March 2011

MARCH 2011: Golf Tips From A Pro, Pete Popovich - The Art of Scoring, Part 2 - Pitching

Author: Pete Popovich

Over the past three months, we have discussed the short game in detail. This month, the theme continues as we discuss pitching and distance control.

Pitch shots can be defined as shots that carry a greater distance with a higher trajectory than a chip shot. Pitch shots range in distance from 10-15 yards off the green up to 100-120 yards depending upon the golfer. The most important factor in pitching is controlling your distance.

Like any other stroke, we begin with fundamentals. Narrow your stance by bringing your feet closer together. The outsides of your feet should be no wider than the outside of your shoulders. This reduces your lateral movement in the swing, allowing you to be more accurate. Grip, posture and alignment remain the same as for the full swing. Ball position will vary slightly, depending on the desired shot trajectory, but is much like that of a chip shot (see the February issue of CH2 & CB2). Swing length will determine distance.

When learning to control your wedge distance, one of the most effective ways is the clock method, whereby you vary the distance the ball travels by the amount of backswing taken. For starters, visualize a large clock around you with your body at the clock’s center. Your lead arm (left arm for right handers) will be the large hand of the clock. As you make your swing, the left arm moves to various “times” on the clock, each of which will give you a certain distance. To make the most of your practice time, I recommend using three times: 7:30, 9:00, and 10:30. Each of these swings will give you approximately a 70 percent reduction in distance from the other. For example, your 10:30 swing distance will be approximately 70 percent the distance of your full swing distance with the same club. Your 9:00 distance will be approximately 70 percent of your 10:30 distance, and so on.

The “Set Up” Position

7:30 Swing Position

9:00 Swing Position

10:30 Swing Position

Finish Position

Get a grip
To add even more to your distance control, alter your grip position:

• Grip position one: Grip the club close to the butt end.

• Grip position two: Grip the club halfway down the grip, shortening the length of the club approximately two-three inches.

• Grip position three: Grip the club at the bottom of the grip, close to the shaft, shortening the club another two-three inches.
Each time you shorten the club by gripping further down the shaft, you shorten the distance the ball travels by approximately three yards with the same swing.
More advanced golfers can shave approximately three more yards off their distance by taking the hands to the 7:30, 9:00, and 10:30 clock positions. This will leave your lead arm just short of each of these times shortening the distance the ball travels slightly. This might sound like splitting hairs, but in today’s game when pins are tucked a mere three to five yards beyond the lip of a bunker, it pays to be able to control your distance by this small amount.

Turn a few clubs to many
By adding three different swing lengths and three different grip positions you have just turned each of your wedges into six different clubs, each with its own distance, without being in violation of the 14-club rule. If you carry three wedges, that is 18 distances or 18 clubs you just added. The more you practice dialing in your distance for each swing length and grip position, the closer you will hit the ball to the hole. As you hit the ball closer to the hole, you will start turning three shots (a pitch and two putts) into two (a pitch and one putt). As this happens, your scores will drop.


To learn more about pitching and controlling distance with your wedges, contact the Golf Performance Academy at (843) 338-6737; on the web at; or on Facebook at Golf Performance Academy-Hilton Head.


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