What Is a Pitch Shot in Golf?

Merrick Bremner of South Africa pitches to thje 3rd green on the East Course during day three of the Joburg Open
Playing a pitch shot from just off the green. Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

A "pitch shot" is a shot played with a highly lofted club that is designed to go a relatively short distance with a steep ascent and steep descent. Pitch shots (often shortened to "pitch" or "pitches") are played into the green, typically from 40-50 yards and closer.

It's easy to picture a pitch shot when it is contrasted with the chip shot. A chip shot is usually played from closer to the green and the ball is in the air only a short amount of time; the point is to get the ball onto the surface of the green and let it roll toward the cup. Most of a chip shot is roll. A pitch shot, on the other hand, is in the air for most of its distance, with much less roll once it hits the ground; a pitch shot also goes much higher in the air than a chip shot.

Pitch shots are played with wedges — one of the clubs in a set of irons is called a "pitching wedge" because it was originally designed for this shot. But other wedges — gap wedge, sand wedge, lob wedge (all of which have higher lofts than a pitching wedge) — are also used for hitting pitches.

Generally, if you have the option of hitting a chip shot or a pitch shot, it's best for most golfers to go with a chip (see "Favor chipping over pitching when possible"). But you don't always have an option. When you need to get the ball up in the air quickly; when there is rough or other problem areas between you and the green and, therefore, roll is not possible; or when you want the ball to come down with a steep angle of descent and therefore hit the green without much roll, a pitch shot is appropriate.

The terms pitch, pitch shot and pitching (as in "he'll be pitching this ball over the bunker to the green") go back very far in golf's history. They are old terms for a type of shot golfers have always had the need to play.

Flop shots and lob shots are specialized types of pitch shots.

Playing Pitch Shots

In our 17 Simple Tips for Beginning Golfers feature, golf instructor Gary Gilchrist summarized pitching technique this way:

"The setup is vital for you to hit your pitch shots solid, and for the ball to travel the right distances.
"Your clubface and body alignment need to be open, while the ball should be in the middle of your stance. Make sure your weight is on your left side, and that during the swing your legs stay quiet. Your legs should move only with the momentum of the swing."

Controlling the distance of pitch shots by varying the length of the swing is a key component of a good pitching game: try the 7-8-9 method to dial in those pitching wedges.

Check YouTube to find many instruction videos on pitching in golf.