1) Keep it simple
I think it’s wise not to overcomplicate things when it comes to pitching basics. Yes, for shorter chips, the clockface drill can help, as length of swing is certainly one of the things that can dictate distance.
But there is a difference in technique between chipping and pitching. and with pitching, rather than working on numerous swing lengths, I’d actually encourage you to keep things simple and really try to hone two – one where the club swings from horizontal to horizontal, and one where the arms swing from horizontal to horizontal.
The beauty of this is that you can then generate all sorts of distances simply by varying which wedge or club you use. If you can perfect these two backswing lengths and apply them to your other wedges, you’ve instantly got six different distances, six different trajectories and six different spin rates. That’s a tremendous little armoury of pitch shots to have at your disposal.
Top pros like Rory refer to their wedges as their scoring clubs with good reason – they know how critical it is to be able to get up and down as often as possible in every round of golf.
2) Keep it connected
The real key to good pitching is to keep everything connected, with the torso, arms and shoulders all moving collectively. As soon as any one element starts moving independently – such as overactive hands, a lifting of the arms or an early shoulder turn – it will have a drastic effect on where the club goes and ultimately how you present it to the ball.
Pitching works best when the shoulders, upper body and arms are linked, so everything moves backwards and forwards together through the ball.
3) Keep the loft
Another key to keeping it simple is to make sure you retain the loft on the club at impact. If you’re playing a 54˚ wedge, it’s important that you present 54˚ to the ball every time.
It’s no good coming into impact with extra shaft lean, the toe turning over or the hands flipping because all of those will change the dynamics of the loft leading to inconsistent results. You chose a 54˚ wedge – keep it at 54˚!
4) Improve your strike
Striking can be a real issue for some on pitch shots. This little drill will help you unhinge at the right time through impact so you compress the ball against the turf and get it zipping up the clubface, improving the strike and bringing added control. Lay a tee peg in the ground a few inches behind the ball, then aim to just miss it with your club.
You’ll find that a little bit more weight on your left side will encourage the slightly steeper backswing and downswing needed to achieve that. If you’re struggling with this, take it a step further by drawing your right foot back and resting it on the instep so everything is then planted on your left side. This drill not only focuses the mind but also gives you direct feedback as to the strike, because if you hit the tee peg or the ground before it, you’ll see it.