Whenever I am coaching, the one shot which seems to need the most work is the pitch. The reasons for this are varied and fit into two broad categories: players not practicing correctly or not practicing with correct form/technique…two completely different things.
In this blog I will describe the correct pitch shot set-up. Study the photos accompanying this article and look to model your set-up on the player in the pictures. The vast majority of errors in technique begin with poor set-up, so by adopting a similar set-up you will be on track to improving your pitching.
Like most short shots, the set up for the pitch shot is designed to achieve control rather than power from the shot. Setting up correctly is the first step which ultimately leads to good quality contact. Quality contact makes achieving accuracy and distance control fairly easy.
Grip – to reduce the amount of unnecessary rolling of the club face and arms through impact it is best to hold the club with the hands in a weaker position than for normal full shots. For the right handed golfer this means that both hands are turned slightly anti-clockwise on the grip so that when you look down on the back of the left hand, you can only see one knuckle. The line formed by the thumb and forefinger of the right hand will point to the chin. This will give the feeling of the right hand being held very much in the fingers.
Alignment – aim the feet left of the target (an open stance for the right hander); the toe of the left foot will be about 6-8 cm back from the target line, compared with the right; turn the left toe toward the target about 30º; keep the shoulders square to the target. Shoulder alignment will determine – to a large extent – the swing path. The clubface can be square to the target or aiming to the right depending on the height you want. This alignment will allow your body to turn freely through impact.
Posture – stand tall to the ball so that there is very little angle between your right forearm and the club shaft (when looking from a down-the-line position). Because you are standing in this way, the ball will be closer to your body than for normal shots. This will also create a more upright swing path. Your balance will centred or slightly favour your front foot. A good feeling is to stand so tall that the club rests very lightly on the ground at address. This will encourage a clean, descending blow, so important to striking the ball correctly.
Ball position – for most pitch shots the ball can be positioned in the centre of your stance. The further forward the ball is positioned, the more difficult it is to create consistently good contact. If the ball is too far back in the stance, then the angle of attack becomes excessively steep. Altering the ball position for specialty shots is fine, but not necessary for most pitch shots.
I will explain the correct technique for the pitch shot in another blog. In the mean time practice getting used to setting up correctly to play the shot. You can do this on or off the course. When you are playing pitch shots from the correct address position, notice what changes occur to the way you play the shot.
Setting up correctly will make it much easier to swing the club properly and allow you the opportunity to play shots with greater variety.