Six Keys To Pitching From The Fairway

Accurate pitching reduces your golf handicap. Turning three strokes into two by pitching close to the pin cuts strokes from your scores. Cut enough strokes and you’ll lower your handicap significantly. Learning to pitch accurately from the fairway is crucial to improving your game.

Pitching accurately from the fairway, as I mention in my golf lessons, requires good distance control. That’s not easy to achieve. The tendency is for your swing to be either too long, in which case the clubhead decelerates through impact, or too short, in which case the clubhead is jerked through impact. Either way costs you strokes, inflating your golf scores and your golf handicap.

Learning to pitch accurately from the fairway is a two-stage process. One stage involves building better technique. You can work on technique in golf lessons and on the practice range whenever you go. The second stage involves learning how to judge distances. While you can’t learn to judge distances simply from taking golf lessons or reading golf tips, they can facilitate the learning process.

Here are 6 keys to building better technique:

1.Make changes at address
2.Open the stance
3.Aim clubface at target
4.Make a shorter backswing
5.Clear the left side
6.Release the clubhead

Two subtle changes at address help with technique. Since you need to strike the ball with a crisp, descending blow, (1) position the ball at your stance’s midpoint and (2) make sure that the club’s shaft and your left arm (for right-handers) are in a straight line, ensuring ball-then-turf contact.

Also, open your stance a little at address. It enables you to clear the left side through impact. While it seems like a minor thing, it has an impact, just like the two changes discussed above. Despite the open stance, aim the clubface directly at the target, just as if your feet were parallel.

Opening your stance shortens your backswing, since it curbs movement of the lower body. Gripping down on the club also shortens your backswing, while providing increased club control. The closer you hands are to the ball, the better control you have. Nevertheless, you still need to transfer your weight correctly, despite the shorter swing,

With the open stance and the left side clear, your hands have room to strike the ball squarely. Release the clubhead freely through impact and then move smoothly into your follow-through. Use these suggestions to help build better technique.

In addition to working on your technique, you need to improve distance control. Unfortunately, the only way to do that is by practicing. The more you practice, the better you’ll get. Below are two other suggestions to remember the next time you’re practicing your pitching:

Practice the Body-controlled Method
One approach to help with distance is the body-controlled method. It’s an approach I’ve talked about in my golf tips. Assume your normal pitching address position, but place a towel across your chest and under your armpits. Choke down on the grip for added control and make short compact swings, keeping the towel under your armpits as you swing.

At the same time, vary the speed of your body turn. If you have a 20-yard shot, think in terms of turning your body 20 miles per hour. If you have a 30-yard shot, think in terms of turning your body 30 miles per hour. The longer the shot, the faster you turn your body. Try this method to help improve your distance control. Also, vary the length of your shots so you will get practice at different lengths.

Establish a “Pitching Zone”
Work on establishing a pitching zone—a safe area where you’re not only comfortable and confident pitching from. Once you’ve developed the zone, try playing to it the next time you golf. The goal is to land your shots in the zone when approaching the green, so you’ll have an easier shot.

Jose Maria Olazabal used this approach during a tournament. Having driven into trouble off the tee, he asked his caddie: “What club will give me 92 yards to the flag for my next shot.” Thinking one step ahead, Olazabal was aiming for a spot on the fairway where he was confident he could get up and down from to save par. That was strength for him. Establishing a “pitching zone” gives you a strength to play to, just like Olazabal.

Use these six keys to help with pitching from the fairway next time and you’ll be sure to start dropping shots fast.