Pitching tips: Part 1

Published 18/09/2009 08:00:00

Pitching is an area of the game where amateurs can improve dramatically and the benefits to your game are obvious when you consider around 70% of the shots in an average round are played from within 80 yards of the green. Most golfers would knock plenty of shots off their handicaps if they could hit the green and two-putt every time.


Keep the grooves on your wedges clean

Although the grooves on the clubface don't greatly affect the amount of spin you can generate from a tight, dry lie in the fairway, they will help you control it out of the rough and longer grass. Keep the club clean - especially in wet conditions.


Improve play from 120 yards from hole

Low scores depend on how well a golfer plays once the ball is within 120 yards of the hole. Everything that happens from the tee to that 120-yard range almost insignificant compared to what happens afterwards.

This should be reflected in the amount of time you spent learning the techniques and gaining a feel for pitching.


Avoid excessive backspin on pitch shots

Too much backspin on a pitch shot will make it difficult to accurately predict the distance. This negates the whole point of playing a pitch shot. Ideally you want the shot to hop two or three times and stop quickly - at a target you've aimed for on the green.


Steeper backswing leads to backspin

To assure backspin, keep your weight on the left foot and allow the forefinger and thumb of the right hand to play an active part in the swinging of the club.

This leads to the little additional wrist action, which tends to bring the clubhead up at a sharper angle on the backswing. The desired descending blow follows producing the backspin.


Swing steep on pitch shots

Once you learn to hit down and through the ball, the pitch shot no longer becomes a problem. Achieve this by having a steep swing.


Land the ball on top of the flag

Most amateur golfers are over-cautious with pitch shots and leave the ball well short of the hole. To counteract this problem, think about landing the ball on top of the flagstick rather thanon the green. This simple piece of imagery will help you become more authoritative in your swing and enable you to land the ball closer to the target.


Wedges are extensions of your other irons

In The Killer Swing, John Daly advises:

"Play your wedge pitches from the fairway just like you would your other short-iron shots. Just because these clubs aren't numbered, like your other irons, doesn't mean you need to play them any differently. Really, they are just extensions of your set of irons - they could just as easily be called a "ten-," "eleven-" and "twelve-iron," respectively.

"Thinking about them in this way might help you remember to take a full, normal swing when you are at or near your full distance to the hole with these clubs."


Calculating your pitching carry yardages

To find your pitching yardages hit five balls and monitor where they land. It's a good idea to hit into a practice green, if possible, so that you can see the pitch marks.

Your yardage is where the balls actually land, not where they finish.


Get aggressive with wedges

A long swing will encourage you to hit a more aggressive wedge shot and land the ball closer to the target.


Consistency is better than spin

"One of the first lessons you learn as a pro," says Nick Dougherty, "is to avoid backspin because it's difficult to control. I used to play the ball well back in my stance and make a short sharp swing hoping that the extra speed through impact would impart some spin.

"After watching Seve and NIck Faldo, I now play the ball further forward in the center of my stance and make a long, more rhythmical swing - back and through.

"The improved tempo creates a better strike and I know that the ball will land on the green and then release toward the hole in exactly the same way each time."


Master your wedge shot

The short-game maestro Tommy Horton believes that the pitching wedge is the greatest asset to low scoring and, because of this, all golfers should learn to use the club correctly and practice with it until they feel totally confident with it standing over the ball.


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