Ask any of your friends what they’d use from 150 yards under standard conditions and see what they answer. My guess is that they’ll quickly come up with a club and a swing. If you pose the same question, however, for a shot inside 40 yards, I’ll bet they won’t provide a clear answer. They might say “wedge,” but they won’t say which one, or if it’s full, hard, easy, or three-quarter, or what kind of swing they’ll make. Since most amateurs don’t know exactly what club and swing to use from short range, they try to “feel” distance, only to chunk the shot or send the ball screaming across the green.
This is a problem: Because they have poor feel from short range and a lack of specialty clubs to hit the ball close to the hole from inside 40 yards, amateurs struggle and maintain handicaps that are much higher than they should be. The solution is a little practice, and as I mentioned in the last issue, the best place to do it is in your own backyard.
YOUR BACKYARD PITCHING STATION
Place a laundry basket in your yard and walk about 15 steps away from it. Drop a dozen balls on the grass and make what you feel is the shortest backswing you can possibly make, and then accelerate your wedge into a longer follow-through. (If you don’t want to take divots from your lawn, get a synthetic grass mat—they’re easy to find online.) That’s it—a short backswing and a longer follow-through toward the laundry basket. As you do this, note where the ball lands relative to the basket on your good swings. Then, move closer or farther from the basket and use the same short-to-long pitch swing until your shots consistently fly the right distance to the basket. Once this happens, walk off the distance to the basket to see how many steps this swing flies your shots.
With just a little effort (and without having to leave your home) you can develop a swing that pitches the ball a specific distance, as well as a baseline reference for both longer and shorter shots. This alone will make a huge difference in your scoring. Repeat the drill with different clubs and you’ll be able to build a mini-arsenal of pitch shots after just a few focused practice sessions. As Ben Hogan said, “The secret is in the dirt,” or in this case, the synthetic mat in your own backyard.