At least once, and maybe up to five times a round, you’ll face a shot that requires you to pitch the ball 10 to 15 yards over a hazard and onto the green. It looks like a tricky shot, but it’s not. You don’t even need to flop it. But you can bet that most weekend players will usually end up chunking the ball into the hazard. Is it fear? Could be. But if this sounds like you, your problems are likely caused by bad technique. When forced to carry a hazard, you probably grab your usual pitching club (sand wedge, say), apply your normal grip and make a standard-length backswing. The trouble is, this sets you up for a 30- to 40-yard shot, so to compensate you decelerate into impact in a knee-jerk attempt to stop the ball from flying past the pin. That’s when you stub it.
Deceleration is a killer in wedge play. Here’s how to remove it.
1. CHOOSE LOFT
Keep your sand wedge in your bag and go with your lob wedge. The extra four to six degrees help create the loft and softness you need to pitch this one close without any extra effort.
2. SHORTEN THE CLUB
Grip your lob wedge at the bottom of the handle. Gripping down “shortens” the club and removes power from the shot.
3. SHORTEN YOUR BACKSWING
Cut it off at about hip height. Combining a short backswing with a short club encourages you to accelerate through impact rather than slam on the brakes.
Going from “normal” to “short” works. See for yourself. Hit some drives using your normal grip and swing, then a few more with your hands at the bottom of the grip. Same swing, serious yardage reduction. I don’t recommend this for driving, but it’s perfect for this lofted pitch.
If you’re facing a shot that’s even shorter, grip so far down the handle that your right index and middle fingers wrap around the steel of the clubshaft, and then make the same accelerating swing. With this hold, you’ll have to add a touch of extra knee bend and stand a little closer to the ball—otherwise, you’ll be too hunched over. Make a few practice swings to confirm that your short-club swing is bottoming out in the right place. Oh, and check that the grooves on your lob wedge are clean. A dirty clubface won’t impart enough spin to hold the shot once it hits the green.
Trust me—you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how well this technique works. So will your buddies. You’ll feel like you’re being aggressive, but your shots will come out soft and land right next to the hole.