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.
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
- Narrow stance
- Straighten the back leg and flex the front, then mirror the image in the finish position (see photo)
- Arm length remains straight throughout the pitch, “hands and wrists are along for the ride”
- The loft of the golf club never changes from address to finish
- Back heel comes off the ground in your finish position
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.
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
- Shaft leaned slightly forward
- Ball position on the inside of your trail foot
- 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
- Shaft angle straight
- Ball forward in the stance (driver ball position)
- 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.
What should your hips do in the golf swing?
If you want to become more consistent, a better ball striker and hit longer golf shots then this is the video for you. This video will show you exactly what your hips pelvis should be doing during your backswing, downswing and through impact. Having great control of your pelvis and it’s movement will help you have greater control over your golf swing.
Playing in your mind vs. playing out of your mind
Comparing the recreational beginner to the elite player
As a player, I know there are rounds of golf where I feel like I worked extremely hard to achieve the results and there are also rounds that are effortless and just plain easy. Why do we go through these peaks and valleys in golf?
As an instructor and player, I want to explore a deeper understanding of what it means to be playing out of your mind vs. playing in your mind.
I want to address both beginners and elite players on their quest for better play. All beginners and elite players must understand that, as players, we are all experiencing ups and downs. The bottom line is that some handle them better than others.
Why is this a feeling golfers have: “playing out of your mind”?
Well, it is pure relaxation. It is fluid, seamless, continuous motion. No hang-ups. No hiccups.
The next big question, how do we achieve this regularly?
We get to this without forcing it, by believing in our makeup. It is locked in our subconscious. It is a controllable, uncontrollable. Subconsciously, your nervous system is in the green light. You are just doing. This is peak performance. This is the zone. This is playing autonomously, out of your mind.
I believe that over time, a golfer’s game is compiled in his/her built-up expectations of the player they truly believe they are. Expecting to make a putt vs. just so happening to make it feeds two different minds. When you place an expectation on an action tension is created. Tension creeps into our nervous system and our brains either respond or they don’t. This is called pressure. This is what I call playing in your mind. You are in your head, your thoughts are far too many and there is just a whole lot floating around up there.
The more players play/practice, the more they will expect out of themselves, and in result, create that pressure. (ie. Why progress is difficult to achieve the closer you get to shooting par or better). The best players are better at responding to that pressure. Their systems are auto-immune to pressure. (ie. Think of practice like medicine and think of a pre-shot routine like the Advil to help calm the spiking nerves.)
- Playing in your mind = high tension golf… you might need an Advil.
- Playing out of your mind = low tension golf… you are in a good headspace and are doing all the right things before your round even started.
The key to understanding here is that we can play in both minds and achieve success in either situation. It is all about managing yourself and your re-act game.
Subconscious playing is beyond enjoyable. It is more recreational in style. I believe beginners are playing more subconsciously, more recreationally. I believe elite players can learn from the beginner because they are achieving superior moments and sensations more subconsciously, more often. All players at all levels have off days. It is important to remember we all have this in common.
The goal is always to play your best. When I play my best, there are no preconceived thoughts of action. It’s simply action. Playing out of your mind is an unwritten script, unrehearsed, and unrepeatable on a day to day basis, you’re living it.
Say you have that one round, that out of your mind, crazy good day. The next few days, what do you do? Do you try to mimic everything you did to achieve that low number? As good players, we take these great days and try to piece it together into a script of playing. We know we can get it down to almost damn near perfect. The more a player rehearses the better they get. Edits are made…knowing that things are always shifting. Visualization is key.
No doubt, it’s a huge cycle. Players are in a continuous race to achieve results in numbers. Players looking to reach great success should generate a journal/log and compile a record and playback method and revisit it repeatedly.
There is no secret or magic…it takes mastering the minds to achieve the best results more often. Most important, as players, we must recognize that during our amazing rounds…
- We are relaxed
- We are having fun
- We are just doing
In this game, the deeper we go, the more we propose to be there. It will always bring us back to the basics. One complete full circle, back to the beginner in all of us. So, the next time an experienced player sees a beginner on the first tee…take a moment and appreciate that player!
Remember to enjoy the walk and believe that hard work always works!
Please reach out to me at email@example.com to learn more about the zone and how to become accustomed to playing autonomously.
Equipment improvements are even better for women! Now they are getting over 300 yards!
We had a sweet driver shaft fitting at Club Champion in January. We picked up the shaft in their store in Phoenix and that afternoon, and Savannah hit two benchmark drives at 305 and another at 317 yards! Kinda makes you a bit of a believer, huh!? We are looking forward to seeing the numbers on our GC Quad back home this week to check out the difference. Stay tuned for next week!
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