Updated Pitching Thoughts

This article is an update on the many pitching and chipping articles I've written over the last few years. Not much has changed since I did the Wedge Project video, but there are certain elements I have a deeper understanding about. Experience and the smart guys at PING have gone a long way towards advancing my understanding. Let's take a look...

Discussing pitching at a Three Day Golf School

Discussing pitching at a Three Day Golf School

  • Great pitchers typically take very little divotflight the ball low and generate high spin rates
  • Lower trajectory shots are significantly easier to gauge than higher ones
  • When struck correctly lower trajectory wedge shots will almost always have more spin than higher shots
  • Most golfers perform better when they deliver 45º-40º of loft at impact off a normal fairway. The club they use is irrelevant
  • The quality of the face to ball interaction (friction) is primary in generating spin and determining the launch angle
  • The quality of the lie plays a big role in determining the amount of friction at impact
  • Any moisture/matter that gets between the face and ball will typically decrease friction and thus increase launch angle and reduce spin. Control will be reduced
  • I used to say that sand increases friction and that is often the case, but I've found it depends on the 'angularity' of the sand
  • Cleaning the club face should be done often and with a wet towel - don't use a tee
  • The primary role of grooves is to disperse moisture and matter from between the face and the ball, not generate spin
  • Older clubs with worn down grooves will not spin the ball as much as a fresh wedge (all else being equal)
  • Premium golf balls, when struck correctly, will always flight lower and spin more than non-premium golf balls
  • The optimal technique is primarily based around managing the club to ground interaction 
  • As the player alters trajectory so shall the club to ground interaction change. Lower shots with less loft will often lead to a steeper angle of attack
  • Controlling what the handle does through impact is integral to controlling the club to ground interaction
  • I've come to learn that there is no single ideal spin loft to generate the most spin. Every different lie, situation, golf ball and golfer would require heir own unique "optimal" spin loft
  • I've been a proponent of draws for pitch shots and I've seen too many golfers have success with fades or draws to continue advocating strictly for draws
  • For stock, and thus lower flighted, shots the bounce plays less of a role than you might imagine
  • The number one absolute worst thing to work towards with your wedge play....stay down. Please don't EVER work towards that
  • I've become a big fan of 'core' distances. Depending on the amount of time you have I'd recommend practicing two or more of these 'core' distances and really taking ownership eg. 30/50/70/90 yards
  • Incorporate variety and skill development into any and all forms of practice

I have found there to be a multitude of different, and somewhat unusual techniques that work well for certain individuals. A good general guideline that might help:

With the weight slightly forward and utilizing a narrow and square stance with the ball positioned centrally, be sure to keep your chest rotating through the strike in order to have the sole of the club skimming along the turf. Stay tall and keep the chest moving!

All the best.

The Art of Being Skillful

As many of you know I enjoy deciphering which elements contribute to being a great wedge player. Ever since I started with my 'Wedge Project' research in 2010 chipping and pitching have really piqued my interest.

My recent testing, and philosophy, has been aligned alongside golfers using one club and applying their skills to control the trajectory and outcome of their shots in close proximity to the green. For ease of illustration and testing I selected a 58º wedge and a 15 yard carry requirement. I then played three different trajectory shots - a high, mid and low shot. I recorded each version in slo-motion and at regular speed along with running TrackMan in the background to capture data on a handful of each type of shot.

As you can tell there is a dramatic difference in the pace required to execute each intended trajectory. The technical changes for each shot changed as follows:

High: ball positioned off front big toe, face square at address and a sense that the handle slows dramatically approaching impact as the clubhead passes the handle prior to impact. Freddie Couples is a good image here.

Mid: ball positioned centrally, face square at address, medium pace and a sense that the shaft will be vertical at impact.

Low: ball positioned off the back big toe, face square with hands forward as a result of the ball position and an upbeat pace that encourages the handle to 'beat' the clubhead to the ball at impact. Zach Johnson's brisk pace comes to mind with this type of shot

At Impact

At Impact

The TrackMan data provides some interesting differences:

Club Speed: Low 23mph; Mid 30mph; High 37mph

Ball Speed: Low 27.8mph; Mid 28.5mph; High 28.0mph

Smash Factor: Low 1.2; Mid 1.0; High 0.8

Launch Angle: Low 29.6º; Mid 40.6º; High 51.6º

Spin Rate: Low 2230rpm; Mid 1630rpm; High 1250rpm

One thing that struck me was that the average ball speed was the same for each type of shot, yet the club speed was very different. The attack angle was steepest with the lower shot primarily due to the ball position and the shaft lean. I also found it interesting that there was roughly 10º difference in the launch angle of each version.

