So you want to learn how to pitch?
First, a quick quiz just to make sure you are in the right place: Whom would you consider a better instructor on pitching, Greg Norman or Greg Maddux? And no peeking.
If you answered “Norman,” please move to the next paragraph. If you answered “Maddux,” you really need to read the next paragraph.
Pitching, Norman (and Maddux) would tell you, is about location, location, location. The pitch shot in golf usually is hit from within 80 yards of the green, using a wedge. It also is an effective shot when you are much closer to the green and need to hit over a bunker or water hazard. You may want to use your sand wedge for those shorter shots.
Because wedges have the most loft, they naturally lift the ball much higher and make it land softer than all other clubs. Therefore, the objective is to land the ball on the green as close to the hole as possible because, unlike a full-swing shot or even a chip, the pitch shot should not roll much.
The pitch shot set-up differs from the regular full-swing set-up in that your stance is more narrow, your lower body alignment is more open, and the ball is positioned just ahead of the middle of your feet.
As you practice the shot at a range or open field (your yard might not be big enough), pick a nearby target. (In a field, use a bucket.) Place your hands on the club and get into your stance, remembering to keep the ball near the middle of your feet. Then lower the club behind the ball. Your hands should be comfortably ahead of the ball.
Take a few half swings, allowing the clubface to lift the ball. One mistake new golfers make is not trusting the club to do its job. Instead, they want to help the wedge by sliding the club under the ball and pulling up. This causes the leading edge of the club to hit the middle of the ball—called blading—and typically results in a line drive over the green. You want to create a divot, not sweep the ball.
As you gain confidence with the club, pick a target farther away. If you desire more distance, quicken the rotation of your trunk, not your swing. Regardless of how far the ball travels, notice how little the ball rolls, how it lands, bounces and quickly stops.
That explains why location is the key to pitching. Just ask Greg. Either one.