1) Square alignment
It’s important to get the basics right in all aspects of pitching, but the pitch I’m looking at specifically here here is one of about 50 yards off a slight downslope. Other than a bare or really tight lie, pitching off a downslope would rank among the trickiest of shots, but putting a few key things in place will give you the best chance of success, starting with alignment.
I see some golfers aiming right, then trying to pull the club back on target, and others who open it all up at address to get the left hip out of the way, but then drag the shot away left. Many golfers subscribe to opening out the left hip a little, but I would rather you square everything up to the target – feet, knees, hips and shoulders – to encourage a little hip rotation, as that also helps promote a continued movement of the forearms through the ball.
Picking out something on the ground on your line just ahead of the ball is a great idea, as it’s easier to align the clubface to this point than the flag.
2) Set-up keys
Your set-up is crucial too when pitching off a downslope. Take a slightly narrower stance – maybe 10-12ins, roughly the length of a golf grip. You don’t want it too wide as there isn’t much body movement on a pitch. From here, it’s easier to lean slightly on your lead side – around 65-70% of your body’s pressure.
Crucially, you must then keep it there as you swing to promote the correct angle of attack. Ball position should be just a fraction behind centre, and you should keep your hands nice and soft on the club so you can feel a little bit of movement – no choking it with a tight grip!
3) Don’t scoop it
We’ve all watched people get very ‘handsy’ and try to scoop the ball up with their wrists, often resulting in a top. What you actually want to replicate more is the movement of a gentle underarm throw where the underside of the trailing arm naturally continues its forward movement rather than stopping at the ball.
If your trailing arm continues all the way through to the finish nice and fluently (not quickly as this is a finesse movement), you’ve got a great chance of success.
4) Use the bounce
For this shot I’ve selected my 54˚ wedge because of the downslope, but more importantly, because it has 11˚ of sole bounce. You want to feel the flow of the club as the bounce angle brushes the turf through impact, so you need a healthy degree of bounce to stop the leading edge digging in.
If you then swing with a nice controlled tempo and keep the forearms going down and forward through the slope, you will significantly increase your prospects of a good result.