Correct Your Golf Pitch Shots With A Basic Wrist Hinge - Senior Golf Tip 1

A pitch shot is a high flying golf shot performed when the ball is approximately 20 to 80 yards away from the hole.

It is a shot that often needs to fly over an obstacle or hazard and land softly on the green, staying near to where it first landed. It is a shot that demands accuracy and the ability to stop the golf ball quickly and so a correct contact on the ball that produces a high ball flight and backspin is needed.

A pitch shot is a tough shot because the ball needs to travel high into the air and so the common mistake with golfers is to try to get the golf club underneath the golf ball and try to lift or scoop the ball up into the air. This kind of action causes the golfer to either 'top' or 'thin' the golf ball or hit the golf ball 'fat'. 'Topping' or 'thinning' the ball is where the top of the ball is struck with the bottom of the golf club which sends the ball low and fast across the ground. 'Fatting' the golf ball is where the ground is struck first before the ball as the golf club bottoms out early on it's way upward into the ball, resulting in the ball only travelling a few feet forwards. To strike a pitch shot correctly, the golfer actually needs to send the club head in a downwards direction through the golf ball and into the ground. The ball then rolls up the face of the golf club and rises up into the air which produces a huge amount of backspin. It is this backspin that stops the ball sharply on the green. An identifying feature of a good pitch shot is that a 'divot' (lump of grass) should be taken out of the ground after contact with the ball. This signifies that a downward strike has been achieved.

The part of the body that creates a downward action through the ball during a pitch shot are the wrists, through a hinge and roll action. Set up to the golf ball for a pitch shot as normal. When taking the club away from the golf ball at the start of the swing, make sure to hinge the front wrist (left for right handed golfers and right for left handed golfers) to a 90 degree angle fairly quickly. This means that the angle between the front arm and the club shaft makes a right angle and creates a steeper action to attack downwards into the ball. Check the swing at the halfway back position. When the front arm reaches 9 o'clock or is horizontal with the ground, the golf club should be pointing vertically upwards. Achieving this position in the backswing allows the hands to roll over through the ball in the downswing where the back hand (right hand for right handed golfers and left for left handed golfers) can force the club head downward through the ball and into the ground for the correct contact. A good feeling is one of the palms of the back hand pushing the golf club head in a downward direction through the ball.

Creating the correct hinge in the wrists in the backswing creates a steep action and allows a great ball strike with the ability to stop the ball on the green.

All About Basic Wrist Hinge for Pitch Shots

All About Basic Wrist Hinge for Pitch Shots

The pitch shot is the most overlooked category of shots in the game of golf. It seems that just about everything else you need to do on the course gets plenty of attention – driving, iron play, putting, etc. - while pitching is typically overlooked. Of course, it follows that most amateur golfers struggle to pitch the ball properly. Without having invested any thought or practice time into this part of their game, the average player has trouble pitching the ball close to the hole from a distance of 20 – 40 yards. Hopefully, by the end of this article, we will have provided the necessary information for you to change that pattern in your own game.

As you can tell from the title of this article, your wrists are going to play an important role in your pitching technique. One of the things that makes pitching the golf ball so difficult is the fact that you have to blend the mechanics you use when chipping with the mechanics you use in the full swing. Pitch shots are sort of 'stuck in-between' in this way – the technique is going to be taken from both the long game and the short game. Only players who are patient enough to work through their early struggles with these shots will be able to come out on the other side with solid technique and reliable results.

In addition to your technique, we are also going to cover some other pitching-related topics in this article. Specifically, we are going to discuss how you can properly plan your pitch shots in order to achieve a successful outcome, and how you can avoid leaving yourself with difficult pitch shots in the first place. There is a huge mental component to the game of golf, so it would be a mistake to only focus on the physical side of this equation. By treating the mental and physical components and equally important, you can bring your pitching performance up to the level of the rest of your game as quickly as possible.

If you are having trouble pulling yourself away from the driving range in order to work on your pitching in the short game area, consider this – you will see the quickest impact on your scorecard when you work on your short game. It might seem like you need to work on that driver all day long if you are going to play better golf, but that just isn't the case. Instead, focus on your short game and you will be amazed to see how many strokes you can shave from your average score. Your full swing still matters, of course, but never make the mistake of overlooking the short game.

All of the content below has been written from the perspective of a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.

Building a Foundation for Success

Building a Foundation for Success

Prior to getting into the technique you are going to use while the club is in motion – including the wrist hinge – we are first going to look at the proper address position for a pitch shot. If you have read any other golf instruction on the full swing, you already know just how important it is to position your body the right way over the ball. Setting up with a great stance is going to take this difficult game and make it just a little bit easier.

As long as you are able to hit on all of the points listed below, you can rest assured that your stance will be in great shape.

