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Tip #56 - The Pitch Shot
Add a few yards to the chip shot and you'll be facing a pitch. Generally, chip shots can be from a few feet to about 25 yards. Beyond that, you're pitching.
The address for the pitch is similar to that for the chip -- an open, narrow stance, the ball off your left heel, your hands forward and your weight shaded to the left side.
The difference is that everything is a bit less marked than for the chip. The stance is a bit wider -- your heels will be about a foot apart. It's less open too, with your body pointing only about 10 degrees left of square. You grip down only about an inch on the club.
Generally, chip shots can be from a few feet to about 25 yards. Beyond that, you're pitching.
The swing is basically a long chipping swing. Obviously, you'll have some degree of that natural wrist action, but again, let it happen, don't make it happen. Keep your legs and lower body quiet and let the arms do most of the work.
There's a great variety of opinion regarding the best way to vary the length of pitch shots. Some teachers suggest varying the length of the swing, others advocate gripping up and down on the club and a third philosophy says you should vary the pace of the swing.
Let me rule out that third alternative immediately. Except on special shots, such as the lob and the punch, I don't believe in changing the pace of the swing. You have a natural tempo, and unless a difficult situation requires you to change it, you shouldn't. As I said with regard to the chip, short shots must be struck crisply and aggressively.
This leaves the two other methods -- varying the swing length and varying the grip length. I use both of them. The shorter the pitch I have to play, the shorter the swing I'll use. And when I get down in close range, I'll grip down on the club as well. The key is to allow myself on each shot to make a firm, aggressive swing. I take length out of the club and length out of the swing in order to maintain a firm, confident attack on the ball.
On the shortest of pitches, I'll simplify things even more by switching from the pitching wedge to the sand wedge. Why grip way down and shorten my swing when there's a higher-lofted club that will do that work for me?
And today, with the advent of a third wedge with even more loft than the sand wedge, even the shortest of pitches may be made with a minimum of swing variation. The 60-degree wedge has about five degrees more loft than the sand wedge and about 10 degrees more than the pitching wedge. For playing short, high shots that need to stop quickly, it's an amateur's best friend.
With any pitch shot, however, planning is vitally important. Pick out the spot where you want the ball to land. With a hard, fast surface that spot may be short of the green. On soft, uphill shots, it may be quite close to give the shot some thought. Then take your practice swings as you visualize the ball lofting to your ideal landing area This will help you generate the right feel.