If you are looking to improve your accuracy when you are out on the golf course, then one way to do this is to create a wedge chart. A wedge chart contains vital information regarding how far you hit certain clubs when using certain swings and all professional golfers have one that they use when out on the golf course.
To create a wedge chart, take a notebook and pencil to the range or practice ground the next time you go. Use your pitching wedge and take ten or so golf balls. When you set up ready to play your shot, imagine a clock face around you with 12 o'clock up by your head and six o'clock down by the ball. Now work on swinging your golf club back to a particular time on the clock and then through to the corresponding mirror image time. So if you swing to 4 o'clock on your backswing, you follow through to 8 o'clock. Swing to 3 o'clock and you finish at 9 o'clock and if you swing back to 2 o'clock you swing to 10 o'clock.
Keep an even, steady tempo as you swing. Hit at least 10 shots to get an average of the distance that that particular swing strikes the ball. Play 10 shots 8 to 4 o'clock and write down the distance achieved with this swing. Now play shots with the 3 to 9 swing and again note this swing length down, the club being used and the average distance achieved. Finally, play shots with the 2 to 10 o'clock swing and again note down the club, swing length and average distance achieved. Do this with your sand iron, pitching wedge and 9 iron and note all the swing lengths and average distances achieved.
Now go out on the golf course and the next time you face a particular distance into the green, look that distance up on your yardage chart and you will now know the club and length to use to achieve that distance. Select that club and work on playing the shot with the swing length that the yardage chart tells you and you will produce that distance with the shot you play, helping you to improve your accuracy to the flag.
How to Improve Your Pitching
Are you confident in your ability to hit a quality pitch shot when the need arises on the course? If you are like most amateur golfers, the answer to that question is a resounding 'no'. Pitching is one of the areas of the game that gives amateur golfers the most trouble. Many golfers would prefer to find their ball just about anywhere else than 30 – 50 yards from the green on a fairway lie. Rather than consistently hiding from this kind of shot as you play, the best course of action is to meet the challenge head on. Learn how to hit proper pitch shots as soon as possible and turn a glaring weakness into a reliable strength.
In this article, we are going to offer a number of pieces of advice related to pitching the golf ball. The technique required to pitch the ball is actually quite simple, but executing that technique proves to be difficult for many players. Also, in addition to technique, there is a lot of strategy that goes into planning a good pitch shot. You need to think through all of your options on each pitch in order to select the path which gives you the best chance of success. Decision making is incredibly important in golf, and that certainly is the case when pitching up onto the greens.
There is one point related to pitching which needs to be made right off the bat – you have to practice this skill if you actually expect to improve. Very few amateur golfers actually practice their pitching, making it no surprise that they struggle to produce good results on the course. You need to work on your entire game during practice sessions if you hope to score well in rounds to come. Plenty of golfers head to the range only to launch drivers into the distance. That might be fun, but it isn't going to do much for your ability to play good golf. Add pitching to your regular practice schedule and you might be surprised to find how quickly you can improve.
On the point of practice, you will need to find a golf facility near you which offers space for practice chipping and pitching. Not all golf courses have this amenity, so call around if necessary to track down a good place to put in your practice time. If you aren't sure that pitching is allowed to a specific practice green, be sure to ask in the pro shop. You always want to respect the golf courses you visit, and most facilities are happy to be accommodating as long as you are friendly and considerate. Once you find a good place to work on this part of your game, make it a point to come back from time to time to continue your improvement over the long run.
All of the content below is based on a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
The Elements of a Pitch Shot
As you work on this part of your game, it will be helpful to have a clear understanding of the shot from start to finish. Specifically, there are three elements within each pitch that you need to plan out before making your swing. Those three elements are as follows –
- The carry. This is the portion of the shot when the ball is in the air. From the moment it leaves the face of your club, until the moment the ball strikes the ground, it is 'carrying' through the air. Obviously, the ability to control the carry of your pitch shot is extremely important. If you can dial up a precise amount of carry for each pitch, you will stand a great chance to knock the ball close to the hole. Of course, the carry is only one of the three elements in each pitch, so accurate carry distance alone cannot lead you to success.
- The bounce. This portion of the pitch shot is often overlooked. When your ball lands on the green (or off the edge of the green), it is going to bounce. That bounce will depend on a number of factors, including the firmness of the turf, the slope of the ground, and more. Reading the bounce is always going to be something of a guessing game, as you can't know for certain how the ball is going to react when it lands. However, through experience and a little bit of preparation before each round, you should be able to make an educated guess on this part of the pitch. Players who can combine accurate carry distance with a good read for the bounce will be most of the way toward quality pitching performance.
