If we are talking about the short game in golf, pitching with the lob wedge, sand wedge, or pitching wedge is among the most important techniques to improve.
If you are a high or moderate-handicapper, acquiring a proper pitching skill can significantly improve your game, and can be the one technique that sets you apart from finally being one of those low-handicappers or even scratch golfers.
In this guide, we will learn together how we can improve our pitching in golf, but just so we are on the same page, let’s first begin by discussing what actually the pitching shot is.
What Actually Is the Pitching Shot In Golf?
We can basically describe the pitch shots as the longer version of chip shots. While the chip shot is typically executed when the ball is on grass, close to the green, a pitch is done to hit the ball high to land softly on the green. So, with a pitch shot, the ball spends most of its time through the air rather than on the green itself.
Typically the pitch shots are attempted around 20-40 yards away from the green when we are too close to hit a full wedge shot but on the other hand, too far to hit a chip shot. Albeit rare, we can also do pitch shots further than 40 yards from the green, up to 70 yards from the hole.
Thus, the basic idea of the chip shot is to get the ball to fly high, land softly on the green, and stop quickly once it has successfully landed on the green. The pitch shot needs to have the ball travel roughly 30 yards through the air and rolls only for around 3-5 yards upon landing.
As the name pitch shot suggests, it is traditionally made with the pitching wedge, but now we can also use a lob wedge or sand wedge, and even other clubs in certain cases.
Why Practicing the Pitch Shot Is Important?
It is a very common mistake for beginners and high-handicappers, even some mid-handicappers to overlook practicing the pitch shots and their short game in general, Most golfers typically spend more time on their long game, especially on the driving range.
It’s admittedly more fun and exciting to hit those golf balls for hundreds of yards off the tee, and also practicing with our irons. However, remember that most of our scores are determined by how good our short game ability is.
The majority of your shots will be within 100 yards from the hole, and the accuracy of your pitch might as well make or break your performance on the greens.
The more consistent you can make a high chip with less roll, the faster you can improve your overall score and lower your handicap. However, improving your chip doesn’t only require a better technique and accuracy with your shots, but you’ll also need to get better at controlling distance and applying spin.
Better yet, the more consistent your pitch is in not missing a green in regulation can inspire your confidence in hitting your irons and your putts.
Convinced yet in the importance of your pitch shots? For the rest of this guide, we will discuss what we can do to improve our pitching shots.
6 Tips for Better Pitching Shots
1. Club Strategy
Let’s begin by discussing what clubs you should use in various pitching scenarios. In general:
Your pitching wedge is your obvious and traditional choice for most pitching needs, especially when you are dealing with a lot of greens and especially when you have no obstacles in front of you.
When you want to pass a passable obstacle or some rough but you still want a bit of a rollout on the green, then you should use a gap wedge to make your pitch
Use the lob wedge as you get closer to the hole or to pas bigger obstacles.
In general, you should consider two main factors when choosing your club: the distance you’d need the ball to fly, and how softly would you need the ball to land near the hole. The pitching wedge offers the longest flight, but also the longest rollout, while the lob wedge offers the shortest flight and rollout.
2. Swinging With Your Body
One of the most common mistakes in making the pitch shots is relying too much on their hand action when making their shots, and high-handicappers tend to use their wrist motions to flick at the ball in making their pitches.
However, better players also tend to make the mistake of having their hands driving forward just as they make their impact, technically ‘lowering’ the loft of the clubface.
Both mistakes can significantly affect the pitching performance and end up providing us with far less opportunity around the green.
Instead, upper body control is the secret of making a good swing for your pitch, and we can improve it with a simple exercise:
Start with a comfortable stance. Your feet should be fairly close together with your left toe turned out slightly (assuming you are a right-handed player). Doing this will move your center of gravity slightly towards your left side.
Take your right hand off the grip, then place it on your left shoulder so you are holding the club with only your left hand (or right hand, if you are left-handed). Don’t grip your wedge too tightly, and make your swing.
Focus on controlling the motion of your left shoulder. You should feel your right hand pulls the left shoulder down as you make your backswing.
Maintain control of your backswing so that you are using your body instead of your left wrist to make the swing. Your left wrist should only make a gentle movement to follow the weight of the clubhead and not more.
By doing this exercise regularly, you can slowly but surely transform your pitching swing to involve your upper body rotation instead of relying on your arms.
3. Perfecting Your Swing Stance
To control your swing, a good practice is to treat your pitching shots as a mini-version of your full swing. So, have the right mindset that you’ll use a similar stance as you would when driving off the tee but you won’t make the full shot.
A very important part of your pitching stance is your wrist. If you are right-handed, you need to have a firm left wrist.
The main principle in the pitching shot is that you’ll need to make clean contact as you make your downswing to make the most of your wedge’s loft. Keep your left wrist firm during impact so you won’t move the clubhead away from the turf.
Use the exercise above while maintaining your left wrist firm, this will also help you in memorizing the right feel of your left wrist as you make your impact.
4. Keep Your Neck and Head Steady
Another vital principle in making your pitch shots is to keep your head as steady as possible as you make your swing and impact.
Remember that you are only making a mini-swing instead of a full shot, so it should be more manageable to keep your head and neck completely still.
This will help in making more solid contact at impact, which will help you produce more solid contact at impact.
Pitching is about making a collective movement where your torso, arms, and shoulders are moving with the same rhythm, speed, and angle. This is where keeping your head steady can help in making this collective movement, especially by preventing early shoulder rotation.
Seemingly simple, focusing on making this collective movement will produce a significant effect on the accuracy of your strike.
5. Improving Your Strike Angle
Maintaining a good striking angle can be the biggest challenge in making your pitch shots, and here we will share a simple drill to help you with this issue.
Remember that the main principle in making your pitch shot is to strike the ball with a downward swing, so you compress the ball against the turf to allow the “chip” up your clubface.
Lay a tee two or three inches behind the ball, and make your swing while aiming to just miss it with your club as you strike the ball. This can be easier said than done, but you should move your weight to your left side to allow a steeper downswing and backswing.
This exercise will also help you improve your swing’s feel since you can better visualize whether you hit the tee peg or the turf just behind it. Practicing this regularly can improve your strike angle slowly but surely.
6. Maintain Your Club’s Loft
This is very important to achieve a proper lift with your pitching shot is to ensure your clubhead is hitting the ball with the correct loft angle. If you are playing a 48˚ pitching wedge, for example, make sure that you actually hit the ball with 48˚ consistently.
Maintaining a good stance and swinging habits, as discussed above, will help you with this, however, also make sure that you are using the proper shaft flex so you don’t twist your clubhead during impact too much, according to your swing speed.