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Golf Tips: Pitch ’n chips on the green

By: Shawn Kelly
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Oh nuts, we’ve missed the green! If you have been following our “Tee to Green” series over the last few weeks, we started out on the tee box and have been playing shots down our virtual fairway. Now our approach shot from last week has come up a little short of the green and we need to chip or pitch the ball to save par. The chip and run or pitch shot is one of the more important utility shots in the bag. The swing is rather short. Think of it as swinging the hands from pocket to pocket and just a little farther for a pitch, like tossing a ball to a child. Your grip pressure should be soft and the swing rhythmic. Be sure to choose the correctly lofted club for the shot and simply execute your normal routine. Do you have a favorite wedge that you use exclusively each time you get within 25 yards of the green? If so, then you may be hindering your chances of running it up close for an easy putt. Depending on the shot at hand, choosing the most appropriately lofted club for the shot can help you get the ball closer to the hole. Here are some ideas intended to help you select that correctly lofted club. An understanding of your equipment will help you decide. A wedge will tend to stop the ball faster on the green while a seven iron will let the ball roll more like a putt after landing on the putting surface. Determining which club to choose will take some experimentation and practice. The first step is to determine what kind of shot you have and how much carry and how much roll you need to complete that shot. Stand behind the ball and, using our visualization skills, imagine the shot at hand and select the landing area for the shot. The ball should land on the putting surface if possible but give yourself a generous cushion. Now decide how much roll you need to reach the hole. Choosing the correct club is the next step. If you need to stop the ball within 10 feet or less, perhaps the wedge or sand wedge may be the club. If you have a lot of green to work with and some distance to reach the hole, try using anywhere from a nine iron to a six iron and let it roll like a putt. Now that you have selected the proper club, you’ll need to get set up properly to contact the ball solidly. Prepare for the shot by setting up with a little more weight on your left (front) foot than usual. This will encourage a swing downward through the ball rather than scooping it up into the air. Take a few practice swings beside the ball to determine three keys: the bottom of the swing arc, the feel of the lie to determine how much grip pressure needed to hold the club and the distance needed to carry the ball onto the green. Don’t feel rushed, because a few good practice swings only take a couple of seconds and a missed shot takes much longer to chase down. You don’t want to hear you’re still away! Work on becoming well acquainted with the chipping and pitching clubs in your bag, because these are your scoring clubs then I’ll be betting on you to get the ball up and down. Tune in next week when we reach the green, we’ll talk about reading greens and draining putts.