- The roll. Once the ball has bounced and settled back onto the ground, it is then going to roll the rest of the way out. How much the ball rolls will again depend on a number of elements. Of course, there is the speed of the green to consider, as well as the slope and the conditions on that day. In many ways, you need to read the end of your pitch shots just as you would read a putt. It is worth noting that the roll out of your pitch shots can be cut short by backspin, as placing plenty of spin on your shot may cause the ball to 'check up' before it rolls far. So, prior to hitting a pitch, you need to think about spin in addition to everything else on your plate.
When you think about your pitch shots as three individual pieces, they can seem a bit complicated. Fortunately, they won't need to stay complicated for long. Once you spend some time practicing these shots, those three components listed above will start to meld into one. You will see the whole shot when you picture the ball coming off your club, so you can imagine exactly how it needs to be played in order to be successful. You might need to think about each individual piece on its own at the start, but your overall feel for pitching the ball should quickly progress.
One of the great things about working on your pitching is the way that these skills can translate out to the rest of your game. Just as when you are pitching, you will need to be able to anticipate bounce and roll when hitting full shots as well. Getting into the habit of visualizing your whole shot from start to finish is a great way to leave the ball closer to the hole on a regular basis. Dedicate yourself to learning how to manage shots from around the green by breaking them into components and you will find that your ability to do the same thing from farther back in the fairway will take a step forward as well.
Basic Pitching Technique
It was mentioned in the introduction that pitching the golf ball is not a particularly complicated action. And, of course, that is true – a pitch shot is basically just a miniature version of your full swing. However, you still need to pay attention to some important fundamentals if you wish to produce solid pitches time after time. Golf is a hard enough game as it is, you don't need to make it any harder by using faulty technique.
The list below contains a few technical keys that you want to keep in mind when working on your pitching mechanics.
- Always stay balanced. You could pretty much copy and paste this tip and apply it to anything in your golf game. No matter what kind of shot you are trying to hit, you always need to work hard to stay balanced. When it comes to pitching specifically, you can set your feet slightly closer together than you would on a full swing – but they still need to be wide enough to provide you with good balance. Once the swing begins, resist the temptation to slide from side to side along with the club. Turn your shoulders to move the club, keep your lower body quiet, and keep your eyes on the ball as you swing through the hitting area.
- Hit down through the ball. One of the common errors made by amateur golfers is attempting to help the ball off the ground at impact when pitching. The ball doesn't need any help to get off the ground – the loft on your wedge is going to handle that task all on its own. Your job is to hit down through impact, placing backspin on the ball and achieving a clean strike. Not only will hitting down help you to spin your shots, but it will also make it easier to control your distance and your bounce. If you aren't taking a small divot after you make contact when pitching, you really should review your technique. Remember, if you are going to hit down, your hands have to be in front of the ball at impact.
- Keep your hands soft. This is one of the best things you can do for your pitching performance. At address, make sure your hands are soft and relaxed around the grip. Then, during the swing, maintain that light feeling as you let the club swing freely. Some players don't think they have enough control when using light grip pressure, but you don't need a tight grip with such a small swing. Practicing hitting short chip shots using a relaxed grip and gradually work your way up until you are hitting a solid pitch shot. If you are able to relax your grip successfully, you should find that the quality of your strike quickly improves.
- Steady head. There shouldn't be any unnecessary movement in your head during the pitching swing. This is a small swing, so the effort required from the rest of your body is going to be pretty modest. That means it should be easy to keep your head still – and you will be more consistent as a result. The importance of keeping your head steady applies across the board in the short game, so always keep this key in mind.
You aren't going to need to spend countless hours working on any of the keys above. They are all relatively basic points, and they are all things you should be doing in other parts of your game as well. Keep this checklist in mind as you practice, but always remember to keep things as simple as possible as well. You never want too many thoughts rolling around in your head when practicing – boil it down to just one or two keys which apply to your technique, and then get down to work.
Planning a Pitch Shot
In the earlier section on the 'elements of a pitch shot', we discussed how you can think of your pitch shots in three distinctive phases. In this section, we are going to expand on that concept, walking you through the entire planning process for a pitch. Making good decisions is going to make your game far more productive, and one of the big decisions you need to make is how to pitch the ball.
