The short game, as we discussed last week, is not only the most important part of a good scoring round it is also the most complex. From any spot around the green there may be a multitude of different shots you could choose to hit. All of which have different degrees of difficulty and potential outcomes.
The natural transition for most golfers, from full swing to short game, is into the “pitch” shot. This is because the “pitch” shot is essentially a shortened version of the full swing. It is similar in technique and address. I believe that these shots will begin for most golfers in the 50 to 75 yard range.
The length of the backswing and the tempo of the entire swing are reduced from that of a full shot to produce shots of various distances. Unfortunately, it is impossible to teach anyone how to coordinate a visual sense of distance with the length and tempo of swing that will get the ball close to the pin. Each golfer must learn this from experience.
The “pitch” shot is played with the ball inside the left heel, with the hands lined up evenly at the ball. The club should be started back low and straight, using only the hands, arms and shoulders moving as one unit. The length of the backswing, the turn of the hips and shoulders will all be less than that of a full shot, but should be proportional to the length of shot you are trying to hit.
The ultimate success of most pitch shots is measured by how quickly the ball stops after landing. The pitch shot from 40 to 75 yards is the shot where you have the best chance to get the ball to spin backwards after landing on the green. It takes the proper conditions to get good backspin even from the optimum distance. Deep rough, a lush fairway, wet grass of any length, or to a hard surfaced green are all factors that will inhibit putting backspin on the ball.
To get such backspin, the ball must be sitting upon close cropped grass with a firm base, and hit to a green that is relatively soft of at the very least has some cushion to it. It also helps to be hitting into a green that tilts towards you and if there is a slight headwind. To take advantage of the ideal conditions, two elements in the basic swing are critical. First, your takeaway must be low and second, your right knee must “kick” to the left.
The right knee “kick” is vital to ensure both the correct release of the hands and square contact with the ball. If you hold the right knee back, the right hand is forced to roll over the left at impact, closing the blade and imparting a hooking, running spin to the ball.
Good luck with you “pitch” shots. If properly executed you will be able to save many pars around the greens and see your scores drop dramatically.
Fairways and Greens!