The numbers might be important for coaches to understand, but what can you, the player looking to save strokes take away?

  • Stick with one club around the greens - you'll become a skilled artisan with it in your hands.
  • Alter the trajectory with subtle changes at address and less subtle changes in the pace.
  • The manner in which you release the clubhead through impact will make a big difference
  • Now get to work!

Thanks for reading and please share with a friend. Happy New Year and all the best for a fabulous 2018. #birdies

My 3 Keys to Great Wedge Play

If you dread any form of pitch or chip shot then this article is expressly for you. If you feel like you could save a few more strokes around the greens then this article is for you. Utilizing better technique will literally make these shots easier. Here are a few straightforward improvements that will get the job done. Watch...

Key #1: Set Up

  • Feet should be close together. The most common mistake I see is a stance that's too wide.
  • Alignment should be square. Yes, square.
  • Ball position is centered to slightly forward.
  • Weight distribution is slightly favoring the front foot.
The Proper Set Up...

The Proper Set Up...

Key #2: Wrist Action

  • Wrists should be relatively quiet in the backswing.
  • Avoid excessive cupping in the lead wrist. The left wrist for you righties out there.

Key #3: Body Pivot

  • Keep the chest rotating through the strike in order to shallow the attack angle.
  • Extend the lead side through impact.
  • Avoid thoughts of "stay down", "hit down" or "pinch the ball".

As you work towards better technique be aware that your results are not going to transition from bad to good instantaneously. Taking ownership of the upgrades will take time and patience. Get the set up correct, use the wrists properly and shallow the angle of attack with good chest rotation. Now we're talking!

If you'd like to learn more about improving your wedge play check out the Wedge Project.

 

 

A More Consistent Strike for Better Chipping

I was recently invited by Mark Crossfield to collaborate on a chipping video to help get our shared message across to as many golfers as possible. Being from England, you may not have heard of Mark over here in the US, but I'm sure that at some point you've watched some of his excellent YouTube videos. As you will see his information is almost as good as his manner and personality in front of the camera. Enjoy...

Here are two images I created for this article with the help of my new GoPro camera. The first one shows quite clearly how the hands are working for a steeper attack angle shot...

Steeper Angle of Attack

While this image shows the preferred approach with a shallow angle of attack and the handle elevating nicely through impact...

Shallow Angle of Attack

Notice how much more the hands elevate during the stroke for the shallow version than the steep version. I've believed it worked this way for a long time, but so nice to see clearly illustrated in the images above.

Here are the important things to remember:

  • Set up with the ball in the middle of your already narrow stance
  • Weight should be slightly favoring the front foot
  • As a result the hands are a touch in front of the ball
  • Not too much wrist action required
  • Land the plane on the runway under the ball (No CRASHING!)
  • You can create a shallow and smooth landing by continually rotating your shoulders through the strike

Thanks very much to Mark for the invite on this tip (and for doing the tidy video edits!) and to to you for watching. If you'd like to hear and learn more about my approach to chipping and pitching around the greens check out the Wedge Project.

Happy New Year and thank you all so much for your readership and support! I have so much more to share in 2015...

Thank You and Merry Christmas!

Thank you so much for your support and readership in 2013 and I would like to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas! Without you my passion would be pointless....

Holiday Gift Certificate Specials:

  • Series of Five Lessons (Pay for 5 and get 1 FREE)
  • Series of Ten Lessons (Pay for 10 and get 2 FREE)
  • Members receive $10 off a One Hour Lesson
  • Non-members receive $20 off a One Hour Lesson
  • Great Offers for Wedge and TrackMan Group Sessions starting at $75 in the New Year too!

The member lesson rate is $120 per hour and the non-member lesson rate is $175 per hour. Payments can be made via PayPal.

Please contact arice(at)berkeleyhallclub.com for further details.

I am also very excited to release what is the culmination of almost three years of research and testing . The Wedge Project is an in depth video that explains what is important to being able to hit consistently crisp, zippy wedge shots. Please trust me on this one - I know I have been promising this video for some time now - it will be worth the wait and every penny you spend on it!

Here is a little of what you can expect...

I anticipate the cost to be in the $14 range and it will be available via download from my website. The video will be somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes in length and will include numerous drills and a clear explanation of what really is important when you have a wedge in your hand.

Please be patient with the release of this video as I would much the final product be a little late and great than early and mediocre. I know you're going to love it, simply because what I share WORKS!

I am looking forward to an exciting 2014 as I spend my first full year at Berkeley Hall in a long time. I hope we can all get to spend some time together on the lesson tee or online in the upcoming year.  Thank you for everything!

#wedgeproject