Keys To A Pitch Shot

The ability to scramble and get up and down around the green is imperative if you want to lower your handicap.  Players at the highest levels routinely display great skill and soft touch that make getting up and down around the green easy.  High handicap players can reduce several shots guaranteed with improved pitch shot fundamentals. 

A pitch shot is typically performed a few yards off the green.  The pitch shot has a higher trajectory, travels over half the way in the air and rolls the remainder towards the hole.  The pitch shot is generally used when you encounter a greenside bunker, water or need to stop by ball quickly on the green.  Players typically allow the wrist to hinge during the backswing so the club produces a higher lofted shot that stops quickly.

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The set up for a pitch begins with a slightly narrower stance than full swing. Position the ball around the middle to slightly forward between the feet.  Your chin should be positioned in line with the ball.  Position your hands slightly forward of the ball and club head.  This creates a forward shaft lean.  Your arms should hang comfortably down and away from your body.  This promotes room for your arms and the club to swing past your body.   Position the majority of your weight forward on your front foot.  In addition, slightly open your front foot to encourage the club to swing down the target line.  The weight positioned on the front side promotes a downward strike on the golf ball while the lower body remains quiet through the shot.  The lower body produces a great amount of power on a full swing, however, the pitch shot is controlled with the arms.

pitch shot swing stance
pitch shot swing
pitch shot ball strike
pitch shot follow through

The key to a successful pitch shot is the forward shaft lean at impact. During the swing, the lower body stays still while the arms and shoulders swing the club back and through the ball.  The distance the ball will travel is determined by the length of the backswing and tempo of the forward swing.

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Allow the club head to swing through the ball, clip the grass and continue with the follow through.  The club face arrives at the ball with the hands leading the shot while the shaft leans forward and club head lags behind the hands.  Similar to any shot in golf, the hands lead and the club head lags for the appropriate impact position.  The club and lead arm should form a straight line after impact with the ball.

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The biggest mistake during the pitch shot occurs when players shift their weight back to the trail foot and attempt to scoop or lift the ball in the air. Swing down and through the ball.  The shaft must lean forward! 

The other common mistake is decelerating into the ball.  Many amateurs take a big backswing and slow down toward impact.  Momentum travels forward through the ball, it should never slow down or stop at the ball. 

Drills

Players that have trouble moving their weight back during the shot should find a hill and practice hitting shots on the upward incline.  This is a great feeling to keep your lower body still and forward through the shot.  If weight transfers to the back foot you will lose your balance and fall back.

Another great practice aid is with the addition of two clubs or alignment sticks.  Place them in a parallel to the target line a few inches either side of the ball.  Swing the club head so it stays inside the track during the backswing and forward swing.  Imagine if the track extended all the way to the target. This insures the ball will fly straight toward the target.  Players that swing across their body line and pull shots will benefit from this drill.