Golf Pitching Distances

Knowing how to control your pitching distances can take strokes off your game. Unlike a full swing, it is not just a matter of choosing the right club. With pitching, you need to get a feel for controlling the distance by changing the length of your swing.

To start with, choose your favourite pitching club, it might be a sand wedge or a lob wedge. Stand in a mirror with your favourite club and take a slow motion pitching stroke stopping when the club shaft is horizontal to the ground. That is a half swing. Now keep moving upwards till the club is mid way between the half swing and a full swing, that is a three quarters swing. Now take the club back down again until it is mid way between the half swing position and the ground, this is the quarter swing. Roughly, if you hit the ball ten yards with a quarter swing, you will hit it twenty yards with a half swing and thirty yards with a three quarters swing.

It is best to refine this estimate by doing some practical work. Find a place you can hit pitching shots (without breaking any windows). Take thirty balls, and hit ten with a quarter swing, ten with a half swing and the rest with a three quarter swings. When you are finished, the balls should be roughly in three groups. Pace out the distance to the middle of each group, this will give you the median distance for the quarter, half and three quarters swing.

The actual distance that a pitch shot goes depends on a number of other factors, especially the run once the ball lands. The run depends on the height of the arc that the ball makes and the hardness/slope of the green. Ideally you do a similar measurement using thirty balls but landing on different types of real greens. However, this may not be so popular with your local greenskeeper. So if you cannot do this, start to take note of how far the ball runs on different greens when you use different length pitches.

You can also use one of Dave Peltz's tips, and do the same thirty ball exercise with different club types. For instance, you could do this with a lob wedge, sand wedge, and pitching wedge. Each of the clubs has a different loft and so will land on the green from a different height and so have a different amount of run. That way you can chose the right club and the correct swing length to end up close to the pin on any hole.

We advise against using a pitching stroke with less than a quarter swing. The reason is that the stroke is not generating sufficient speed to ensure reliability. Instead use a chipping stroke or use a putter, it is much safer. Alternatively, you can hit a flop shot, but definetely practice that before trying it in competition.