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Chip Shot vs Pitch Shot vs Flop Shot: A Golfer’s Dilemma

Chip Shot vs. Pitch Shot vs. Flop Shot... Huh?

It's the age-old debate; which short game shot should you use?

Well, it kinda depends on the situation, but first, let's look at a video showcasing the different styles:

Got it?  Good!  If not, go ahead and watch it again.

Now, let's dissect each one on their own.

Option #1: The Chip Shot

With a chip shot, you open your stance slightly, put more weight forward, keep your arms and club in a “y” formation and use the shoulders to drive the motion.

A chip shot doesn’t stay in the air very long, and, depending on the club used, has more roll-out. It’s a carry-to-roll ratio; the SW would have a higher carry:roll (more carry, less roll), and, say, a 7 iron would have a lower carry:roll ratio (more roll, less carry). Neither shot will be very high.  

On the right, there's a handy little chart you can use as a "rule of thumb" to help you decide which club to use.

Club

Ratio

7 Iron

1:4

8 Iron

1:3

9 Iron

1:2

PW

1:1

GW

2:1

SW

3:1

LW

4:1

How to use the carry-to-roll ratio

I think it's best if you have an example. 

Let's say you're off the green, 10 yards from the hole.

Now, the idea behind a chip is to get the ball on the green as soon as you can.  Generally, you want the ball to land roughly 3 feet past the fringe.  Kinda like this:

chip v. pitch v. flop shot

The green circle is the ideal landing spot!  Source

So, from happy stick-figure you to the landing zone is five yards; from the landing zone to the hole is five yards.  That's a 1:1 ratio, which calls for a PW.

If you had 3 yards to the landing spot and 7 yards from the landing spot to the hole, that'd be a (roughly) 1:2 carry to roll ratio, which calls for the 9 iron.  Flip it around; the landing spot is 7 yards from you to the hole, and from the landing spot to the hole is 3 yards.  That's a 2:1 ratio, which calls for a SW.

I want to stress that this is a generalization, a rule of thumb.  Not everyone is gonna have these exact club-to-ratio numbers.  Experiment to find yours!  You can sign up to get my Essential On-Course Field Guide to help you out!  Not only does it cover these ratios, but it has what I call The Wedge Matrix; a spreadsheet you can use to find all your pitching distances!  Check it out here:

It's best to get the ball on the ground ASAP

There's an old adage:

If you can putt, putt

If you can't putt, chip

If you can't chip, pitch

​You have more control when the ball's on the ground.  But sometimes, you gotta get more loft on the ball.  That's when the other options come into play.

Option #2: The Pitch Shot

As you can see in the video, a pitch shot is more like a mini-swing.  You slightly open the club face, open your stance, and take an almost half-swing to get the ball airborne and landing softly on the green.

It's a good idea that you know how far your average pitch shot goes.  That's why I offered my Essential On-Course Field Guide earlier; it has a spreadsheet to allow you to record 12 shots.  The best and worst are thrown out, and the remaining 10 are added up and divided by 10 to find your average distance with each pitch swing/club in the bag.

Did you know there's more than one kind of pitch swing?

Yup- but it's not a technique thing.

What I'm talking about is the length of the pitch swing:

  • One-quarter swings
  • Half-swings (the common pitch swing)
  • Three-quarter swings

Each one will give you a different distance with each club you pitch with.  The Field Guide, as well as the more direct Wedge Matrix (offered in the "ribbon" at the bottom of the screen), takes all these into account, and helps you find every distance for each style of swing.

Why would you choose the pitch shot over the chip?  

Well, chips are usually done very near the green, whereas pitches occur farther back.  But that's not the only time; sometimes, when faced with an obstacle (like a bunker), it's usually a better idea to launch the ball more.  

You wanna make sure it gets over the obstacle, right?

Option 3: The Flop Shot

The last option is the flop shot.

And yes, it should be the last option.

It's very similar to a pitch shot, but the stance and club face are much more open.  You need to swing with a LOT of confidence, too, or you'll risk hitting the ball above the equator ("skulling" it) and sending it off into the next zip code.

Not good.

Because of its inherent risks, if you can't chip it on the green, and the obstacle in question is very tall, the flop might be your best bet.  Because it gets up in the air faster, it'll also help get you over the impediment if it's close to you.

But it takes a bigger swing.  The one I demonstrated in the video was a tiny one that didn't go far.  If you needed more height and/or distance, a much bigger swing would be needed- and that's when the problems really start to come into play.

The Spin Effect: Chip Shot v. Pitch Shot v. Flop Shot

I'm gonna handle this one bluntly.

On a chip shot, it just won't get much spin.  The swing is generally much slower, almost putt-like.  That doesn't give the ball and club face much of a chance to interact and create friction.

The flop shot, on the other hand, creates the most spin, because it's the fastest of the three.  That leaves us with the pitch swing being in the middle, though there is more that goes into creating that "tour-like" backspin than just that.

When in doubt, play it safe.

It's not fun or "sexy", but playing it safe is the best way when you're trying to lower your scores.

That's why the adage was written the way it was; putt first, chip second, pitch third, flop if you have no other option.

About the Author

Justin Blair is the founder of Green Lantern Golf. When he isn't bringing his 10+ years of excellent craftsmanship experience to golf club fitting, building, and repair, he's geeking out about Star Wars (he's watched them all about 8,437 times!) and things like the MCU and LOTR, he's drinking mead and craft brews. If you wanna know more, check out my About Page!

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