely do you have a straight, level path to the hole, which means that slopes and undulations on the green will affect the roll of the ball. The quicker the ball is rolling and conforming to those slopes and undulations, the better the chance you'll have of sinking of the shot. That being said, your goal should be to hit the green about half way between the edge of the front of the green and the hole. You could even try to hit 1/3 of the way in from the front of the green. Your aim will depend on the club you choose.

We've covered using different clubs for chipping besides just your pitching wedge, and to help with the equation, I will present some air-time/roll percentages to think of. The key is to judge how much green you have to work with, and how close you are to the green.

Using a pitching wedge, the ball will travel in the air about 60%-65% of the distance to the hole and roll 35%-40%. The reason is obvious since a pitching wedge has a high loft. Use a pitching wedge when you are close to the green, or need some extra "touch" to lightly guide the ball along an intended path on the green.

Using a 7 or 8-iron to chip? Expect the ball to travel about 40% in the air and to roll 60%. These clubs have a steeper face and so will set the ball on more of a line drive path. I didn't believe in the "7-iron chip shot" until a friend of mine, who had been practicing the shot, successfully landed a few during a round when my normal pitching wedge chip shots failed. These types of shots are excellent from 30-40 yards with a pretty clean line and the cup in the mid to back of the green. Aim for the very front of the green, even slightly before the green to try and get one bounce in before making contact with the green.

Going even lower, a 5 or 6-iron will travel about 30% in the air and roll 70%. While I use these shots sparingly, they do have a function. Prime location would be facing a green that is moderately uphill and 50 yards out. Set up with your typical chipping stance, front foot flared out with an open stance, and take a swing with about 40% of your typical backswing. You should see a line drive that hits the fairway 10-20 yards before the green, bounces a few times, and starts rolling at the edge of the green.

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