It’s the basic pitch shot… 30 yards or so from the green.
So much can go wrong.
Dan Sciarrino at Ravenwood Golf Club can talk you down from the edge of yip madness. The primary piece of advice is a swing that’s more merry-go-round and less Ferris wheel.
“Our feet are gonna be fairly close together. The ball is going to be towards the middle of our stance or slightly back,” Sciarrino says. “We’re going to try and make a wide sweepy bottom of the swing. The club’s not moving up and down in a vertical manner. It’s moving low to the ground and away from you as much as possible. The more it’s wide and low from you, the more it can slide into the ball.”
The beauty of this technique is many mishits can still become effective shots.
Sciarrino demonstrates by putting tees behind two balls. One tee is an inch behind the ball. The other about four inches. Sciarrino makes an incorrect, up and down, choppy swing at the tee an inch behind the ball. The shot goes no where. He follows with a correct and sweeping swing to the tee four inches behind the ball. The pops up and lands soft as if he made perfect contact.
“If we ever make a mistake and we’re hitting slightly behind the ball, we’re going to slide into it and still hit a good shot,” Sciarrino says.
He prescribes a practice with just one hand. Hold the left hand behind your back (or right hand for lefties) and make the same swing. By taking the front hand off, many mistakes are eliminated.
“It would be very hard to drag it one handed. You wouldn’t be able to hit it,” he says.
Distance control here is the same as with many feel shots–the shorter the backswing, the shorter the distance on the shot. You must still have at least some turn to the face the shot when you finish. Just because the shot is shorter, it doesn’t mean the follow-through can be ignored.
When in the rough, Sciarrino says to lean the weight forward a bit and take more of a choppy shot. He warns that adjustments on this type of shot should always be small, if not tiny.
It does help to let the club help, too. You can do that by checking the wedge’s bounce.
It should be listed near the degrees of loft on the sole. A higher number of bounce (12-16) is good for a thicker, wetter lie. A lower number (generally 8, but can be 6 or 4) is better for tighter lies–picking the ball off a cart path or if you ever, gulp, were in the fairway at Augusta National.
Most players will use the highest lofted wedge in the bag for this shot. Sciarrino says it will work for lower lofted clubs. The overall purpose of this type of pitch swing is still the same.
“You can do it with your pitching wedge depending if you want it lower, more roll out,” he said. “It just gives you more room for error having a sweepy bottom.”