The short game in golf is one of the most discussed topics among players. Among the few short game shots, pitching is one of the most important. Many players and the general audience often confuses a pitch shot with a chip shot. But we’ve clarified the difference in one of our guides on this website.
We’ve also covered a detailed guide on chipping as well. What we didn’t cover was the pitch shot. That’s what we’re going to do in this post.
What is the Pitch Shot in Golf?
A pitch shot covers very little ground. The maximum you’ll see players hit a pitch from would be 50 yards. The goal of a pitch shot is to get out of an obstacle, namely the steep uphill and downhills. One of the key differences between the pitch shot with the chip shot is that a pitch bounces only once. As soon as the ball hits the grass, it stops.
A chip shot on the other hand bounces a couple of times and rolls. Both of these shots are used to get into the green. Based on what lie you’re on and how much distance you’re looking to cover, you’ll either hit a chip shot or a pitch shot. Pitch shots are played with highly lofted clubs. The goal is to introduce as much backspin as possible to stop the ball from rolling. Also, the higher loft angle helps to get the ball in the air.
How the Master the Art of Pitching
To get the desired result from your pitch shots, you need to put in the hours and follow a systematic approach. The main components you need to focus on are the strategy, the setup, the backswing, and the downswing. Also, other important stuff such as club selection and ball position will come in those components.
Before you go into the driving range or the course for practice, you need to strategize the process. How many shots will you play? What kind of shots will you play? How many clubs will you use for the practice? Which clubs should you practice with?
Answers to all of these questions will help you organize things and your thoughts when the day comes.
Ideally, the farther away you are from the green, the lower the loft should be. If you’re more than 50 yards away from the green and you’re trying to carry a small rough, you can use a gap wedge. These wedges don’t have as much loft as the lob wedges. So, it’ll get you across the obstacle as well as get you to distance at the same time.
Important things such as your posture, the ball position, and the address come under the umbrella of a pitch shot setup.
In terms of ball position, it should rest just outside of the center of your body. Some experts might suggest you change the ball position according to the loft of the wedge. However, we don’t support it. In our opinion, it’s best to use the same ball position for each type of shot. It helps to retain the consistency of the playing.
As for the address position, this is a very important aspect of the shot. According to instincts, you might want to make everything square to the target. The club face, your body, and even your swing path are planned to be square.
However, that’s not the best practice for pitching. Instead, you need to open both your club face and your body. Opening the club face at address means pointing the face a little to the right of the target instead of directly at it.
And opening the body means pointing yourself a little to the target instead of standing at exactly 90 degrees. You get the picture, right?
When you open your body, the swing automatically becomes square and comes with a higher loft. If you stood square to the target, it would close the club at impact and delofted the club. This is one of the main reasons you see people getting short on their pitch shots.
Once you’re comfortable with the address, it’s time for the swing. And the first half of the swing is the backswing. Although backswing and downswing are not considered separate, it’s better to understand them separately.
During the backswing, you should put about 70% weight on your front foot. Many players stand evenly on both of their feet and it’s one of the main reasons why they don’t generate enough power.
After you’re comfortable in your stance, it’s time to lift that club up. When you do that, be careful about not closing the club face. If you’re not used to this stance, it might be difficult at first to keep the club face open.
What you simply need to do is spend enough time at the driving range to get used to the open stance. To ensure that your club face is open during practice, you need to keep an eye on the toe of the club. If the toe is pointing upward, the face is open. If it’s the opposite, you’ve closed the club face. The best moment to check this out is when you’re halfway through your backswing, about waist height.
The swing speed should be just enough to cover the right distance. We often swing our clubs aggressively when we play with our drivers or long irons. It reflects on both the backswing and the downswing.
For pitch shots, the distance is not nearly as long. So, there’s no need for forced swings. Just use your arms to gently swing the club back.
What comes after the backswing? The downswing, obviously. The key to a proper pitch downswing is not to move your wrist or arms during the swing. The position you’re in at the top of the backswing, that’s how you need to come down.
Essentially what happens during the backswing and the downswing is that you rotate your chest away from the target and bring it back in the opposite direction. The power for the stroke comes from the ground through your feet.
The open club face at impact will help the club retain its loft and get the ball in the air quicker. Another advantage is that thanks to wedge bounce, you eliminate the risk of digging into the grass. It means you can glide over the grass like butter while sending the ball over the obstacle.
Pro Tip. Look a little ahead of the ball as you swing so that you get the divot right. If you didn’t know, a divot in the lowest point of a swing and it’s usually when the bottom of the club touches the ground.
When Should You Pitch the Ball?
Now that you know how to pitch, it’s only fair to share the tips about when you should play this shot, right?
The perfect time to play a pitch shot is when you’re farther away from the green and you have an obstacle in front of you. The obstacle might be a bunker, a rough, or a water sprinkler. The use of high lofted clubs allows the ball to fly high and not far. This way, you cover the obstacle without going past the green.
Another classic example is when you’re trying to get out of a tough lie. Both steep uphill and downhills are considered tough lies. As the ball will fly high, you’re most likely to go past the uphill/downhill. From there on, you can chip.
Last but not the least, you should play a pitch instead of the chip if the green is too fast for you. A fast green is where the ball rolls almost without resistance. It’s harder to control the ball on such surfaces. That’s why you need more backspin and less distance, just like a pitch shot.
Best Clubs for Pitching
There is a dedicated pitching wedge. So, the first instinct for most players is to use it when they pitch. However, the pitching wedge is not the best club for every type of pitch shot.
For example, if the green is not far away and there is a steep obstacle between you and the green, you can’t use the pitching wedge. Rather, you’ll need to use either your sand wedge or your lob wedge.
If the green is moderately far, let’s say about 30 yards, you should use a gap wedge. Gap wedges offer a nice blend of height and distance. When you’re more than 40 yards away from the green, you should use the pitch wedge.
When your goal is to lower your score, every shot counts. Although we say from time to time that the short game is more important, deep down we all know that all shots are equally important. According to equilibrium, you need to put as much effort into making your pitch shots count.
That’s why we’ve created this handy guide on pitching. Let this be your stepping stone for becoming a better player.