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.

Pitching Truths

Steve Stricker
Steve Stricker

As many of you may be aware I have done a tremendous amount of research on pitching the last few years. My research continues and I wanted to share a few important truths regarding this often misunderstood stroke:

  • Great pitchers generally take very little divot, flight the ball low and create high spin rates
  • Lower trajectory shots are substantially easier to gauge than higher ones
  • When struck correctly lower trajectory shots will have more spin than higher lofted ones
  • Most golfers perform better when pitching with their second most lofted club (SW vs LW)
  • There are two controllable ways to stop a golf ball - high spin rate and a steep land angle
  • Thin shots have more spin than you might think
  • The quality of the clubface to ball interaction (friction) is primary in generating spin
  • The quality of the lie plays a big role in determining the clubface to ball interaction
  • The optimal lie for amazing pitches is a fairly tight, downgrain lie
  • Any moisture that gets between the face and ball will decrease friction and thus increase launch angle and reduce spin
  • Sand between the face and the ball will increase friction and thus lower launch angle and increase spin
  • When practicing it is important to keep a wet towel handy to clean the face after every few shots - don't use a tee
  • Older clubs with worn down grooves will never spin the ball as much as a fresh wedge (all else being equal)
  • Premium golf balls flight better and spin more than inexpensive golf balls
  • The optimal technique is based almost entirely around managing the club to ground interaction or angle of attack
  • Controlling what the handle does through impact is vital in managing the angle of attack
  • A club path that tracks from from in to out will most often lead to cleaner strikes and thus lower trajectory and more spin
  • Where a golfer seeks to add loft they also add effective bounce. Here the grind/shape of the sole, will play a bigger role
  • For stock. and thus lower flighted shots the bounce plays less of a role than you might imagine

I have found there to be a multitude of different, and somewhat unusual techniques that work well for certain individuals. My objective has been to find a pitching technique that works best for the majority of golfers. I have found a technique that fits the bill and I am able to explain it simply and vividly.

More reading:

Wedges and Water | Andrew Rice Golf

The Science Behind Superb Wedges: Part I | Andrew Rice Golf

The Science Behind Superb Wedges: Part II | Andrew Rice Golf

Ultimate Spin Wedge Shootout | Andrew Rice Golf

Please note that I will be producing a video on pitching that will be for available on my website in the Fall. I had previously indicated it would be available in the Summer, but I want to make sure I have the best product available for you, thus the delay. The video will explain all my findings including what I have found to be the optimal pitching technique...stay tuned!