  • Square to the line. To start, you are going to set your feet square to the target line you have selected for the shot. Most players hit chip shots with an open stance, and that is a good idea, but it is best to turn your stance back to a square position when you get far enough away to pitch the ball. If you can't manage to get comfortable while using a square stance, go ahead and stand slightly open to the line, but try to keep this adjustment as minimal as possible.
  • A relatively narrow stance. Compared to the stance you use for a full swing, your stance when pitching the ball should be relatively narrow. You aren't going to be making a big shoulder turn or an aggressive hip rotation on this shot, so there is simply no need to move your feet far apart. Bring them in to slightly less than shoulder width apart and you will have an easier time swinging the club freely through the shot.
  • Knees flexed, back straight. It is easy to get a bit lazy when taking your stance prior to hitting a pitch shot. After all, you know that you aren't making the same kind of athletic motion you make for a full swing, so it doesn't seem that important to build a solid stance from the ground up. However, getting lazy on this point can have serious consequences. Without a stable base, your body is going to move around during the swing, and you will struggle to make clean contact. To avoid that outcome, flex your knees at address just as you do for full swings, and keep your back straight as well. You should feel just as athletic over the ball when pitching as you do when hitting any other kind of shot.
  • Hands slightly in front of the ball. This is a classic short game tip, and it applies here just as it down when pitching. You want your hands to be slightly in front of the ball at impact, so you should start with them in that very same position at address. Position your hands just an inch or two in front of the location of the ball when taking your stance and then return them to that spot at impact to achieve a solid downward strike.
  • Eyes on the ball. Even if you are a beginning golfer, you probably already understand this last point. It is important to keep your eyes on the ball – both prior to the swing, and during the swing – because it is simply easier to hit something when you can see it. Don't fall into the trap of looking up prior to impact in order to see where the ball is going. This seemingly minor mistake can completely ruin your pitch shots. Instead, train your eyes to stay down and only look up when you are sure the ball has been sent on its way.

You might be able to think of ways to have more fun at the golf course than standing around working on your pitching stance. However, working on this stance is going to pay off for you on the course in the form of saved strokes. Invest a bit of time in the process of refining your stance and you will soon see improved performance out on the links.

Hinge Your Wrists for a Great Strike

Hinge Your Wrists for a Great Strike

With all of the pre-shot work out of the way, it will be time to actually put the club in motion. When the club goes in motion, there will be no stopping at that point – a pitch swing moves quickly, and it takes only moments to complete the process. You need to know exactly how your swing is going to unfold before it even begins, and that includes having a plan for how you are going to hinge your wrists.

First, let's talk about why you want to hinge your wrists when pitching the golf ball. The main benefit to be found in a wrist hinge is the fact that this move is going to get the club up off the ground higher than would occur if you kept your wrists out of the action. If you were to pitch the ball with a motion similar to your putting stroke – all shoulders, no hands/wrists - the club would stay low to the turf and you would struggle to generate any backspin. Also, you would have very little luck pitching out of the rough. By adding in a some wrist hinge, you can solve these problems and pitch the ball cleanly toward the target time after time.

When you hinge your wrists properly, the club will attack the ball on a downward plane. That downward plane is going to accomplish a couple of goals. First, it is going to help you put backspin on the shot. Assuming you make clean contact, the ball will spin and it will stop quicker when it lands on the green. The ball isn't going to stop immediately, of course, but it should check up nicely. Also, swinging down from above will give you the opportunity to miss the long grass which may be sitting behind the ball if you are in the rough. That means cleaner contact from this less-than-ideal lie, and a better shot overall.

Anyway you look at it, hinging your wrists during your pitching swing is a good idea. So how do you make it happen? Consider the tips below.

  • Fold your right wrist back. If you need to think about one specific action which will guide your motion while pitching the ball, it is that your right wrist should be folding back on itself. Moving your wrist in this way is going to put your hands in a great position to strike the ball at impact. Many golfers make the mistake of picking the club straight up in front of themselves instead of folding it back, and they struggle to make good contact as a result. Set the club by folding your wrist back and then hit down aggressively to send the ball on its way.
  • Use light grip pressure. You aren't going to be swinging the club very hard when you are pitching the ball, so don't hold on to the club so tight that you lose your feel for the shot. Pitching the golf ball well is all about feel, as distance control is the hardest part of the equation. Set up with a light grip pressure in your fingers and only hold on as tight as is necessary to control the club through the hitting area. Hopefully, once you get comfortable with pitching using light grip pressure, you will be able to translate this concept into other areas of your game as well. Golf is a feel game, and you will always have better feel when you resist the temptation to squeeze tightly onto the handle of the club.
  • Start without a wrist hinge. This is where so many people go wrong. When the average golfer hears that he or she needs to use a wrist hinge when pitching the ball, that player will usually begin to hinge the wrists immediately upon the start of the swing. That is a mistake, and it will almost certainly lead to disappointing results. To start the swing, you are going to sweep the club back away from the ball just as you would do when starting out on any other shot. This is commonly known as a 'one-piece takeaway'. Use this technique to get the swing started with everything under control and together. Then, once the club has moved a foot or so back away from the ball, you can feel free to engage your wrists in the action.

