Pitch vs Chip
The jargon can be overwhelming when you first start out as a golfer. People will throw all kinds of words at you and expect you to understand. Before heading out on the course for the first time, familiarize yourself with golf terms, including pitch and chip. All of these are different ways to hit the ball and you use each in specific circumstances.
Short game is the hardest part to play for many people. You can easily add up penalties within 50 yards of the cup. If you take the time to master the chip shot, you can hopefully lower your score significantly. I practice chip shots whenever possible as they don't come naturally.
Below is a graphic that explains some important aspects of the chip shot. It is essential to plan your point of attack and understand how that affects your dynamic and spin loft. Focus on brushing the grass underneath the ball, so you can make the best contact.
When to chip
The chip shot spends very little time in the air, stays low to the ground and bounces upon landing. This hit aims to get the ball close to the hole, almost like a putt but farther out. Chip around 30 yards from the hole and leave room for a significant amount of roll after missing approach shots. Don't worry if this happens to you, as chips are a great way to make up for the missed distance. The best time to chip is on the green because the bounce you will achieve would not work well when at risk of hitting a bunker. Chips are a shot that is pretty hard to control, so you have to consider your terrain every time.
Choosing a club is personal preference as a chip can be hit by almost all wedges or irons. It requires a bit of practice to know which works best for you and depends on distances. I recommend a wedge for a short shot as it helps lessen roll. If you are farther out from the hole, use a mid-long iron or even a wood if you think you can control the distance. If you hit a ball with a higher lofted club, you will have more spin, so keep that in mind.
I recommend using your regular grip, but many may choose to use their putting grip. Some people like the control it provides, but I find the ball goes farther (when needed) with a regular grip. Test out different grips and clubs until you see the ball consistently go in the intended direction.
Your stance should be different with a chip shot. Bring your feet closer together with your weight more on your front foot. No matter what shot you are doing, make sure it is comfortable and adjust however feels natural.
This diagram explains how in chipping, your backswing should be even with your downswing. If you pull back to a 7 go forward to a 5.
Think of chipping as simply longer putting and swing accordingly. Keep your wrists flat and use the familiar pendulum motion you are used to. There shouldn't be any motion in your wrists as this is unnecessary and will skew your chip.
You use pitch shots in very different circumstances than a chip shot. Both aren't full shots, but that is the only thing they have in common.
When to pitch
A player uses a pitch when there is something in the way. When I have a bunker, pond or other obstruction ahead of me, I can trust my pitch shot to get me where I need to. You can also use a pitch when you don't think a chip will do the job, like in the rough. Pitch shots have hardly any roll (at least that is the goal) and should land where you want it placed. These shots carry farther and can be used around 30 yards from the hole.
Always use a higher lofted wedge for these hits as more loft=more height. A lob wedge does a good job, especially for beginners, as these provide a lot of forgiveness. Bounce is also influential, so check this on your wedge of choice. Bounce and loft work together to create height.
With a pitch shot, use your full swing grip. I always suggest keeping your grip loose (a death grip doesn't help anybody), but this is especially important for the pitch. Keep your ball lined up nicely and flying on the right line. Posture is essential for pitching as it may feel unnatural when used to full swings. You still bow from your hips, keeping your legs straight and hands below your shoulders. Adjust to the different lengths of the club, don't change your whole posture.
Pitch shots are at risk of getting stubbed, but this can be fixed if you focus on the face of the club. Keep the wedge face open. This lets you get the most bounce out of your swing. One rookie mistake I see regularly is people trying to lift the ball. In order to get height, you have to hit down not up. Utilize a solid practice swing and listen for the thump when you hit the ground. This will ensure you are completely under the ball when hitting.
Your stance is similar to your full shot swings. Keep your legs shoulder length apart with the ball in the middle. If you are having difficulty getting the ball higher in the air, move the ball forward. This will help you gain vertical height. If having the opposite problem, do the opposite, of course.
The swing is almooooost full but just short of a regular swing. Make sure your back swing and front swing are about equal—just like the chip shot. Accelerate straight through the ball to get the height you need. Adjust the swing size depending on how far you are hitting.
In conclusion, there are many differences between a chip and pitch shot. Practice the tips above and your short game will improve substantially. The key to lowering your score is within 50 yards of the hole! Remember that.