Deciding what club to use when chipping from just off the green is among the game’s most critical—and most difficult—scoring decisions. Some players use a pitching wedge to hit every chip shot, regardless of the lie. That’s fine, if it works for you. If it doesn’t, try letting your lie determine which club to use when chipping. This approach can shave strokes off your golf handicap.
Realistically speaking, you could use almost any club in your bag to chip with if they provide the right arc and trajectory. If it does, it doesn’t matter which club it is. But most golfers use one of four wedges to chip with around the green—pitching, sand, lob, and flop. For longer shots, they generally use the 8-iron and 9-iron. Below we provide golf tips on which clubs to use with different lies.
We advise students, in our golf instruction sessions, to make the pitching wedge their “go to” club for chipping. Depending on how you hold the club, your stance, and so on, you can hit anything from a low line drive to a high arching shot with a pitching wedge. So unless you need a really high trajectory or a really long run, the pitching wedge is the club of choice in the fairway and light rough.
You can also use a pitching wedge in the rough near the green, if your ball is next to or in a divot or a bad lie, or the pin is towards the back of the green and you want the ball to roll a decent amount. Think of the pitching wedge as your all-purpose utility club and work hard to master chipping with this club before practicing with other clubs.
The shot characteristics of the sand wedge and the pitching wedge are similar, so you can often substitute one for the other. The main difference between the clubs is trajectory. Since the sand wedge has more loft, it provides a shot with a higher trajectory than the pitching wedge. Use the sand wedge if you need to get over a bunker or the pin is closer to the green’s front, since a sand wedge produces a slightly higher arc than a pitching wedge. We also advise students taking our golf lessons to use a sand wedge when they need a higher arc but have a worse-than-fairway lie.
You can get a lot of loft out of a lob wedge, but it’s not the easiest club to hit. When hit correctly, though, the ball floats nicely in the air, hits the ground softly with some backspin, and rolls a bit. The clubface’s high angle makes the lob wedge an “all or nothing” proposition. So use the lob wedge only when you can take a full swing, as we advise students in golf instruction sessions. It’s great for lies in the fairway, but not so good for lies in the rough and high grass, or when the ball is buried or in a divot. Reserve the lob wedge for when you’re on the fairway about 15 yards to 30 yards or more away and have a good lie.
You can also chip with a flop wedge in some situations. The flop wedge creates more arc and loft than any other wedge and doesn’t roll far. Use the flop wedge when you’re just off the green in the rough and you need a really short pitch. You can also use a 5-wood or 3-wood if you’re five feet or so off the green’s fringe. A nice easy “putting” stroke lifts the ball up off the ground so it can clear the green’s lip but give you a good roll.
Some of golf’s toughest decisions involves chipping. If you’re not chipping well with your favorite club, let your lie determine which club to chip with and master the different clubs you can use. Start with the basic three clubs—pitching wedge, sand wedge, and lob wedge—then move on to other clubs. If you serious about shaving strokes off your golf handicap, work hard on your chipping. Making the right decision when chipping turns three shots into two and help you break 80.