Golf Swing Tips | Golf Pitching Tips to Improve Your Short Game

Golf Pitching Tips to Improve Your Short Game

Ah, the short game…a fundamental part of every golfers game. Defined by approach shots and putting, the short game focuses on that part of the hole from about 80 yards out until the ball is securely in the cup. I like to categorize the short game into three phases: pitching, chipping, and putting. I classify pitching as the technique used for any shots from, again, about 80 yards out until the ball is on the fringe of the green or just shy of the fringe of the green. Chipping is defined as the shorter, finesse shots that must be played from the fringe of the green or just off the fringe of the green. Some golfers like to call these chip shots ‘touch shots’. Putting is the third phase of the short game, which occurs once the ball is securely on the green. This article focuses on tips that beginning golfers can use to improve their pitching.

The short game is where you can really lower your score or simply get cremated and lose a lot of strokes if you are not prepared with the proper techniques! Many dozens of strokes can be gained or lost during this phase of a round and sound fundamentals, tips, and club knowledge can go a long way to helping you NOT be one of those golfers who is intimidated when it comes time to execute their approach shots.

So What is a Pitch Shot?

A pitch shot is an approach shot that a golfer uses when he or she is close enough to the green so that a full swing is not necessary, but far enough away that chipping (which is used for closer shots) would not be effective. This shot is oftentimes used to get the flight path of the ball to be high so that it lands without a lot of horizontal movement. The distance from the green from which a golfer would utilize a pitch shot varies based on the length of that particular golfer. There is not an exact distance from which a golfer must hit a pitch shot, but since I’m focusing on the average, beginning golfer here I would say that pitching comes into play from about 80 yards out or so.

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The other aspect that defines a pitch shot in golf is club selection. Some people believe that in order for a shot to be considered a pitch shot, a golfer must use their pitching wedge, but I think that a pitching wedge, sand wedge, or even a lob wedge could be used to execute a pitch shot. The idea, again, is that it is a less-than-full-swing shot, executed from about 80 yards out to about 20 yards out, with the goal of high ball flight, a soft landing, and little horizontal ball movement once the ball lands on the green.

Pitch Shot Setup – A Step-by-Step Guide

Since this is more of a finesse shot where accuracy is more important than distance the setup should emphasize this.

Step 1) Choke-up on the club (which is often a pitching wedge). Since we are not striving for maximum distance here moving your hands down the grip towards the shaft will help maximize control. The less distance there is between a golfer’s hands and the head of the club the more control he has so choking-up or moving the hands closer to the shaft is the first technique when setting up to hit a pitch shot.

Step 2) Take a narrower stance with your feet slightly closer together than you would when executing a full swing (see Golf Pitching Tips - Shot Setupthe pic to the left). Since this is NOT a full swing technique you want to minimize body rotation and keeping your feet a little closer together helps accomplish this. Notice also how the golfer’s hands are at about mid-grip in the picture, as well. This is what we discussed in Step 1 above about choking-up on the club.

Step 3) Open your lead foot slightly as shown in the picture here. For right-handed golfers this will be you left foot and for left-handed golfers this will be your right foot. Again the picture here really demonstrates accurately the first three steps of a good pitch shot setup. The reason you would want to have a slightly open stance is that this will force the club to take more of an outside-in path, which in turn will increase the loft or trajectory of the ball. Some (right-handed) golfers say that this set-up makes them feel as if they are aiming left of the target (Note: It will be the opposite for left-handed golfers as they will feel as if their aim is slightly to the right). But believe it or not this is exactly what you want. If you feel like you’re aiming slightly left this just means that your setup technique is correct! For more details on the set-up and swing, check out these free online golf lessons to improve your pitching.

Step 4) Stand with the ball in the middle of your stance as demonstrated by the golfer in the image below. Keeping the ball in thGolf Pitching Tips - Ball Placemente middle of your stance is appropriate since you are (presumably) using one of the shorter clubs for this technique. In addition to keeping the ball in the middle of your stance, angle the club slightly forward towards the target. You can accomplish this by forcing your hands towards your left leg (or towards the target) as seen in the picture to the left. Don’t overdo this, just a slightly forward movement is all that it takes.

Step 5) Shift your weight slightly to the left, as well (if you are right-handed). I think you can see a theme here. Left foot open, hands leaning to the left, weight slightly left. This weight shift will help maintain stability throughout the swing.


Golf Swing for Pitch Shots

Now that we have the proper set-up down it’s time to execute the swing. As we discussed above a pitch shot is a less-than-full-swing shot. We’ve choked up on the club and opened our stance to put us in a position to execute this swing, but beginners do have some difficulty because this swing does require some finesse. First off, there is some judgment required to determine how much of a swing to take. This is based on the distance from the hole. At about 70-80 yards out I will take about a three-quarter backswing with my pitching wedge. In this instance I will stop my backswing when the club head is about level with my right shoulder. As always the actual downswing should continue through the ball and include a full follow-through.

At about 40-60 yards out my backswing will constitute about a one-half swing. For me, this would be about level with my right hip or just above it (I’m only 5’8″ tall). The downswing, as always, is FULL and THROUGH THE BALL! As the distance from the green becomes shorter some golfers will use an even more abbreviated backswing while others will switch to a club with a greater face angle that provides even more loft (and therefore less distance). This is where judgment comes in. Every beginning golfer needs to find out what works for them. And this only comes with experience and playing time.


Well, I hope that you’ve found these golf pitching tips to improve your short game informative and the techniques we discussed above, educational. As always I try to focus these online golf lessons towards the beginner or novice golfer who wants to improve their game, but might not have the money to take full-blown golf lessons. There is a lot of wonderful information online that can help golfers of every level get better and enjoy the game even more. I hope that you bookmark and come back often. Now get out there and try some of this stuff!



Filed Under Golf Pitching Tips, Short Game Tips | 2 Comments

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2 Responses to “Golf Pitching Tips to Improve Your Short Game”

  1. Larry on March 3rd, 2016 12:38 am

    Very good article and instruction. My problem with the wedge is I hit them high but very short with a full swing.

  2. GolfSwingTips on March 5th, 2016 9:09 pm

    Thanks for the kind words, Larry. In your case the most likely reason is that your club face is too open. What you are essentially doing is hitting a super-high flop shot. Phil Mickelson is the master at this shot where his club face will be extremely open and he will take a full swing and blast the ball up in the air. This can be really useful if you are in the rough and hitting towards the hole which is below you. The high arc of this shot will allow for a soft landing and no horizontal ball movement.

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