Many shots can be shaved from your score when you get the ball consistently close to the hole from within 100 yards of the green. Unfortunately, few golfers spend enough time working on this area of their game. Thus their ball striking may be quite solid, but their scores do not reflect this due to poor work in the scoring zone.
Pitching covers the shots you will play from about 20 to 100 yards. It is a shot that has a fairly high ball flight and rolls very little when it hits the ground. Many players that I see use this shot as a warm up rather than as an integral component of their practice. So how do you effectively practice your pitching? Your practice should be broken into two equal parts:
Technique Practice – During technique practice you will be hitting balls to no set target. Rather the focus is solely on reproducing a sound pitching action that consistently produces a ball first contact.
Place the feet fairly close together with the ball positioned in the middle of your stance. Weight is distributed with more on the lead foot than the trail foot, so as to encourage a ball first contact. Club selection will be either a sand wedge or pitching wedge depending on the height and length of shot required.
The length of the shot determines the length of the swing. This is the best way to consistently control distance with your pitch shots, rather than having the same length swing and changing swing speed. The loft of the club will determine the height of the pitch shot. Allow the club to fall to the ball, with the club hitting the ball first and then the ground, the loft of the club will get the ball in air.
Performance Practice: During performance practice the focus moves to games that simulate what you will encounter on the golf course, and thus helps to sharpen your pitching to where you can alter your shot distance and flight to suit varying targets. A couple of drills to help you achieve this are:
- Pitch to known distances – Place targets on the range at 30, 50, 70 and 90 yards, and then pitch balls varying the target with each ball. No two balls in a row should go to the same target. Work through your full pre-shot routine for each shot and try to feel the change in swing length in your practice swing before reproducing it with a ball.
- Call the shot – Use the same set up as the Known Distances Drill, except you have to call the shot long, short, left, right or perfect before looking up. This is a great drill to help you focus on the feel of each shot.
- Nearest the pin competition – Play against a friend on the range where you take turns at choosing a target and then score a point for who gets closer to the chosen target. First person to 10 points, wins.
Work through this practice routine the next time you are on the range. I am sure you will find the performance practice fun and over time you will see the improvement in your pitching.