These are the three things a golfer should think about before every chip or pitch shot
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These are the three things a golfer should think about before every chip or pitch shot


For most golfers, the short game is a struggle. Pitching, chipping, sand shots, all of the above. It's just befuddling.

For a lot of players, the struggle isn't knowing the proper techniques or having the proper understanding of what a golfer can do to hit various short-game shots. They may not know how to open the face, lay it back on the sole, ball position, shaft lean and lie, and the other aspects of hitting a high-quality short-game shot.

For probably an equal number of players, their problem with short-game shots is all in their approach. They're not thinking about the shot in the right way, and it's costing them strokes because they don't have the right plan in place before they ever step in to hit the shot. Even golfers with a more limited short-game repertoire can benefit from having the right approach toward these shots.

In my experience, I think about three things before I hit any chip shot, pitch shot, sand shot or flop shot. These things set me up for success by helping me to think through what I want to accomplish and how I'm going to do it. I think going through this checklist before you hit any of these shots will help you, too.

How high will the ball fly? Often times, there are lots of ways to play any given short-game shot. Most golfers have their default preference, be it a higher shot, a bump and run or something in between. Many are just praying to hold the green. But I want you to see in your mind's eye how the ideal version of this shot will fly for your skill set. Visualizing every shot on the golf course is very important, but with short-game shots, you have a chance to easily visualize the whole shot without being blocked out by other parts of the course. Use that to your advantage.

Where will the ball land? Along the same lines as knowing how high the ball is going to ideally fly, a golfer should think through where they want the ball to land. If you want the ball to run out quite a bit -- or your chip shots do that by default -- then you're going to want to land the ball shorter than if you plan to hit something with a good bit of spin that will check up quickly. You'll also want to consider where the target and the hole are. If you're chipping or pitching onto a downslope, then you'll have to take that into consideration to get to your target compared to a flat or uphill shot. The more you can be exact in how you visualize the shot, the more you can think about it similar to a putt. That's going to help your focus.

What does success look like? Success in golf is determined on a case-by-case, player-by-player, shot-by-shot basis. What is a win is dictated by the lie, the target, your skills, the situation and so many other factors. But very rarely is success defined as just getting the ball in the hole, particularly on a short-game shot. So decide what a great shot looks like before you hit the shot. If it's hitting it to tap-in range because the shot is easy, that's fine. If it's a tough shot, then maybe getting it within 10 feet is a solid job. There are some shots where a golfer should just be happy to get on the green or out of the horrible lie they're in. Setting expectations helps a player to truly assess the difficulty of the shot and may also help them think about the best way to achieve that outcome instead of a tougher goal.

If you can think your way through these tougher shots, and then eventually couple them with more skills and techniques to be able to accomplish them easier, then you're going to be a tremendous golfer.

About the author

Ryan Ballengee

Ryan Ballengee is founder and editor of Golf News Net. He has been writing and broadcasting about golf for nearly 20 years. Ballengee lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his family. He is currently a +2.6 USGA handicap, and he has covered dozens of major championships and professional golf tournaments. He likes writing about golf and making it more accessible by answering the complex questions fans have about the pro game or who want to understand how to play golf better.

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