A Basic Approach to Pitching By Darren deMaille, PGA November 2019
Pitching is a miniature version of the golf swing. If you can improve your pitching it will translate into your full swing. By definition, a pitch is a shot where the golf ball is in the air more than it is on the ground. In order to get the ball airborne you must use a club with some loft (like a wedge) and make a swing toward the ground. Here are a few basic thoughts on how to setup correctly and swing the club with the correct motion.
Setting up correctly to hit a pitch shot is just as important as making the correct motion. First we must have a stance that is comfortable. This would mean that our feet are closer together preferably with the stance slightly open. For a right-handed player, the left foot is pulled backwards slightly. The ball position should be placed in the center of your body and the weight should be slightly leaning toward the target. Even though the weight is leaning toward the target it is important to make sure that the shaft of the golf club is setup without much lean. This would mean that when the club is held the butt of the club would point more toward your chin not toward the lead shoulder. If the golf club has too much lean the golf club will have less loft and the leading edge of the club will be in position to strike the ground causing too much of a divot. It is important that we use the bounce of the club so the club can slide under the ball and not dig into the turf too much. Make sure your wedge has enough bounce to start and address the ball with the face slightly open and with the shaft pointing at your chin. This will give you your best chance to use the bounce of the club. If you get the setup correct, it will ensure proper decent and contact allowing for an athletic motion.
The motion of the pitch is similar to a full swing however there is not a weight shift in the back swing. The weight should stay slightly on the front foot for the entire motion. To begin the back swing we must swing the arms back as well as hinge the wrists. This will allow the club to have some leverage and up motion setting up the club to be delivered with a slight downward strike for the downswing. In order to get the ball in the air we must make a slight downward swing hitting the earth before the golf ball. That is right, hitting the earth before the golf ball. If you are using the bounce properly the club will glide along the turf. The downswing in initiated by the turning of the body as opposed to the pulling of the arms and hands. Most of my students hit with their hands on the downswing causing the club head to over accelerate and most times hit the top of the ball. The downswing should feel as if your core turns toward the target. Finally the length of the back swing and follow through should mirror one another. Basically this means if your back swing is waist high in length, the follow through should be waist high. One of the most common mistakes I see is a follow through that looks like the student swung a driver. Students with a long follow through should feel like they are trying to restrict the finish with their hands. The body needs to turn through but the arms and hands must be educated in the finish with some resistance.
One of the best ways to improve your ball striking is to practice your pitching. The motion is very similar to that of your full swing. Most of us are limited to the amount of time we are able to practice. Do yourself a favor when you only have 30 minutes to practice, leave the driver in the bag and grab your wedges.