Scoring in golf can sometimes be about cutting your loses. Nothing can save you more strokes than your short game. No matter how bad your swing is, a great short game will help you play a good round. This is why I call the short game Your ticket to Par. There are many aspects to the short game, this newsletter will cover some of the basic strategies for pitch shots. There will be more on the short game in later Newsletters.
Any lofted shot towards the green from ten or more yards away is typically called a pitch. Pitches can land on the green with a forward roll (forward spin) or with a backwards roll (backspin). Television seems to glamorize the backspin. A Tour player that lands a ball on the green past the hole and has the bell backspin toward the hole will be on the news high lights for a week. Anytime I'm on the course a someone creates backspin, it is considered a great shot.
Well, in my opinion, only shots that get the ball close to the hole are great shots. Rarely does this include backspin. On ninety percent of all pitch shots, you should play the ball with a forward spin. The goal is to have the ball land in front of the hole and roll towards the hole. Only when the pin is placed up close to the front of the green should the average player attempt backspin.
Like all golf shots visualize the shot prior to attempting the shot. Great pitchers not only have good mechanics they are also great at visualization. They pick a spot on the green that they want to land the ball and visualize it rolling toward the hole. Visualizing increases your creativity. Creativity increases your ability to make good pitches. Practice seeing the shot in your minds eye prior to executing. You will be amazed at how this simple exercise increases your confidence and your successful execution.
The biggest mistake many amateurs make is trying to scoop the ball into the air. If your timing is just right, you can get the ball airborne, however it will lack distance. The normal result from attempting to lift the ball is a skull, a low flying screamer. A golf ball is lifted into the air properly when it is compressed into the ground by the club face. This compression gives the ball lift and distance. Without compression you will loose one or both. Any iron from the five to a wedge has plenty of loft to get the ball airborne. Use your clubs loft, a lot of mechanical engineering has gone into designing those clubs. Trust me, they can do the job.
Another mistake I see many players make is attempting to hit down into the ball. Which results in a fat shot with lots of turf flying everywhere. For years golfers have been told that in order to hit a good pitch shot you need to hit down on the ball. This, however, is not entirely accurate. The goal is to hit the ball before the ground. This does not mean hitting down. A good pitch will strike the ball just before striking the ground, leaving a shallow divot. I like to see a normal arc in the swing.
Finally, all good pitches have good rhythm. The back swing, down swing and the follow through are all the same speed. With a lot of practice a great pitcher can increase the speed of their downswing with great results. For the rest of us, I recommend maintaining a good steady rhythm.