How to Hit Every Pitch Shot You Need in Golf

By Steve Silverman

golfer on the green

Learning short game in golf is one of the big keys to improving your score. It's one thing to hit the ball off the tee and another to hit good fairway shots. Your pitch shots to the green must be tight, sharp and consistent.

When you're within 50 yards of the green, you need to hit a shot that has enough carry to get to the green, with some roll to get near the flag. Enter, the pitch shot. Here's how to hit a standard pitch shot in every situation.

How to Hit a Standard Pitch Shot

Difficulty: Moderate

  1. Grip your pitching wedge with your left hand about 6 inches below the top of the shaft. Gripping down on the club will give you greater control of the ball when you swing.
  2. Play the ball midway between your front and back feet. Rotate your hips to the right (for a right-handed player) and bring your hands back to shoulder height. When you reach the top of your swing, turn your hips back to the left. Once your hips get through the hitting zone, accelerate with your hands to get the ball in the air.
  3. Use a shorter backswing with shorter pitch shots. Try bringing your club back to waist-level, but in order to get the ball to stop on the green, you must finish with your hands high. This will put backspin on the ball and cause it to stop when it hits the green, leaving you with a makeable putt. Experiment with different length backswings and note the distance each one produces. This is important for distance control once you hit the course.
  4. Open your lead shoulder by having the front of your body face the green when you are pitching the ball from shorter distances. Bring your hands forward so they are about even with your front hip. This will allow you to hit a "hot" shot that will bounce twice and then stop suddenly on the green. To do this, bring your hands through the ball, but stop when the club is knee level.
  5. Hit a high pitch shot when you have a water hazard blocking your way to the green. You will need to take a full swing to get the ball over the hazard and to the back edge of the green. If you finish with your hands high on the shot, you should be able to stop your ball before it rolls beyond the green.

How to Control Trajectory on Pitch Shots

To help you learn touch around the green, it is important to know how to vary the loft with your wedge. The basic rule is when you open the clubface you add loft and when you close it you effectively take loft away from the club.

When you're at the range, experiment with the loft of your wedge. Open the clubface, play the ball forward in your stance and open your stance. Take your normal swing and you'll notice the ball comes out in a higher trajectory than normal.

Then, move the ball back in your stance and hood the club slightly or just leave it square and you'll hit shots with a lower trajectory.

Once you're comfortable with the wedge, move on to longer irons and experiment by opening the clubface, moving it forward in your stance, and keeping it square and moving it back.

Not only will you gain greater understanding of how the clubface influences the golf ball, but you'll add some shots to your bag without adding any new clubs.

How to Pitch From the Rough

The rough is meant to be a challenge. You hit an inaccurate shot, and so now you have to deal with a less-than-perfect lie. Pitching from the rough doesn't have to be difficult, however. A golfer just needs to use the right technique and take a few extra things into account when executing the shot.

Difficulty: Moderate

  1. Check your lie. Depending on the length, thickness, and type of grass that makes up the rough you've found yourself in, you may want to use different techniques and even different clubs.
  2. Use the sand wedge for a poor lie. The combination of the sand wedge's loft and bounce will help extract the ball from a nasty lie. If the ball is nestled down in the rough, if the grass is especially thick, or if the rough is long, grab the sand wedge. Also, if the rough is wet, the sand wedge is the best club to use.
  3. From a reasonable lie, use the pitching wedge. The pitching wedge has a bit less loft than the sand wedge and will give amateurs more distance out of the rough, increasing their chances of either advancing the ball down the fairway or hitting the green.
  4. Hit down on the ball and be aggressive. The big problem in the rough is that grass will come between the clubface and the ball during the strike. This can lead to everything from bad contact to poor distance control, due to the lack of spin imparted on the ball. The key is to make a firm, downward strike, with a steeper swing than usual. This will minimize the amount of grass that gets in between the clubface and the ball.
  5. Hold the clubface open during the strike. Rough will "grab" the club and close the clubface, causing the ball to come out low and left (for a right-hander). What you want instead is high and straight. In order to achieve this, avoid releasing, or turning over, the club through impact.

How to Hit Higher, Softer Pitches

Using your pitching wedge or 60-degree lob wedge will give you a chance to get near the hole and sink a short putt for a birdie or par. Sometimes you're forced to go over a hazard or tree and need to hit a higher pitch to reach the green.

Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

  1. Play the ball near your back foot in your stance. When hitting a drive or a long fairway shot, you want to play the ball in the middle of your stance or a ball length closer to your front foot. With a soft pitch shot, you have to play it near your back foot to impart the desired spin on the ball.
  2. Place the sole of your club on the ground so the club face is pointed directly at the target. Do not open the face. If you do, it will cause the ball to bounce and prevent it from stopping softly.
  3. Make sure your hands are hanging straight down. Ease up your grip pressure. If a normal swing has your grip at "5" on a scale of 1 to 10, your hands should be at a "4" when preparing to hit a high pitch shot.
  4. Bring your club back to knee level, then break your wrists so the toe of the club points up when your hands reach the midthigh level. Rotate your chest and hips through the hitting zone, then make sure your hands are moving at the same speed. This will bring the club head to the bottom of the ball and make it jump high and then stop softly.
  5. Practice your pitch shot with your pitching wedge or your lob wedge before the start of your round. This swing is quite a bit different from a normal fairway shot, so recognize you have to change your grip and club-head angle to accomplish the shot.

How to Pitch From a Tight Lie

When pitching it close, you will need to put a ball high up into the air for a quick stop, hit pitch up with lots of spin and make it check, or try to land a shot on the fringe and let it roll towards the hole. These three different attacks will give you a proper attack for any tight lie. All you have to do is pick the technique that best satisfies your game and focus on it.

Difficulty: Moderate

  1. Hit a flop shot. A flop shot is a specialty shot that will hit the ball up high into the air and then land with little or no movement, therefore stopping it. For this shot, you must open up the club face and open up the stance. When hitting this shot put the ball a little back in the stance and then swing through and finish high. A shot like this will take a lot of precision, but with constant practice, it will become a shot that comes in handy often.
  2. Make it bite. This shot comes off at about the same height as a normal pitch, but when it hits the green it will bite and stop shortly after. The key to this shot is to come down on the ball. Coming down on the ball creates the backspin that will make the ball stop upon landing. Therefore when hitting the shot, focus on coming down on the ball and accelerating through. This shot is a great shot for making it close every time, especially from a tight lie.
  3. Execute the pitch and roll. A pitch and roll takes a normal pitch shot, but it is important to land the ball in an area where you know the ball will release and roll close to the hole. A shot like this relies more on the course landscape to make it an effective shot. Hitting this shot relies on the ability to land the ball on the fringe or off the green and control the distance it rolls toward the tight pin.
  4. Be smooth and confident. Whatever shot you choose to hit be confident that it is the right shot. However you decide to attack the hole hit a confident, smooth shot, and the best results will come. Trust your game.

About the Author

Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman authored The Minnesota Vikings: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Who's Better, Who's Best in Football -- The Top 60 Players of All-Time, among others, and placed in the Pro Football Writers of America awards three times. Silverman holds a Master of Science in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism.