Fix Those Short Pitch Problems - Hinge The Wrists Early - Senior Golf Tip 1

Use the wrists more to strike pitch shots better with this tip.

A pitch shot is a high lofted golf shot where the ball is situated fairly close to the green, somewhere between 20-80 yards away for most golfers. The length of the shot proves difficult as the golfer cannot make a full swing for fear of over hitting, but the hole is too far away to play the easier but more conservative low running chip shot. There may also be an obstacle in the way such as some mounds or a bunker which means that the ball needs to fly over these obstacles but still stop on the green.

Golfers struggle with short pitch shots due to two reasons:

1. Not striking downwards through the golf ball which gives the golfer a consistent, solid strike. Usually caused by the golfer trying to 'scoop' the ball up into the air.

2. Decelerating into the golf ball rather than attacking it. Often caused by the fear of hitting the ball too far.

Both of these problems usually culminate in poorly struck shots, either 'topping' the golf ball, where the top of the ball is struck with the bottom of the golf club, or 'fatting' the golf ball where the ground is hit first and the ball is only moved a few feet forwards.

To eliminate these two factors, the golfer needs to create a steeper downward action into the golf ball. A steep action means that the club head will be delivered to the ball in a downwards direction, contacting the ball first on it's way down into the ground and eventually taking a divot (a chunk of grass) after contact with the ball. This makes sure that the ball is struck correctly and forces the ball to ride up the loft of the golf club and into the air. A steeper action also lets the golfer attack the ball in a very positive way using the hands to accelerate through the golf ball and so stopping any 'quitting' on the shot.

To gain a steeper action into the ball use the wrists more in the backswing. After setting up for a pitch shot, take the club away from the ball turning the shoulders to power the motion. As the shoulders begin to turn 'set' the wrists early. This means that the wrists should hinge to 90 degrees (the angle is measured between the front forearm and golf club shaft) as soon as possible during the takeaway movement. Although the shoulders power the movement, the wrists pick the club up away from the ball sharply allowing the club to be brought back down into the ball in a steep fashion. When driving back down into the ball, use the bottom hand on the golf club (right for right handed golfers and left for left handed golfers) to drive down into the floor aggressively. Feel that the palm of the bottom hand pushes the club head through the ball and then into the ground in a very downward, forward action. This is a very positive motion and will stop any deceleration in the downward part of the swing.

An exercise to help achieve this steep action is to position a tee approximately two inches behind the ball to be hit. Then set up to the ball and hit the pitch shot. Make sure that during the shot the club is lifted up and driven down and through the golf ball without touching the tee peg behind it. If the tee is contacted at any point, the wrists are not being used in a steep enough action and the pitch shots will vary in strike and consistency.

Control the wrists and consistent pitches will save shots on the golf course.

Fix Those Short Pitch Problems Hinge the Wrists Early?

Fix Those Short Pitch Problems Hinge the Wrists Early?

If you are like most other amateur golfers, you probably struggle with the short pitch shot. This tricky shot usually comes up at least a couple times in each round, so learning how to handle it successfully can have a major impact on your score. In order to play these shots properly, you have to be able to strike the ball cleanly while also controlling your speed. Getting the ball on target isn't much of a challenge from short range, so your main focus while practicing these shots should be on quality contact and proper distance. As long as you get those two points right time after time, you should find that you are able to set up plenty of short putts to save your pars.

In this article, we are going to take a look at how using an early wrist hinge may be able to help you master these short shots. As is the case all over the golf course, using proper technique and solid fundamentals is the best way to learn the short pitch shot. Of course, to learn such technique, you actually have to be willing to practice your short game. Most amateur players walk right past the short game area on their way to the driving range, and they never look back. On the other hand, professional golfers understand that the short game is imperative to their success – and they spend hours and hours dialing in their touch and technique. Change your approach to practice and spend more time on your short game than your long game. You will be glad you did.

It is so important to have solid technique in this area of your game because this is where you are likely to be the most nervous. Generally speaking, nerves increase as you get closer to the hole, and many players feel them the most when trying to chip or pitch the ball onto the green. There is nothing wrong with feeling a little nervous as you play, and it can even be a good thing if it helps you focus. However, the only way to get through those nerves and come out on the other side with quality shots is if you are able to install great technique in your pitching game. Any holes in your technique will quickly be exposed when the pressure is on. Build rock-solid technique as soon as possible and lean on that technique as you get nervous.

Before we get into the instruction on how to play this shot, it should be mentioned that you are going to need to tailor your approach to the kinds of courses you play and the conditions you encounter. For instance, those who play links-style golf courses most of the time will want to keep the ball low to the ground, letting it bounce and roll toward the hole. On the other hand, if you play parkland-style courses with long rough and softer turf, you will need to know how to play the ball through the air. It is best, of course, to have both of these kinds of shots at your disposal, but you should focus first on the one which is most relevant to your home course.

All of the instruction 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.

Three Keys to Successful Pitch Shots

Three Keys to Successful Pitch Shots

Later in this article, we are going to get into the details of the mechanics you should use to play a short pitch shot – including how you can hinge your wrists early in the swing. However, before we get to that point, we first need to explain how the pitch shot works in general. This is a different kind of challenge than you face with any other kind of shot, so intelligent planning is just as important as physical execution. Come up with a smart plan for your pitch shots and success will be much more likely in the end.

The following three keys should guide your thinking as you prepare to hit a short pitch shot from around the green.

  • Read your lie. The first thing you should do when approaching the ball for a short pitch shot is to read the lie of the ball in the grass. The lie you have drawn is going to tell you everything about the kind of shot you can hit. If the ball is sitting cleanly on short grass, you will have every option at your disposal. However, if you find the ball sitting in some long rough, your options will be severely limited. You can't spin the ball effectively from a deep lie, so you will have to play a shot with plenty of loft in order to stop the ball – or you will just have to let it run. It is important to read your lie before picking a club or doing anything else, as the lie is always the starting point for your planning. As you gain experience in the short game, you will find that you get better and better at accurately predicting what a given lie is going to do to the golf ball.
  • Pick your landing spot. Once you have a good idea of what the lie is going to do to your shot, the next thing you need to think about is the landing spot you are going to use as your target. If you have not already been picking out landing spots for your chip and pitch shots, now is the time to start. Instead of just looking up at the hole and hoping for the best, you should be focusing in on a specific landing spot that you can use to guide your swing. Of course, this spot is going to need to be based on a number of variables, including the firmness of the greens, the slope of the ground, the spin you expect on the shot, and more. Just as was the case with reading your lie, you will get better and better at picking appropriate landing spots as you gain experience.
  • Select the club. Many golfers choose the club they are going to use for a pitch shot as their first step, but this should actually be the last step in the process. Only when you have a landing spot in mind can you pick out the club which is going to make that landing spot work successfully. Which club do you need to use in order to land the ball on your spot and still reach the hole? You can use anything from a middle iron on up to your lob wedge to play a pitch shot, depending on the situation. If you find that you can't settle on a club that you think will work with your chosen landing spot, it may be necessary to go back and reconsider other landing options. Never proceed with hitting the shot until you are 100% confident in the combination of landing spot and club that you have selected.

As you can see, there is a lot of thinking which needs to be done before you can go ahead with your short pitch shot. You don't want to hold up the pace of play for those around you, of course, so be sure to think quickly and be decisive with your choices. Also, you should be able to do a lot of your planning while others are playing. Rather than just mindlessly watching the others in your group hit their shots, focus on your own game and be ready when it is your turn. After you gain a bit of experience, you should be able to make all of the necessary evaluations and decisions in just a short period of time.

Building a Great Pitching Action

Building a Great Pitching Action

It is now time to get down to business with regard to the technique you are going to use to pitch the ball. As you would expect, it is going to take some significant effort on your end in order to learn how to pitch the ball with reliable technique. You can't just read this article and expect perfect mechanics to suddenly be in place – there will need to be plenty of hard work on your end before results will begin to appear. Only those who commit to practicing the short game are rewarded with great performance and lower scores.

The following elements make up the biggest keys within the pitching action. Hit on all of these points and you can expect positive outcomes.

  • Play from a slightly open stance. The first thing you need to do when taking your stance is to make sure your feet are slightly open to the target line. This is helpful when pitching the golf ball because it is going to promote an outside-in swing path – which will make your swing steeper, and encourage the ball to get up in the air more quickly. You only need to be open to the target line a few degrees in order to enjoy the benefit of this adjustment. As an added bonus, playing from an open stance is going to give you a good view of the target prior to hitting the shot.
  • Use the entire club. Many golf teachers will instruct you to choke down on the grip of the club slightly when chipping and pitching, but that could be a mistake. When you use the entire club, you will feel the weight of the club as it swings – and that feel can make it easier to control your speed. Practice pitching the ball while using the whole club to see if you can get comfortable this way. If you do find that you need to choke down on the grip, do so only by an inch or two so you can still feel as much of the club's weight as possible.
  • Hinge your wrists early. Here is the tip which was mentioned in the title of the article. Yes – it is a good idea to hinge your wrists early in the backswing when hitting a pitch shot. Why does this help? Simple – it will set you up on a steeper plane which will promote a downward hit through the ball. That downward hit is going to allow you to create more backspin, and it will also help you avoid any long grass which may be sitting behind the ball. To execute this move properly, think about hinging your right wrist back on itself as you move the club head away from the ball. However, you need to be careful not to allow this move to cause you to rush through your swing. Tempo is still important even though you are using some hand action, so turn your shoulders as well and only start the downswing when you have given the backswing enough time to finish. As you swing through, you will be able to unhinge your wrists through the ball for a clean and aggressive strike.
  • Keep your head perfectly still. This is one of those tips that you have probably heard a million times, yet you may never quite take it to heart. When pitching the golf ball, it is extremely important that you keep your head as still as possible throughout the swing. If your head moves from side to side, or up and down, it is going to be very difficult to achieve a clean strike. Focus your eyes on a spot on the golf ball and keep them there until the ball has been sent on its way. If you can have the discipline to keep your head and eyes down until the ball is gone, your results will instantly improve.
  • Accelerate through impact. It is common for amateur golfers to miss on the previous point – keeping your head down – and it is common for them to miss on this point as well. The club needs to speed up through the hitting area as you send the ball on its way to the target. It can be difficult to convince yourself to make this move aggressively, however, since you are only a short distance from the hole when hitting the shot. To stay committed, make sure you keep your backswing short so that an aggressive forward swing doesn't send the ball too far into the distance. Once you learn how to accelerate through the ball, you will love the solid feeling that this technique provides.

