The Gray Area
Pitch Shots can Save your Short Game
In my opinion, pitching is the big gray area of golf instruction. The reason I feel this way is because it's not too hard for a good teacher to teach someone the set up and the basic technique, but to become a good pitcher, a player needs hours of practice, a good sense of creativity and a lot of finesse. Putting and chipping are small, basic strokes. Anyone can master those. The full swing is what it is. Anyone can bash away at the ball and come out with some pretty good results, but to hit one in tight to the pin from say 40-80 yards is not as easy as it looks!
A pitch is typically defined as a higher shot that comes in soft on the green and sticks with little roll. It has more time in the air and less time on the ground. Whereas a chip is typically described as the opposite. A chip is a shot that comes in low and releases, running up the pin. This is not a steadfast rule however. There are a variety of pitch shots to learn and some may resemble a chip or fall between the two. There are high, medium and low trajectory shots. The variety of pitches include but are not limited to:
- The Flop Shot - a very high trajectory, super soft shot that sticks when it hits the green with almost no roll.
- The Hinge and Hold - a medium trajectory shot that is about half carry, half roll.
- The High Pitch - a high trajectory shot that is about 2/3 carry, 1/3 roll.
- The Stinger - a low trajectory running shot hit from out in the fairway that stays low and rolls up to the pin.
100 Yards and In
A golfer needs to learn all of these shots to have a heavy arsenal when under 100 yards and that requires not only good instruction, but a lot of practice time. As with all shots in golf there are varying and conflicting lessons on how to execute a pitch shot. Some instructors advocate a low finish while others advocate high. Some advocate leaning left while others say stay centered. These are just a couple of examples of why this can be confusing for the average player. The best thing to do is to find what works for you and stick to it. I'm a firm believer in having about 3 basic shots you can go to for different distances and for when you are under pressure. These are your fall back shots. Once you master these, it's time to experiment and test your skills. The more types of shots you are able to hit from under 100 yards the lower your scores will be. You will be able to pull off the ideal shot for the situation at hand.
Maria Palozola is a member of the LPGA and has participated in multiple LPGA Tour events. She has provided instruction to thousands of students in the past 20+ years and has won multiple teaching awards from the LPGA, Golf Digest, and Golf Magazine including being ranked as one of the top 50 female instructors in the world.