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Control your pitch shots by practicing with your 8-iron

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Believe it or not, Seve Ballesteros learned to play golf with just one club: a 3-iron. You might think that learning the game with such a long iron would have discouraged the Spaniard, but it did the opposite—it encouraged and developed his legendary imagination and feel. With a limited arsenal, he learned how to adjust his setup and the clubface to make the ball do just about anything: stay low and run, go higher and land soft-ish, you name it.

While using a 3-iron may be a little extreme for this drill, I suggest you try practicing your chip and pitch shots with a 7- or 8-iron to help you better feel the clubhead and see more creativity on the green. First, feel the face open and try to get some extra loft out of it to make the ball travel like a high, soft pitch shot over a bunker that needs to land and roll very little. To set this loft, you may also need to adjust your setup by lowering your hands to allow your wrists to hinge sooner. Next, push your hands forward so the ball is back in your stance. This delofts the club and makes the ball stay low and run out. Try to see how low you can hit it while making solid contact. Then try a standard chip shot that goes about knee height with some roll. You could even try using it to get out of a bunker!


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Once you’ve hit all three shots with your 8-iron, try the same thing with your sand wedge: open the clubface and make the ball go high and low, make it run out and make it spin. Once you’ve mastered this drill with both clubs, you’ll have a better understanding and feel for how to set up and use the clubface to control the height and amount of roll on your shots. Also when you get to use your sand wedge for a pitch shot, it will seem much easier than that 8-iron.

Nick Kumpis, PGA, teaches golf in Southern California.


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