Pitching Around the Green…Short Game…Barney Beard Golf

Putt from off the green when you can.

Chip when you can’t putt.

Pitch only when you can’t putt or chip.

What is pitching? Pitching around the green is a ‘part shot’. It’s a shot with less than a full backswing. Pitching is a high, arching lob shot that stops quickly when it hits the ground. The pitch shot spends more time in the air than rolling on the ground. Imagine tossing a ball underhanded over a high volley ball net. That’s the trajectory of a pitch shot.

When should you pitch? If you want to break 100, pitch only when you can’t putt or chip.

Why? Executing a pitch shot requires more precision than chipping or putting. When possible, choose putting or chipping over pitching if ground conditions allow. Pitching should be the amateur’s last option. It is the most difficult shot to hit and control around the green.

When should you use a pitch shot? The golfer should pitch when faced with a shot around the green over an intervening hazard, such as a sand trap, that requires the ball to stop quickly. A pitch shot requires a high trajectory shot from a highly lofted club.

Which club should you use when pitching? Choose the highest lofted club in your bag for pitching. A sand wedge has about 56º loft. Some golfers will also carry a lob wedge which has 60º. The pitching wedge is  NOT for pitching.

Why don’t I use the pitching wedge for pitching? Because now-a-days it isn’t the highest lofted club in your bag.  The club named ‘Pitching Wedge‘ used to be the club with the highest loft before Gene Sarazen invented the sand wedge in 1932. In the olden days you would use your pitching wedge for a pitch shot because no one had a sand wedge.  If you have a pitch shot around the green you should use your sand wedge because it has a lot more loft than your now mis-named pitching wedge. Never use your pitching wedge for pitching around the green. The sand wedge has about 12º more loft than the pitching wedge. The pitching wedge is simply the carry-over name from the old days. The modern pitching wedge is more accurately described as the 10 iron in your series of numbered irons. The pitching wedge has only 4° more loft than your 9 iron. The modern pitching wedge has about 45º loft as opposed to your sand wedge with 56º loft or the lob wedge with 60º. If you want to hit a shot high into the air that will stop quickly, you should use the highest lofted club in your bag which will be the sand wedge or lob wedge.

Note: Club manufacturers have lowered the club lofts substantially over the years. I gave a lesson to a lady who had a pitching wedge with only 36º loft—a 6 or 7 iron in the old days.

How do I hit a pitch shot? When you pitch, you have chosen a shot in which the bottom of the club MUST disturb the soil. The bottom of the club MUST disturb the soil directly under the ball in order for the ball to hit the center of the very large face of the sand wedge.

To execute this shot you should have a lie with at least a little grass under the ball. If you have a ‘tight lie’ around the green you probably won’t choose to pitch the ball. If you have a tight lie, if your ball is lying on the bare soil, you probably won’t be able to pitch the ball high into the air.

Here’s how to play the pitch shot:

  1. You have determined you have a good lie for pitching.
  2. Play the ball in the middle of your stance or slightly to the right. Never play the ball towards the front foot. When you hit a pitch shot the club head must be on the downward path all the way to impact. The clubhead can never be on the upward path at impact. You can scoop ice cream but you can’t scoop a pitch shot.
  3. Grip the club normally with a firm grip. 
  4. Open the clubface slightly. You need all the loft you can get usually. Better to have an open face than a closed face when you pitch.
  5. Swing through the ball. Never stab at the ball.
  6. Making certain the bottom of the club skips off the dirt. In other words, imagine the golf ball sitting on a silver dollar.  The leading edge of the clubhead must knock the silver dollar out from under the ball. The leading edge of your club must pass UNDER the golf ball. The bottom of the clubhead MUST bounce off the soil directly under the golf ball.
  7. The handle of the club should be in the middle of your body at address. At address, the handle of the club should be in line with your sternum if you want the ball to go high. Your hands and the handle of the club must not be to the left of your belt buckle unless you want the ball to go lower. Hands positioned well in front of the ball are for a shot you’ll learn next year.
  8. Lean slightly to your left heel and keep the weight there. There is no weight shift in short shots around the green. If you shift your weight to your right during the backswing you will hit the ground behind the ball. Lean to the right and you’ll have a fright. Lean to the left–be your best self. Here’s a visual to help you understand why your clubhead MUST hit the soil under the ball when you pitch around the green. Pick up the sand wedge vertically with the handle straight up in the air above your head. Hold the club so that the clubhead is at eye level. Place a golf ball on the middle of the face of the wedge—right in front of your eyes. As you hold the ball in the center of the clubface with the head of your sand wedge or lob wedge at eye level, notice how much of the clubhead is BELOW the bottom of the ball. You MUST skip the bottom of the club off the soil in order to hit the ball in the center of the club face. You do not want to take a fat divot before you strike the ball. You simply want the club head to skip  like skimming a stone on water at the lake. In this case, the soil is the water. Get the bottom of the club down to the soil.
  9. Take a LOW backswing. If you take a low backswing and make a low follow through this will insure the club will skip off the soil. If you take a steep backswing you’ll stick your pick in the ground, won’t you?
  10. Remember: Short shot–short backswing. Longer shot–longer backswing.

Always putt when you can. If you can’t putt, then chip. If you can’t putt or chip, then you are forced to pitch. Learn to skip that big bottom of your sand wedge off the soil with a slightly open clubface. That’s called pitching.

Play Often, Have Fun, Respect the Game,

Barney Beard

ps. Click Here to order my book: Golf for Beginners: How Not to be Embarrassed on the First Tee.

pps. Click Here to order my book: Golf for Beginners: Left Hand Version.

ppps. I also have a blog about stories and letters for my grandchildren. Click Here.

Copyright 2020 Barney Beard Golf. All Rights Reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing from the author.

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