The main difference between a chip shot and a pitch shot is the use of the wrists. In chipping they are quiet, and in pitching they are active. Other differences include the fact that pitch shots travel farther and most often fly much more than they roll. A typical pitch shot with a sand wedge will roll less than 10 feet after flying maybe 30 yards.
Given the thought process that more moving parts means more things can go wrong, there are more mistakes made in pitching than in chipping. The most prevalent is hitting the ball along the equator, producing a ball flight that stays close to the ground and goes way past the intended target. Others include hitting the ball “fat” or “chunking” the shot, where the club comes into contact with the ground before it hits the ball or topping the ball so that it just rolls a few feet or yards. Let’s look at a few clues to a successful pitch shot:
Firstl, you need to turn your body in the backswing as if you were making a mini full swing, which you are.
Next, you need to set the club at the top of the backswing as far as needed to hit the ball the correct distance (longer swing for more distance) and then you need to turn the body through the downswing rather than swing the club with your arms.
Lastly, you need to try to get the club “on plane.” What that means is that shaft of the club will be angled or pointed at the ball at the top of the backswing. The best way to check this is by hitting pitch shots with your eyes closed and allowing the club to swing freely as you turn in your downswing. If you are “on plane,” you will hit the ball perfectly even though your eyes are closed.
The other big thing I look for in watching students hit this shot is that their hands will lead the clubhead into the ball. This is also true in the full swing.
Next week we will be heading for the beach, or rather, hitting bunker shots.
Ian Grant is a PGA teaching professional and a member of the teaching faculty of the PGA of America. He can be contacted at Oak Brook Golf Club 630-990-3032 in the summer and White Pines Golf Dome in Bensenville 630-422-1060 in the winter. You can contact Ian directly at 708-917-8951, or at Iansgolf@aol.com.