While the list above might seem like a long one, it actually is relatively simple and straightforward in nature. None of those points should give you very much trouble individually, and collectively they will leave you with a beautiful pitching action. Armed with information, it is now up to you to do the work.

Common Mistakes

Common Mistakes

Unfortunately, there are plenty of ways in which a short pitch shot can go wrong. The problems which are likely to pop up in this area of the game are both physical and mental in nature. One of the best ways to steer clear of potential problems is simply to be aware of them in the first place. The list below will inform you of common issues to watch for as you make progress with your pitching game.

  • Picking a risky landing spot. It is only natural to pick a landing spot which will give you a chance to leave the ball right next to the cup when all is said and done. After all, isn't that the point? It is, of course, ideal to pitch the ball right next to the hole, but doing so is too risky to attempt, in some cases. For instance, if you are going to have to land the ball barely over the edge of a bunker in order to pitch the ball close, you would be better off planning a safer shot. By clearing the bunker by a few feet instead, you might pitch the ball a little too far overall – but you will take away the risk of pitching right into the sand. Be smart about your landing spot so you can avoid any further trouble on the hole.
  • Trying to spin the ball from a bad lie. If you have a poor lie in the grass for a given pitch shot, you need to rule out the idea of spinning the shot in order to stop it quickly. Such a plan is simply not going to work in almost every case. Instead, plan on the ball bouncing and rolling out toward the hole. As long as you are realistic about the shot you can hit from the lie you have, there should be a way to play the pitch up somewhere near the cup.
  • Failing to read the green. As part of the planning process, you should be reading the slope of the green much as you would when hitting a putt. After all, there is going to be a significant amount of this shot which takes place along the ground, so you need to account for the curve that the ball will take as it rolls. An otherwise good pitch shot can turn quite ugly if you fail to account for the slope of the green in your pre-shot calculations.

In addition to the mistakes listed above, you also need to watch out for any mistakes you notice yourself making over and over again. It is easy to fall into bad habits in this game, and those habits are not going to correct themselves. Take note if you seem to make the same mistake time after time when pitching so you can fix the problem and improve your results.

Carrying the Right Clubs

Carrying the Right Clubs

Most of the success or failure of your pitching game is going to come down to whether or not you can execute solid technique. However, the equipment you use does play a role in this equation as well, as you need to have the right clubs in your bag to deal with a short pitch. Specifically, you should think about adding a high-lofted wedge if you don't already carry one in your set.

Nearly every golfer in the world has a pitching wedge in his or her bag, so we really don't need to address that club. The same can be said about a sand wedge. The issue for amateur golfers is what happens after the sand wedge, as some players simply fail to carry a club with more than 55* of loft. This is a mistake, unless you play on a purely links-style golf course. A lob wedge with 58* or 60* of loft can be your best friend when hitting a short pitch shot, especially those where you don't have a lot of green to work with.

In addition to making sure you have the right wedges in your bag, you also want to keep those wedges in good condition. Wipe the face off after every shot you hit, and give them a thorough cleaning in between rounds. The most important aspect of your wedges is the grooves on the face of the club. As long as they remain clean and in good condition, you should be able to use your wedges for many seasons to come. It only takes a few moments to clean off your wedge after playing a shot, and that effort can make a world of different in terms of your performance.

Hitting quality short pitch shots is a skill which will serve you well in nearly every single round of golf you ever play. By setting your wrists early in the backswing, and hitting on the other points laid out in this article, we hope you will be able to pitch the ball closer to the hole than ever before. And, of course, pitching the ball closer to the hole should mean easier putts to save your pars, and lower scores round after round. Good luck!