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3 Pitches, 1 Wedge
In this video, Jeff Yurkiewicz, head instructor for the Kostis / McCord Learning Center (12 years+) demonstrates three different types of pitch shots from about 15-20 yards off the green: a low pitch shot, a medium pitch shot, and a high trajectory pitch shot all with the same pitching wedge.
If you are familiar with golf clubs, you’ll know that as the club number increases, the loft angle increases. You should also know that the greater the loft angle the more vertical velocity and less horizontal velocity the ball gets resulting in shorter distances and less roll after the ball lands. Other factors including the amount of spin generated also affect the roll but the angle of the club face is the primary factor. What Jeff is demonstrating here is that by moving the grip ahead of or behind the ball you can effectively change the angle of your pitch shot.
The Low Trajectory Pitch Shot
A low trajectory pitch shot is typically used to cover greater distances (100yds+), or by lady golfers or other golfers with a weaker swing (60 mph or less) where pitching over obstructions is not a concern. To achieve the same effect as using a lower numbered iron the grip is moved ahead of the ball thereby reducing the pitch angle. For an iron with a 30 inch handle, moving the grips just 2 inches ahead of the ball makes a 3.8° difference in the angle of the head. This is the same effect as going down from a pitching wedge to a 9 iron. To compensate for the shaft angle difference, you should move in slightly closer to the ball. And always swing down on the ball, never try to lift the ball with the wedge. A harder downward swing will also generate more back spin causing less roll.
The Medium Trajectory Pitch Shot
This is your standard pitch shot where the ball is in the middle of your body, the shaft is vertical, and your body is the regular distance from the ball. The key thing to remember is again, always swing down on the ball, don’t slow your swing down as it approaches the ball, and follow through with the swing.
The High Trajectory Pitch Shot
These are great from a spectator’s point of view but the hardest to control since it’s hard to gauge power lost in the vertical direction and wind is more of a factor. Use these only when necessary. If you understand that moving the grip forward of the ball reduced the angle of the head you’ve probably already guessed that moving the grip behind the ball increases it. Two inches of grip movement can be the difference between a pitching wedge and a gap wedge (50°-52°). Here you will have to step further back from the ball and turn your body so the face of the club is towards the flag.
Practising the Three Loft Pitch Shots
The easiest way to practice these techniques and get a feel for the difference any given shaft angle makes is to use a standard pitching wedge and three balls. Take a few practice swings to loosen up trying to get a consistent stroke speed. Then try one shot with the grip 2″ ahead of the ball, one with the shaft straight, and one with the grip 2″ behind the ball. Watch the video to see the effect in action.