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The keys to pitching it tight

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My members at Naples National Golf Club experience a lot of difficult pitch shots from all sorts of different lies. I always tell them: “If you have a great setup and maintain a simple technique, you can really save shots around the greens.”

Here are my keys when helping my students improve their pitching efficiency.

Technique

Every pitch shot that we hit around the greens uses the same technique. Our setup is what changes our shot selection.

The keys I emphasize with my students of all levels are the following

All pitch shots

  1. Narrow stance
  2. Straighten the back leg and flex the front, then mirror the image in the finish position (see photo)
  3. Arm length remains straight throughout the pitch, “hands and wrists are along for the ride”
  4. The loft of the golf club never changes from address to finish
  5. Back heel comes off the ground in your finish position

Club selection

First, start by deciding which club you’d like to use. Golfers of all abilities vary from using 7-irons up to 60-degree wedges, and it really depends on the course conditions that you normally play. Here at our club, firm and fast conditions lead me to grabbing my 60-degree Titleist Vokey the most, but my 48 and 52-degree wedges get selected as venues change, green speeds get slower, and/or turf conditions soften.

Shot selection

Once we’ve determined our club, we need to decide on the trajectory of your pitch. I suggest as a good start is having two “go-to” shots around the greens. The first is a lower running-shot with less carry and more roll. Here I’ve selected my 52-degree wedge but have made these key setup adjustments to create the low flight and low spin required to knock it close.

Low pitch shot keys

  1. Shaft leaned slightly forward
  2. Ball position on the inside of your trail foot
  3. Face closed to decrease loft and backspin

If the pitch shot required calls for more spin, then make these adjustments to your setup to create a shot that generates higher trajectory and an increase in spin. In this case, I’ve grabbed my 60-degree wedge to use the loft to stop the ball quickly.

High pitch shot keys

  1. Shaft angle straight
  2. Ball forward in the stance (driver ball position)
  3. Face wide open to use the loft to create a higher trajectory

One thing I stress to my students is to not worry some much about clubhead speed around the greens to create spin. The focus should be on a consistent setup and solid contact which will create reliable spin and trajectory on your short game shots. Having a tempo and rhythm that is similar in speed on the backswing and downswing (i.e. Steve Stricker, Luke Donald, Jason Day) is where you’ll start to get the flight and spin you’re looking for and seeing your scores drop.

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Jake is the Head Golf Professional at Naples National Golf Club in Naples, FL. He is a Pittsburgh native and Professional Golf Management major from Methodist University and former Golfstat #1 ranked Division III player in the country. Jake has worked at Riviera Country Club, Augusta National for the Masters Tournament, Myopia Hunt Club, Calusa Pines, Sankaty Head, Muirfield Village and Seminole Golf Club among others in his young career. Jake has a deep passion for improving his students' games as well as developing his Assistant Professionals into future Head Golf Professionals. Jake credits his teaching philosophy to his mentors: Bill Davis, Bob Ford, Andrew Rice, Claude Harmon III, and Greg LaBelle.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Acemandrake

    Jun 29, 2019 at 10:21 am

    Good info. Just have to practice 🙂

    A wider stance helps when hitting a high pitch shot.

  2. Joe

    Jun 28, 2019 at 8:52 pm

    Jake is a terrific teacher. He really sees what is not working and will stick with you in a session to find answers for your problem. I am working on my chipping and making progress.

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Instruction

Kyle Berkshire’s long drive wisdom wins!

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This one is a doozie! So many awesome elements to take away from Kyle Berkshire and implement them immediately in your golf swing for effortless power in the swing. From the set up with strong grip to the timing mechanism to start the action and give it a heavy flow, to the huge backswing and massive load in the ground in the transition to the deepest delivery towards the target there is in the sport! Watch and learn long ball wisdom right here.

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Stickney: Correctly auditing your ballflight without technology

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One of the biggest advances in golf instruction, in my opinion, was the adoption (by the masses) of the “new ball-flight laws.” While this information was first identified in “The Search for the Perfect Swing” as well as “The Golfing Machine” books it was not truly taught in the mainstream by teachers until the last decade. In fact, there are still millions of golfers who are still in the dark as it pertains to how curvature is created.

Thankfully, launch monitors have become more popular and now most people have some type of ability to hit balls using Trackman, etc., and this has helped inform the masses as to what is really happening during the impact interval. In today’s article, I want to show you how to audit your ball-flight if you DO NOT have access to a launch monitor. And if you’ll ask yourself these few simple questions you will have a much better idea as to what is happening and why your ball is doing what it’s doing!

