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Your Finish Affects Your Trajectory
How to Adjust Your Finish on Pitch Shots to Vary Trajectory

Your Pitching Finish Affects Your Trajectory
Learn how the height of your finish controls the trajectory of your pitch shots. Finish Controls Trajectory

One thing I always stress with my students is that with the short game in particular it's important to be individualistic and creative. Watching all the great players growing up, the thing I observed that stood out the most is those professionals that were the very best around the greens really had their own unique style. Years ago I worked with a PGA Tour Player who didn't have a very long career on tour mainly because of lack of length, but he was known for a great short game. I used to watch him hit shots around the green adjusting his stance and clubface on each shot. He was literally tinkering with things to see what worked and what type of shots he could create. While I think it's important to have fall back shots and somewhat of a method to rely on, I think it's equally as important to have fun creating shots.

3 Ways to Finish; Confusing or Helpful Information?

When it comes to pitching I'm sure you've received varying advice on how to finish. This is because there are a few different methods to the finish on pitch shots and depending on who you took lessons from you may have heard one or two of these before. The 3 main styles of the finish on a pitch shot are as follows:

  • Make your finish length match your backswing length
  • Make a full finish no matter the length of your backswing
  • Vary the height of your finish depending on the trajectory you desire

The first option of finishing the same height that your backswing goes is probably the most common and the easiest way to hit a pitch shot. I think if you watch most tour professionals closely this is what you will see. I like this method in particular as it seems to give the swing a good rhythm. You'll notice for instance if you swing half way back and then follow through half way that your swing has that nice even pendulum feel. Something about it really helps you keep an even tempo. This is definitely recommended for more skilled and advanced players.

The second method of making a full finish no matter what the backswing length is also has it's benefits. The great short game teacher Dave Pelz used to teach this method and maybe still does. (It's hard to keep track because teachers often change their methods over the years.) The idea here is acceleration. If you have a goal to swing to a certain point and that point is well past the ball it helps you to keep up the acceleration of the swing. It's easy to want to just hit at the ball and stop the swing, but if your goal is to get to a full finish, then you will continue through the shot. The finish recommended is a short high finish with your stomach, chest and butt end of the club pointed at the target. Note that this is just a bit short of a typical full swing finish where the club ends up behind your head and your right shoulder faces the target. I like this method for beginner golfers in particular. I think for beginners who have not yet developed good feel and have difficulty controlling the length of their swing that this method is actually less confusing and gives them a consistent goal. Beginners more than anyone are prone to stopping their swing at the ball and quitting on the shot, so again, accelerating through to a targeted finish point can only be a good thing.

The third method of varying the height of your finish based on the trajectory you desire also has it's value. This again though is probably best for the more skilled player that has better control of his or her swing length. The idea is to finish low for a low trajectory, medium for a medium trajectory and high for a high trajectory shot. When finishing low we often move our sternum more over the ball and keep the club head well behind our hands through impact. These two things help deloft the face and knock the ball down. When we finish high on the other hand we tend to lean back a bit with our sternum and let the club head catch up to our hands as we re-hinge on the follow through. These two changes combined help loft the ball up into the air. A medium finish is the perfect balance of the low and high finish and results in a nice average trajectory shot.

The Situation:

You are wondering how to vary the trajectory of your pitch shots.

The Solution:

To vary trajectory follow these steps:

  • For low trajectory pitches set up with the ball back in your stance and your weight left (for right handed players). Make sure to keep your sternum left and in front of the ball. Finish low by trying to leave your club in the dirt and hold your wrists firm.
  • For medium trajectory shots play everything neutral. Play the ball in the middle and set your weight middle. Finish about waist high with a re-hinge of your wrists.
  • For high trajectory shots play the ball forward of center and set your head and sternum a bit behind the ball. Make sure to make a full wrist release allowing the clubhead to catch up to your hands. Finish by making a full hinge with your wrists on the follow through and hands high (above your head).
Maria Palozola

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.

Who is Maria Palozola?
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