Pitching: From outside 40m

In the previous pitching article we examined the Flat Footed wedge shot with little or no wrist cock nor hip turn for the short range shots. Now we will look at adding a little more zip for the process allowing us to add length for 40-80m shots of length with the wedges, a true pitch shot.

As always the first consideration before making the shot is what deciding what the job at hand actually is. Are we in the middle of the fairway sitting pretty or do we need to fly the ball over a bunker or rough ground, even over a tree to land the ball softly on a green to a tight pin? So pick your tool and line and go through a standard set up routine. By this I mean the good old club design and body design rules to get the ball in the correct slot. For a wedge that will mean the ball will be nice and central, under your sternum. Then get your body nicely balanced so that you can turn around a quiet spine angle as shown in Fig 1 and Fig 2. This may sound like a recording to those who have been following the Golf School section articles but if you mess up the set up then life gets hard for no reason.

In chipping and the previously discussed 'pitching' stroke there was no wrist cocking required and you had the opportunity of keeping the club held as you would a putter, that is both the left and right hand holding the club in the life line. You did have the option of a left hand finger grip but this needed you to lift the clubhead so it sat with the toe slightly lower than the heel of the club. That mechanically was done to prevent wrist cocking occurring, or minimising it. In this stroke you are adding the left wrist cocks power accumulator into the equation as you wish to propel the ball somewhat further, so a left hand finger grip, is required.

The Backswing

The backswing you can make easiest for yourself by swinging the club up on plane. To this end imagine a line going through your ball to the target and off behind the ball with yourself set nicely parallel to it. As you swing the club back in the first instance the head of the club will point at that line. That line is the base of your swing plane. You can then mirror it on the way down and out to low point in the downswing. The good old flashlight drills will have taught you where your hands align for your own swing to stay on this magic plane.

In the previous swing our hands did not get much above thigh height, still nicely on plane of course and the wrist cock was still in the draw. You had the club shaft parallel to ground and also aligned parallel to the base of the plane.

On this extended swing you wish to take your hands a little higher up the plane as shown in Fig 3. The higher you go the more wrist cock will naturally happen. As soon as the wrist cock happens the butt of the club will be pointing at the base line instead of the clubhead. For this to occur, monitor your right wrist bend being the same as it was when you took your impact fix alignments. The left wrist must also remain flat during the swing. If the left wrist bends or arches, the club will be thrown off plane and this makes for some dire consequences in the down swing if not rectified.

How far up do you need to go? Well this is still not even close to a fully hit shot yet. You may wish to only get your hands a couple of hand spans above hip height but high enough to see that you have a wrist cock happening happily as in Fig 4.

At this point in time I would like to ask you to think about your own pitching action in terms of weight shift, front to back foot. Many, many, many higher handicappers have a perception that this has to happen on all shots. If we are set up nicely balanced it is possible to make this shot with almost zero weight shift, with 75% of the weight remaining on the left foot. Indeed it's rather fun to learn good balance pitching standing on only on your left foot, or with your right foot up on tip toe pulled behind you. Learn to make the shot without falling over or chasing the ball!

So you are now at the top of the pitch stroke. Make sure now that your weight is firmly on your target side foot. As you start the downstroke pulling your hands back down plane you may well feel pressure on your right index finger as it pushes against the lagging shaft. This is one of golfing life's great sensors. If your left wrist and right wrist alignments stay in place (Flat and bent respectively) you will be able to feel that lag all the way into impact. To get the feeling grab an impact bag and shove the clubhead into the bag as if you were hitting the ball. You can feel the strength of the lag on that right index finger. During the swing if the left wrist bends and you flip at the ball that pressure is released and can never be regained. It is the death of a golf swing.

Top of the Pitch Stroke

As our hands never really got that high in the backswing the downswing can be started with the hands dropping to hit the inside aft quadrant of the ball on the way to low point. Beware at the start down that you are not first rotating your entire body anticlockwise as otherwise you will be playing with a bent plane line (that is Over the Top). What you wish to have happen is the hands drop in their down and outward motion and the hips then follow as the mini pivot ands momentum. If the hips lead you will be thrown off the needed pathway.

As the hands drop the wrist cock will unwind which causes a great deal of acceleration of the clubhead. As the wrist cock unwinds we find ourselves back into the same sort of impact alignments we had in the previous pitching article. Along with the added clubhead speed the impact will send the ball a greater distance as long as we are hitting down and out to low point on our nicely balanced body. Fig 6 shows the relative position of the hands and wrist cock during the downswing.

As we come into impact our ball flight option will have been predetermined by the job at hand. From that homework we will have selected which hand action we need through the ball. Fig 7,8 and 9 show the finish looks of the clubface. The controlling of the clubface will be an article all on its own but this is a good point in time to show that controlling the clubface is easily achievable. Whichever clubface action you use, the pitching motion and pivot will be the same.

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