‘Follow my nine tips and I promise you’ll become a better pitcher’
Alter the backswing 1 for tricky distances
I like to use my body turn to hit my set distances. I have five different lengths of backswing: hands to hips, hands to abs, hands to chest, hands to shoulder and full. I know exactly how far the ball will carry with all my wedges with each swing. The more you practise by swinging to those positions the better feel you’ll get for distance control – and it will help your full swing too. Exact yardages give a base to refer to under pressure. Three backswing lengths – hips, chest and full – should be enough for most amateurs.
Narrow the stance to 2 get more feel
I have a slightly narrower stance than my full swing because you’re looking for more feel and a less robotic action. Obviously, you’ve still got your positions, but you’re feeling the flight you want to hit. Flaring your front foot open a little can help some people turn through better, but ensure your heels are square to the target.
Play about with the 3 ball position
You can change your flight by simply moving the ball position. If you want a low one, move the ball towards the back of your stance and if you want a high one move it towards the front. So I don’t really think about attack angle while I’m swinging – ball position takes care of that. Moving it back for the lower shot will make it steeper and it will be shallower if it’s further forward in the stance. Luke Donald and David Lipsky play the ball quite far forward and have a very shallow attack and tend to spin it a lot. I have it a little further back, but it’s very personal so find what works for you as long as it isn’t too extreme.
Minimise wrist hinge 4 for more consistency
I try not to use as much wrists because it can make the way you deliver the clubhead – and therefore your flight and spin – quite inconsistent. It’s easier to get the strike and spin the same every time with a more ‘straight arm’ action. You power the swing by simply turning the shoulders away from the target and then back through. It feels weird at first but it’s very effective once you get used to it.
Hit it like a draw for 5 maximum spin
The more time the ball is on the clubface, the more backspin you can generate. A lot of people try to cut across the ball to get backspin but it’s actually easier to do with a draw because it’s on the face slightly longer. If you can almost feel like you’re hitting a draw – attacking the ball from the inside – with an open face (but closed to the swing path) then you can really get it spinning.
Flight the ball lower 6 for more control
You see a lot of pros hit lower, more ‘flighted’ pitches these days because it’s easier to see the trajectory in your mind’s eye – you can see it release like an oldfashioned pitch and run. But if it’s
in the air you’ve got less control. You can do more with the low one too – make it stop after a couple of bounces or release it more. It’s easier to control the ball accurately that way if you have enough green to work with.
Find the bounce and 7 grind for you
I’ve had a special set of grinds since I turned pro, with the clubhead rounded off at the back so it glides through turf easily. Bounce and grinds are very individual and you can use them to enhance how you attack the ball and even counteract some flaws in your technique. There is lots of variety out there so it’s well worth trying all the options to see what works for you.
Use the green’s 8 contours
You don’t always have to take dead aim at the flag when you’re pitching. It depends on the course and greens. For example, on the 13th at Augusta you play past the flag if it’s on the front because it takes the water out of play and you know the slope behind the hole will bring the ball back. If there’s no danger you can go straight at it, but you still have to be clever to negate the risks and use slopes to your advantage.
Hit the bump and 9 run if you can
You don’t always have to take the aerial route. It can be easier to hit a bump and run if there isn’t anything that you need to carry the ball over, especially when the greens are firm and fast like links or in mid-summer. Sometimes a 9-iron, or even less loft, with a square face and a shorter swing that gets the ball chasing up is the most simple way to get it close.