In my opinion this is the one shot that the average golfer doesn't really know how to play well, or when to actually play the shot. Most amateurs confuse a chip shot with a pitch shot and vice-versa, so they tend to set up for a pitch shot as they would for a chip shot and then the results are terrible. So on that note I need to explain what a pitch shot is and when you would normally play a pitch shot.
1 - PITCH SHOT
This a shot that typically spends more time in the air instead of rolling along the ground, normally from 30 - 80 yards from the pin. A Chip Shot on the other hand spends very little time in the air and runs a lot when it lands. We need to know what shot we are attempting, as the set up and swing type for a chip shot versus a pitch shot are quite different. So be sure of what shot you are actually attempting before you take your set up!!! You can see my chipping tip back on the main page!
2 - SET UP FOR PITCH
Remember you want the ball to get into the air quite quickly in a pitch shot, so we make sure the ball is centred in our stance. I often see a big flaw in something as simple as finding the centre of your stance so make sure the centre of your stance means the ball is located between your HEELS not your TOES!! This sounds simple but because most people stand open (aim left) when playing a pitch this will bring the ball position forward if positioned between the toes. If you are someone who stands open to your pitch shot I would suggest you use your STERNUM (centre of chest) to locate the ball beneath, because directly under your sternum is the lowest point of your swing arc which means you will bottom out at the base of the ball each time. This should be the case for any short iron shot you play so you hit down on your irons at impact (VIP).
The next thing we do in our set up is narrow our stance to about half the width of our normal stance. The worst thing you can do for a pitch shot is stand very wide as this restricts leg movement and turn which can cause duff's and blades! It is common to have a little more weight on your front foot (foot closest to target) at address to increase your chances of a clean contact, as leaning forward will also move your sternum forward (over/past the ball) which is a positive thing.
Finally, people often ask should you go down the grip?? Well that's entirely up to you, but remember whatever you choose you must always do the same thing each time, because shortening the club will decrease distance and so will affect your ability to control how far the ball flies if you keep changing!!
3 - PITCH SWING
There are 3 main swing points to note when hitting your pitch shot,
- Hinge your wrists early in the back swing (try to create an L shape between your club and forearm by hinging your wrist 90 degrees).
- Swing at a slower rhythm and a rhythm that you can easily repeat and so control the backswing.
- Make sure you turn to face your target at the finish. DON'T KEEP YOUR HEAD DOWN!!!!!
4 - DISTANCE CONTROL
I am going to give you a simple technique which a lot of great players use, but remember with any change or new idea it will take some practice to master.
Let's say the average golfer has a PW, SW and maybe a Gap Wedge or Lob Wedge in their bag. On average we will usually have 3 wedges in our bag. Now imagine you could have two back swing lengths for each wedge, that would give you two different distances for each wedge giving you a total of 6 different distances across your 3 wedges. I am sure those 6 distances you now have will cover most of the 30 to 80 yards shots we face each week when pitching!!
The swing lengths are pretty simple, one will be half swing or 9 o'clock position and the other full swing or 11 o'clock position. The only hard part to this for those who have never practised will be to actually make a half swing, because in my experience, when I ask someone to make a half swing they actually are still making a full swing position ie: 11 o'clock. This is why I use the term 9 o'clock!! Think of your left arm as the hour hand of a clock, at address it points down to 6 o'clock, now picture where 9 o'clock would be in your back swing: it should be when your left arm is parallel to the ground!! Now you have found the half-swing position.
Once you can master the half swing then start hitting balls, stopping at your new half swing or 9 o'clock position. Hit about 20 - 30 balls and then measure how far to the middle of the group of balls you just hit. This is how far that club with the half swing will always go. Everyone will be different and how far you hit it doesn't matter, what matters is that you can always hit it the same distance when you have to. Now do the same with your full backswing and measure to the centre of the group of balls again giving you 2 different distances with that wedge (eg: SW half swing = 30 yards & full swing = 70 yards). Repeat for as many wedges as you have and record, so when you face that distance you now have the confidence to hit it the distance required!!
What I did when I first started this technique was to write down my distances for half and full swing on a small piece of paper and then sellotape that to the shaft of my wedge just below the grip. This allowed me to find the right wedge for the distance I needed. Believe me, knowing you are going to hit the shot the right distance takes a lot of pressure off you standing over the ball!!!
I hope this all makes sense and I hope to see you all practising this in the coming weeks!!