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Posted: June 6, 2013 9:14 p.m.

Keys to successful pitch shots

This week, I will discuss what it takes to successfully execute a pitch shot.

For those of you who are not aware, a pitch shot is a short, lofted shot which lands softly. Use the shot when you have to get the golf ball up in the air, allowing it to stop quickly on the green. Here’s a step-by-step look at the pitching process.

Setup / Ball Position / Grip Pressure
The setup is most similar to a full shot with your weight required to be balanced, allowing your weight to shift back and through the ball. The ball should be positioned just slightly ahead of the center of your stance. Generally, I say I would like to see the grip pressure around a five on a scale of 1 to 10.

Swing
Most people try to hit a pitch shot using only their hands and arms. This approach generally leads to chunks and thin shots, which isn’t what I would call a pitch shot.

I generally describe a pitch shot as a softer, shorter version of the “full” swing. The same motion applies as to hitting full shots, but without as much force applied.

I explain to my students, “We’re not trying to hit down into the ball, rather trying to slide the club underneath the ball.” To allow the club to slide underneath the ball, the pressure in the hands should be considerably lighter. The lighter grip pressure allows the wrists to unhinge earlier. One of the most common mistakes in pitching is not allowing your weight to shift back and through. Weight shift is the key to successfully hitting solid pitch shots.

Distances / Club face
Generally, I teach three back swing positions for differing distances: knee high, hip high and shoulder high. These positions allow for longer and shorter pitch shots. I recommend a student keep a chart of how far the ball carries from each of these positions to allow them to know which position to use for the different distances.

The club face is also another variable which can be used to shorten a pitch shot. I typically use a square position and an open position; the latter allowing the ball to go higher and shorter.

Bryan Raines is the golf professional at Ashton Hills Golf Course and can be reached at braines@pga.com.

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