Genius guide to pitching a golf ball

Western NY PGA Tips

Almost every golfer will admit they don’t work on the short game enough. 

Locust Hill head pro Steve Barber says most players should spend most of their time working on pitching, chipping and sand shots. 

The key to pitching is all about the rounded bump behind the bottom of the clubhead. 

“One of the things that’s very important to being a good pitcher of the ball is understanding how to use the golf club and the effect of bounce,” Barber said.  

A common problem with pitching is stubby shots that go no where. Barber says too many players hit shots with their hand ahead of the club face or too forward pressed. 

“If we have too much shaft lean and we use the leading edge too much, we become very inconsistent with our pitching because we’re too steep. We become diggers,” Barber said.

The pitch shot should be hit with a stance that’s open to the target and the feet close together. 

Distance is controlled by the length of the backswing. Barber says to pretend you’re throwing the ball on the green underhanded. The distance you’d bring your hand back for the throw is the same for the club. 

On a full swing, every player can’t help but open the face of the club on the backswing. The pitch swing should be the same, only shorter. 

“As we take the club back, we want to let the face of the club rotate slightly open on the backswing,” Barber said. “If we take the face back shut, which means the face is pointed down at the ground, we would be using the leading edge too much.”

That, invariably, leads to a digging shot. 

One of the cardinal sins for any short shots–chips, pitches and putts–is to decelerate as the club approaches the ball. 

Barber says we still shouldn’t try to accelerate into the pitch shot, either. It needs to be natural. Let gravity do the accelerating. 

“The other thing that comes with good pitching or pitchers of ball is, as I call it, a lack of flash, speed or hit on the ball,” Barber says. “We want to try and feel like your backswing and your follow through is more of a pendulum. Kind of a tick… tock.”

Barber demonstrates by holding the club in one hand and bringing it up to a parallel position to the ground. When released the club will accelerate into the ball with no other push. Sir Isaac Newton does all the work. 

Not every pitch shot needs to have the same shape. 

“If I want to hit the ball higher in the air when I pitch, I move the ball more forward in my stance. I open the face more,” Barber said. “If I want to have the ball go down a little bit lower, I’d play the ball back in my stance. I’d square up the clubface a little bit. It would be a lower type shot. One that hits and rolls out.”

The wedge market is booming because many players like to carry a variety of wedges. Barber says it’s not necessary. 

“I would get just one nice sand wedge–55, 56 degree sand wedge–and that club is very versatile,” Barber said. “That 56 (can become) a 64 if I open it up enough. And then, just make that club your friend.”

One friend in the bag can make a whole lot of difference negotiating the last 80 yards into the green. 

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