Adding a wrist hinging move to your pitching technique actually shouldn't be that hard. As was mentioned previously, you are basically blending your chipping motion and your full swing into a technique which can cover the mid-range distance required by the average pitch shot. As long as you can invest some practice time in the process of learning this technique, your performance should come around sooner rather than later.

Planning Your Pitch Shots

Planning Your Pitch Shots

So, you have walked up to find your ball, and you realize that you are going to need to play a pitch in order to reach the putting surface. While this probably isn't ideal – you were likely aiming the previous shot for the green only to come up short – you can still get through the hole without any damage if you play the pitch properly. Doing so is going to require not only solid technique, but good planning as well.

For the purposes of the discussion in this section, we are going to imagine that you are facing a pitch shot of 30 yards, with a good lie in the fairway and no major obstacles between you and the hole. However, the process we are going to walk through for planning a pitch shot will work just the same for any scenario. Follow the steps below and you will have a great plan for each pitch before you even put the club in motion.

  • Your first job is to determine an exact distance to the target. If you carry a laser rangefinder, you can use that device for this job. If not, you can always opt for the old-fashioned method – just count your steps on the way to the hole. In this example, we already know that the distance is 30 yards.
  • You are next going to evaluate the terrain between your ball and the hole. Are there any major points of concern, like bunkers you need to avoid or even water hazards? We are not dealing with those issues in this case, but always watch out for obstacles which demand you play with care and respect.
  • At this time we reach the most important part of the process – picking a landing spot. This is key because you are going to focus in on this spot when actually making your swing. The landing spot you select is going to be completely dependent on the lie of the ball, the slope of the ground, any hazards you need to avoid, and more. No two pitch shots are exactly alike, so give each one of them careful attention.
  • Now that your landing spot has been confirmed, you will pick a club to use for the shot. Most golfers move this step up to the start of the process, but that is not the right approach. Only when you find your landing spot can you think work out which club is going to be the right choice to make that landing spot effective. If you are going to land the ball close to the hole, it will be a lofted wedge that you will want to pick. However, if you are landing the ball short and expecting plenty of roll, less loft will be in order.
  • At this time, you are ready to hit the shot. You have the right club in your hands, you know where you are trying to land the ball, and all you need to do is execute the swing. For a 30-yard shot, you are likely trying to hit the ball approximately 25 yards in the air, so the ball can bounce and roll those last 5 yards to the cup.

The skill of properly planning a pitch shot takes time and practice to master. Even if you follow these steps carefully in your next round, you will still find that you have to gain some experience before you can make all the right decisions. As time goes by, the steps above will become second nature to you, and your play will gradually improve.

Avoiding Pitch Shots

Avoiding Pitch Shots

Let's be honest – you are rarely going to be happy about having to hit a pitch shot. When given the choice, most golfers would prefer to stay out of this situation entirely, instead positioning their ball somewhere they can make a full swing. Also, if you do wind up needing to hit a pitch shot, you want that shot to be as easy as it can be. So, how do you make sure to play smart from a strategy perspective on this point. The tips below will be a huge help.

  • Resist the call of the short par four. Course designers often include one short par four within the layout of their courses. Short par fours can be fun, because they entice the golfer to go for the green with one powerful, aggressive tee shot. Unfortunately, going for the green is rarely going to pay off. If you don't quite reach the surface, you will often face a tricky pitch shot from an awkward distance. Unless you are sure you can get all the way there, the better bet is to layup and hit a full wedge into the green. This same line of thinking applies when you are deciding whether or not to go for the green in two on a short par five.
  • Watch for short side situations. When you notice the hole cut very close to an edge on the green, take care to avoid missing on that side. For instance, if the hole is cut only a few steps onto the front of the green, missing short is going to leave you with an extremely difficult pitch in many cases. The better mistake would often be to go long, as doing so would give you plenty of green to work with. Take this point under consideration when hitting approach shots and error on the side of an easy leave.
  • Use enough club. The average golfer rarely uses enough club on approach shots, meaning you will see countless players coming up short when you observe those around you on the course. Don't put yourself in that group. Take plenty of club to reach your target and make a smooth swing. Even if you don't catch the ball perfectly, you should get close enough to be able to hit a chip shot rather than a pitch.

Pitching the golf ball can be tricky, but it certainly is not impossible. Use the advice in this article to fine tune your technique and be sure to spend some time practicing this part of your game. Good luck!