Pitching can be one of the easiest shots in golf if played correctly. Similar to chipping, it is a short shot but instead of the ball rolling most of the way it flies more than it rolls. Pitch shots generally go anywhere from 20 yards to 80 yards. The swing is longer and the wrists are more involved in the shot.
Most players that pitch poorly make the mistake of trying to lift the ball into the air with the club. The club that you should use for pitching (pitching wedge, sand wedge, lob wedge) already has between 48 and 60 degrees of loft and can elevate the ball without your help.
To give you an idea of where the ball should go after being hit, place the club flat on the ground with the shaft pointing to your target and stand gently on the face of the club. The shaft of the club will rise and point at where the ball will go if hit correctly. I have found that a number of players have a false idea of how high in the air the ball will go and try to make the shot happen rather than swing the club.
Try this drill next time you practice. Take a short backswing in normal setup and cock the wrists so that the club points vertically up into the air. Holding the grip gently, let the club head fall to the ground as you turn towards your target. Gravity should get it there. You may miss the ball a few times, but if you time your turn to coincide with the club head arriving at the ground you will probably notice that the ball flies into the air without any apparent effort on your part. Although the direction of the shot may not be perfect, the trajectory should be correct.
The main point of this exercise is that you will notice how relaxed your hands are. In his book about the short game, Dave Pelz recommends hitting these shots with “dead hands”. Practice will teach you what your preferred level of hand action is.
For more help with your pitching contact me or your local PGA professional.
Ian Grant is a PGA teaching professional and a member of the teaching faculty of the PGA of America. He can be contacted at Oak Brook Golf Club 630-990-3032 in the summer and White Pines Golf Dome in Bensenville 630-422-1060 in the winter. You can contact Ian directly at 708-917-8951, or at Iansgolf@aol.com.