PITCHING

Strategy dot Address dot Whole Swing dot Feel

Tom Watson's Perfect Pitch Shot 3:12-3:36

Tom Watson holed this pitch shot on the 71st hole of the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach G.C. to tie for the lead, creating high drama at the Carmel Bay, California. He then birdied the final hole to beat Jack Nicklaus by one shot, keeping Jack from winning his record 5th U.S. Open title.

Tom does everything perfectly:

  1. Tom chooses the sand wedge and opens the blade to fly the ball high and land it softly to deal with the downhill shot, that will run fast away from him.
  2. He reads the green twice to determine the break of the ball after it starts rolling on the green.
  3. Tom lands the ball on the spot 3' onto the green, then the ball breaks slightly left to right, rolling downhill into the hole.
  4. He uses a shortened follow-through to impart maximum backspin on the wedge shot, necessary to stop a ball that is rolling downhill.
  5. Tom keeps his head down on the shot until well after impact to ensure the head remains steady through impact.

The pitch shot should be played for shots when your ball is too far off the green to land the ball on the green and have it roll the correct distance to the hole with little backspin or for shots sitting in too deep of grass to chip the ball. Pitch the ball with your sand wedge or lob wedge, depending on how much green you have to work with and how quickly you must stop the ball. The pitch shot is a part-swing of the club, and there is a hinging of the wrists.

Identify a specific spot on the green to land the ball, so that it rolls a short distance to the hole. Make a 1/3, ½, 2/3, or full swing, depending on the distance you need to hit the ball. If the ball is sitting in long grass and/or you have to hit the ball very high to stop it quickly, open the clubface 1/8, ¼, or ½ so the flanged sole of your sand wedge can easily slide through the long grass, allowing the clubface to strike the ball solidly. The more you must open the clubface, the more the ball will curve left-to-right, so allow for this factor. Your swing force can be firm or smooth, depending on the distance of the pitch shot or the depth of the grass your ball sits in.

All the fundamentals of the full swing apply to the pitch shot near the green. Your legs lead your upper body on the downswing, even though the pitch shot is often a part-swing shot. Be sure to match the length of your follow-through to the length of your backswing to ensure accelerating the clubhead through impact.

When pitching the ball near the green, choose the shot where the ball flies on the lowest possible trajectory to the hole. The lower the ball flies, the easier it is to control where the ball goes. For example, it is safer to make a 1/3 swing with the face 1/8 open than it is to make a ½ swing with the face ¼ open, although both shots will travel about the same distance. The only reason you would choose the latter option is if you have less distance for the ball to roll to the hole after the ball lands.

Here is an example swing key from the Pitching chapter of Modern Golf Thoughts:

USE ONE--TWO TIMING DURING THE SWING

Say "ONE" at the exact moment your clubhead reaches its farthest point back. Then, say "TWO" at the exact moment your clubhead impacts the ball. Your pitch shots will be very accurate every time because great timing is an essential element of precise ball-striking.

ONE--TWO Timing works for any full swing, part-swing, chip shot, or putt.

This count occupies your conscious mind with the precise task of timing your swing or putting stroke. Then, your sub-conscious mind is free to execute the swing or stroke your body already naturally knows how to perform.

The results of using this swing key are amazing. Your shots will be very accurate and your putts will roll the perfect distance every time.

The Pitching chapter of Modern Golf Thoughts has 21 swing keys in these sections--Strategy / Address / Whole Swing / Feel.

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