“The New Ball-Flight Rules”

  • The ball begins mostly in the direction of the face angle direction at impact (Face Angle)
  • The ball will curve away from the path with a centered hit on the face (Path)
  • The amount of curvature at the apex is mostly determined by the difference in direction between where the face points at impact and the direction of the path at impact (Face to Path)
  • The impact point on the clubface can render the above obsolete or exaggerate it depending on where it’s impacted on the face (Impact Point)

Now that you know and understand the rules, here’s how you audit your ball’s flight without a launch monitor present…

Find your Impact Point Before Making Any Other Judgements

Before we begin delving deeply into your ball’s flight, let’s first stop for a second and figure out what our impact bias is currently. Yes, everyone has an impact bias—some are more toe-based while others are more heel-sided. It’s just the way it works and it’s mega-important. If you don’t have control of your impact point then all else is moot.
In order to do so, first hit a few balls on a flat lie and spray the face with Dr. Scholl’s spray, then take a look at what you see on the face, where are the marks? I’m not asking you for perfection here, because if you hit it slightly on the toe or slightly on the heel then you’re ok.

However, if your average clustering of shots is extremely biased on the toe or the heel then stop and figure out WHY you are hitting the ball off-center. Until you can contact the ball in the center of the face (within reason) then you will not be able to control your ball’s curvature due to gear effect.

If your impact point clustering is manageable, then ask yourself these three questions to truly understand your ball’s flight…

Number 1: Where did the ball begin?

I want you to draw a straight line from your ball through your target as you see in the left photo in your mind so you now have a “zero” reference. If you need to create this visual on the practice tee then you can put a rope or some string on the ground between the ball and the target creating a straight line from the ball through the rope and onward to the target itself.

Now back to the shot above, as you can see at impact, this player’s ball started slightly LEFT of his target-line—as shown by the arrow in the left frame which depicts the face angle at impact. In the right frame, you can easily see the ball beginning a touch left right from the beginning.

The numbers prove what we discussed earlier

  • The face direction at impact was -2.8 degrees left of the target
  • The ball’s launching direction is -1.7 degrees left of the target

As we know the ball begins mostly in the direction of the face and since the face was left of the target the ball also began slightly leftward as well.

So by paying attention to your ball’s starting direction as it pertains to the “zero line” (or where you’re trying to go) you can guess where the face is pointing at impact.

Number 2: Which direction did the ball curve?

Now, take a second and look at the right frame: We see that the ball curved leftward which means the path had to be more rightward than where the face was pointing at impact. If the ball begins where you want it to start and curves the way you want then you have the face and path in the correct place!

If we want to audit the numbers just to be sure, then let’s take a deeper look:

Trackman shows that the club path was 1.9 degrees right of the target and we just saw that the face was -2.8 degress left of the target on this shot. With centered impact anytime the face direction at impact is left of the path the ball will curve leftward. The negative spin-axis of this shot of -7.9 tells us that the ball is moving to the left as well.

If you want the ball to curve to the left then the path must be further right than that and vice-versa for a fade…pretty simple, right?

Number 3: How Much Did the Ball Curve at The Apex?

Question three is an important one because it helps us to understand what our face to path relationship is doing.

Curvature is created when the face and path point in different directions (with a centered hit) and the bigger the difference between the face and path direction the more the ball will curve…especially as you hit clubs with lower lofts.

Every player wants to see a certain amount of curvature. Some players want very little curve, thus their face to path numbers are very close together while others want more curve and the face to path numbers are larger. It does not matter what amount of curvature you like to “see” as the player…all flights will work. Think Moe Norman on one extreme to Bubba Watson on the other.

To close…

First, you must hit the ball in the center of the face to have a predictable curvature if you hit it all over the face then you invoke gear effect which can exaggerate or negate your face to path relationship.

Second, where did the ball begin? Most players whom draw the ball fear the miss that starts at their target and moves leftward (as depicted in the photo above) this is a FACE issue. The face is left of the TARGET at impact and thus the ball does not begin right enough to begin at the correct portion of the target.

If you hit the ball and it starts correctly but curves too much from right to left then your path is to blame.

Third, if your ball is curving the correct direction then your path is fine, but if it’s doing something other than what you want and you are starting the ball where you want then your path is either too far left or right depending on which way the ball is curving.

Fourth, if your ball curvature at the apex is moving too much and your ball is starting where you want then your path is too far left or right of your face angle at impact exaggerating your face to path ratio. The bigger the difference between these two the more the ball curves (with a centered hit) with all things being equal.

Samples to view

This is a path issue…the ball began correctly but curved too much rightward. Don’t swing so much leftward and the face-to-path will be reduced and the ball will curve less.

This is a great push draw…the ball began correctly and curved the correct amount back to the target

This is a face issue at impact…the ball did not begin far enough to the right before curving back leftward and the target was missed too far to the left

Take your time when auditing your ball’s flight, and I believe you’ll find your way!

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Instruction

Clement: Should you hinge your wrists early or late in the backswing?

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100, 000 SUBSCRIBER CONTEST STARTS NOW! MAKE SURE YOU SUBSCRIBE TO OUR CHANNEL TO BE ELIGIBLE TO WIN! Our premium members get 2 extra chances to win.

Today’s video is a big one too! So many are wondering when to let the wrists hinge in the backswing; too early and you cut off too much arc and loose width; too late and you throw your center off-kilter and ruin your contact and direction! This video gets you dialed!

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