Pitching Mechanics

Better pitching is a matter of perfecting your address positions

Playing well from within 100 yards is a must if you want to score well. Just look at the best players in the world. They all miss the fairway sometimes, but from within 100 yards, there isn't a player out there who doesn't expect to knock it close from a hundie and in. This is golf's scoring zone, where the difference between a long birdie putt and a short tap-in can be made up by hitting the right kinds of shots. Yeah, that's right. You have to know what it takes to not only hit the green from 100 yards, but what kind of shot you need to hit to stick it close. Let's look at three basic ones: a low pitch, medium pitch and lob shot. You'll quickly find that hitting these three shots requires different approaches to your setup mechanics. Although subtle, these differences are what you need to know to score._Ê

Hit It Low: Get Square It doesn't get anymore straightforward than this. Literally. To hit the ball low with some added roll (typically for shots up a hill or with a back pin location), simply adjust your stance so everything is lined up parallel to the target and stand a little closer to the ball. That means, aim your shoulders about two to three feet left of the target, and aim your feet another foot or so to the left. By staying square, you're more likely to hit the ball with a square clubface and get the ball airborne on a low trajectory and rolling toward the target. As for club selection, grab your 9-iron or pitching wedge, as opposed to your sand wedge. They have less bounce, making it easier to hit the ball crisp and get it moving with minimal backspin.

Choke up or choke down? Hey, do whatever feels right to you. Just make sure you play the ball back in your stance and get the clubshaft leaning toward the target. Try and keep that lean throughout the whole swing and limit your wrist rotation by holding the face square.

Medium Height: Setup Slightly Open What's a medium shot? Medium shots fly high, but also have some release once the ball hits the green. They're the most all-around shot you can hit, and are great for middle pin positions. To hit them, open up your stance, but keep your clubface square to the target. It's also a good idea to narrow your stance to help steepen your angle into the ball and avoid hitting the turf behind it. As you can see by the photo, even though I'm geared to hit a soft pitch shot, my back is straight, my chin is away from my chest and my knees are flexed. This goes to show that no matter how small a swing you make, they all require the same athletic position at address. I like to use a sand wedge for my medium shots, but don't be shy to experiment with a gap or lob wedge as well. They work, too.

Opening your stance can make it tough to find the correct middle ball position. The way to find it is to consider the middle of your stance relative to your sternum. Play the ball directly below it, and no matter how far you open your stance, the ball still will be in the middle.

High Pitches: Really Open Up To hit a high lobber to a tight pin, first narrow and open your stance, which includes both your feet and shoulders. Second, make sure your clubface is open as well. (By open, I mean grip the club with the clubface open, don't open the face with your hands.) The ball is likely to fly where the clubface is facing, so open your stance so the clubface is facing the target. You're probably wondering how open you should be. Ahh, that's where you need to put some work in around the practice greens. Your optimal blend of body and clubface openness requires some trial and error. Just remember that the shot calls for an accelerating and descending blow into the ball. Finally, play the ball forward in your stance and stand a little further away. If you really want to pop it up, allow for some negative shaft lean away from the target. Dicey? Yes. Fun? Also yes, as long as you practice this shot often.

Don't hunch or sink over your pitch shots. Stay athletic!

Other than the clubhead, there isn't much movement. _Ê

Let your wrists cock as soon as they reach your waist. _Ê

See the L shape? You want this position with every shot. _Ê

The weight shifted some and I'm now centered on the ball._Ê _Ê

The wrists are still cocked. This is a good sign. _Ê

The hands are in front of the ball before and_Ê at impact. _Ê

The club is between my arms. Hence, I didn't flip my wrists. _Ê

Well past impact, the hands can finally start to release. _Ê

Even this far into the swing, my head is still rock-steady.

My right knee is closer to the target. _Ê

I made it to the finish facing my body at the ball.

The Swing Sequence The cool thing about all three pitch shots is that they're very similar as far as the swing itself goes. In looking at these photos, I want you to pay special attention to my body and club position just before and after impact. Hitting good pitches requires you to keep your hands in front of the ball through impact. After contact, you want to limit the release of the hands to promote better spin and directional control. See how my right knee bends toward the target through impact? That's a sure sign I've not only rotated my body, but it also indicates I've hit the ball with a descending blow.

Jeff Yurkiewicz, PGA, is the head golf professional at the Kostis/McCord Learning Center at Grayhawk GC in Scottsdale, Ariz._Ê

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