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You're just off the green - do you chip, pitch or putt?
You're just off the green - do you chip, pitch or putt? (Courtesy Woodburn Golf Course)

Should I pitch, chip or putt?

Chuck EvansBy Chuck Evans,
Special Contributor

You've missed the green, and there's a decision to make: What type of shot do you play next? Do you chip, pitch or putt?

That choice depends on a couple of factors. But before we go there, let's go through the differences between chipping and pitching.

Even the television announcers get these confused. How many times have you watched a tournament, seen the player stroke from 30 yards off the green and heard the announcer exclaim, "What a great chip shot!"?

Wrong! That 30-footer was a pitch, not a chip.

Chipping is a stroke with no wrist-cock - less "air time" and more "ground time." Think of it as a putt with a lofted club. Pitching is a lofted shot, played with a cocked left wrist; it has more carry and less roll.

Playing from the off the green, the average golfer should try to putt if possible. If the ground is too uneven or the grass is too tall, then chip. But if the ball cannot safely carry to the green with a chip-length stroke - "safely" meaning at least one pace onto the green - it's time to pitch.

What's a chip-length stroke? In a previous article I discussed chipping at length, but here's a quick review:

The length of a chip stroke is about two feet in both directions. Starting from address, the hands go to the middle, or just slightly outside, of the back thigh. On the forward stroke the hands go past the front thigh while maintaining the left arm and shaft in one straight line.

Let's say your ball is just off the fringe of the green. Will the chip-length stroke get you at least that one pace in? If it won't, you'll need to pitch to reach safely.

Use this formula and your short game will improve.

Chuck Evans, G.S.E.D., a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, is one of only 31 golf instructors worldwide designated to hold a doctorate in golf stroke engineering. He is executive director of instruction for the Medicus Golf Institute and has served as director of schools for the PGA Tour Golf Academy, and as director of instruction for the United States Golf Institute. He is also the author of "How To Build Your Golf Swing."

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