The following is a step-by-step process for how to layout a pitch shot. When you find your ball resting somewhere between 30 – 60 yards from the hole, use the steps below as you prepare to play.
- The first step when getting ready to hit a pitch shot is the same first step you need to take prior to any other shot – reading the lie. As you approach the ball, take a close look at the lie to see what kinds of shots will be possible. If you have a clean lie in the fairway, you should be able to hit just about any shot you like. However, if the ball is in the rough – or maybe in the divot in the fairway – you will have to get more creative. Generally speaking, a pitch shot from a clean lie will have plenty of backspin, while a pitch from the rough will have almost no backspin at all.
- Once you have assessed the lie, you next need to review your path to the hole. Is there anything in your way which needs to be avoided? For instance, a bunker between you and the hole will have to be dealt with by playing the ball in the air at least far enough to carry the trap. At this time, you are also going to check on how much room you have between the edge of the green and the cup. If there is limited space available, it will be necessary to play a high shot which stops quickly after it lands.
- Now that the lie and path to the hole have been reviewed, you are ready to pick a club. This is perhaps the most important part of the whole process, as you need to have the right club in your hands to pull off the shot you are picturing in your head. What kind of shot do you want to hit? Are you going to toss the ball high in the air, or are you going to play it mostly along the ground? As a general rule of thumb, it is a good idea to play the ball as low as possible on pitch shots. You really only want to send the ball high into the air if you have no other option. Otherwise, keep the ball down and let it bounce and roll out to the cup. This is the more consistent way to play, and you will perform better under pressure with this approach as well.
- Before taking your stance, there is one more thing you need to do – pick a landing spot for the shot. Now that you know which club you will be using, you can accurately pick a landing spot based on the bounce and roll you expect to see. It is important to have a specific landing spot in mind before you stand over the ball and get ready to swing. Even if you don't hit your spot perfectly each time, focusing on a specific spot will at least put you in the right frame of mind to execute your technique. By focusing positively on a precise target, you will be less likely to worry about things like mis-hitting the shot.
- With all of your preparations complete, it is now time to step up and hit the shot. Because you have done such a good job of thinking through the shot you are facing, you shouldn't need to stand over the ball for long. Take your stance, take one last look at your landing spot, and hit the ball. Nothing good is going to come from standing over the ball for too long, so keep things moving along at this point.
If you go through the same process each and every time you hit a pitch shot, you will gradually get better and better at moving through these steps. Your confidence will increase with experience, and you should find that your results consistently improve as well. It takes discipline to stick with these steps before each pitch shot, but your discipline will be rewarded with outstanding pitching performance.
The Mental Side of Pitching
As is the case with any shot you hit on the course, there is a mental side to the pitch shot which you need to master. Even if you have great technique, it is hard to perform well on the course if you don't have the right attitude and mental approach to a given shot. This is a part of the game which is overlooked by many amateurs, and that is a mistake. Professional golfers understand just how important the mental side of the game can be, and you should learn from their example. Teach yourself to think properly as you play and your scores are sure to go down.
One of the keys to pitching from a mental perspective is to have plenty of confidence in what you are doing. Confidence is always important in golf, but it is particularly crucial when hitting delicate pitch shots. Any lack of confidence can lead to deceleration through the hitting area – which will usually cause a slight miss-hit or even a complete shank. When you stand over the ball, expect great results out of your pitch shot. You won't succeed every time, but think back to the good shots you hit as you work hard to keep your confidence as high as possible.
Another mental game key on pitch shots is simply applying the necessary focus to each shot. Pitch shots are easy to overlook, as you are likely frustrated that you have to pitch the ball in the first place. Many pitch shots arise after a poor approach into the green, leaving you in a tough spot to attempt an up and down. However, you have to leave behind your frustration, instead focusing your mind on the task at hand. There is no time to feel sorry for yourself on the course, and there is no time to beat yourself up over mistakes which have already been made. You need to treat each individual shot as its own challenge, leaving behind any negative feelings from the previous shot. This mental approach to the game is not easy for some amateur players to learn, but it is powerful when it finally kicks in.
Pitching the golf ball is something you may only have to do once or twice during a round, but you need to have this skill in your bag when the need arises. Knowing how to pitch the ball properly will help you get out of tough spots, and it will help to keep bogeys off of your scorecard. Use the advice contained in this article to work on your pitching and you should be getting up and down at a higher rate than ever before in the very near future. Good luck!