The pitch shot is one of the most versatile and useful shots in a golfer’s arsenal. It’s a shot played from around 50 to 100 yards from the green, designed to land the ball on the putting surface and have it roll out close to the hole. But how far exactly should a properly executed pitch shot travel? Let’s take a deeper look at pitch shots, the factors that influence distance, and some tips for dialing in your pitching game.
What is a Pitch Shot?
A pitch shot is an approach shot that fills the yardage gap between a full swing and a chip shot. While a chip shot is played from right around the green fringe and flies low, a pitch shot is struck from further out and flies higher on a more aggressive trajectory. Pitching requires an open clubface like a chip shot, but a longer swing – usually around 3/4 of a full swing. This imparts added loft and spin to allow the ball to land softly on the green.
The ideal pitch shot will land on the putting surface with enough spin to prevent it from rolling out too far, ultimately coming to rest within a few feet of the hole. Pitch shots take finesse and practice to master, but are invaluable for attacking pins or holding firm, fast greens. Golfers will often use a lob wedge for pitching, but mid and short irons can also be used depending on distance.
How Far Should a Pitch Shot Travel?
On average, a well-struck pitch shot will travel between 30 to 50 yards total, counting the carry distance and roll out. However, a pitch shot’s total distance depends largely on the following factors:
- Club selection – A pitching wedge will travel shorter distances than a 9-iron due to loft differences.
- Swing length – A longer, fuller swing will generally result in more distance.
- Lie and terrain – Pitching uphill, into the wind, or from rough will shorten distance.
- Landing angle – Steeper angles cause more backspin and less roll out. Shallower angles increase roll.
- Greenside conditions – Hard, fast greens will lead to more roll out after landing. Soft greens will halt the ball more quickly.
If you’re facing a 50 yard pitch over a front bunker onto a firm green, you’ll want to factor in extra roll out and play slightly less club than normal to avoid going long. If you’re pitching from juicy rough up a steep hill, you’ll want to account for decreased distance by taking an extra club.
Mastering distance control is vital to consistency in pitching. Even tour pros miss by 5-10 yards on a pitch now and then. Focusing on a smooth tempo and dialing in your typical carry distance for each club will help improve distance control over time.
The Advantages of the Pitch Shot
What makes the pitch shot such a potent weapon in golf? Here are some key advantages that make it a go-to for many players:
- Precision – Pitching allows you to attack pins more aggressively than putting or chipping. Good distance control leads to birdie opportunities.
- Versatility – Pitches can be played both high and low. You’re able to adapt to various lies, terrain and wind conditions.
- Scoring – Shots from 50-100 yards present great chances to get up and down for par or birdie. Pitching well is key to lowering scores.
- Recovery – Missing a green can be quickly remedied with an accurate pitch shot onto the putting surface.
- Consistency – Pitching doesn’t demand the perfect ball-striking of a full swing. Solid contact is easier to repeat.
- Confidence – Pitch shots are a chance to take some pressure off the putter. This can build confidence in your short game.
The pitch shot essentially combines the accuracy of a chip with added distance control. Golfers who thrive at pitching the ball tight give themselves a serious edge in recovering from mistakes and converting birdie opportunities.
The Disadvantages of the Pitch Shot
Of course, the pitch shot isn’t without its challenges and downsides:
- Precision required – Pitching demands greater precision than a chip. Landing a ball on a green from 60+ yards out requires accuracy and finesse.
- Limited margin for error – Miss-hit pitches often result in trouble. Coming up short could find water or a bunker. Long leads to running through the green.
- Variable conditions – Factoring in downhill/uphill lies, wind, and firmness of greens can complicate distance control.
- penal shots for missing green – mishit pitches that miss the green entirely often lead to dropped shots on the hole. Missing long leads to difficult chips or putts from the fringe.
- Lower trajectory than full swing – The lofted, partial swing limits how high you can fly the ball, which can cause issues in gusty winds.
While the pitch shot offers scoring opportunities, it ultimately requires practice and mastery to reap the benefits. For high handicappers who lack consistent distance control, the pitch shot can be one of the most perilous. Put in the work on the range to improve feel and execution in pitching situations.
Keys to an Effective Pitch Shot
Want to maximize consistency and precision in your pitch shots? Keep these essential keys in mind:
- Proper ball position – Position the ball slightly forward of center in your stance to ensure crisp, clean contact.
- Narrow stance – A narrower stance will promote better balance and sequence in the pitching motion.
- Weight forward – Maintain a braced front leg with weight shifted slightly forward at address. This helps strike the ball first with a descending blow.
- Wrist hinge – Hinge your wrists fully in the backswing, then release through impact to get maximum loft on the shot.
- Accelerate through – Maintain speed all the way through impact without decelerating. This adds carry distance.
- Make a full follow through – Allow your weight to fully shift forward and finish balanced on your front side. Don’t cut off the follow through prematurely.
- Grip down – Gripping down the club 1-2 inches reduces length and encourages a smoother, swinging motion.
Take time to groove these fundamentals on the driving range. Start with half-swing pitches, then build up to longer swings as you dial in your distances. Proper technique, tempo and finish position are vital.
Solutions for Improving Pitch Shot Distance Control
Struggling with distance control on your pitch shots? Here are some useful tips to improve feel and precision:
- Practice with one club- Pick a specific pitching wedge or short iron and get really familiar with how different length swings affect distance. Groove one club before moving to others.
- Use rangefinders religiously – Knowing exact yardages is huge. Don’t guess – use a laser rangefinder to eliminate distance doubts.
- Create a distance chart – Track your carry distances for each club from 50, 75 and 100% swings on the range. Refer to the chart until distances become automatic.
- Factor in conditions – Account for wind, temperature, elevation changes, lie angles and green conditions when making distance calculations.
- Visualize the shot shape – See the specific high or low trajectory you need to control roll out. If you have trouble visualizing, record video of shots on the range to develop a mental image.
- Simulate imperfect lies – Hit pitch shots from uneven lies, uphill/downhill slopes and bare patches on the range to improve real-course adaptability.
- Lower loft for faster greens – Remove 5-10 yards of carry distance by using less loft on hard, fast greens that allow more roll-out. Don’t over-loft.
- Swing easy – Allow your natural rhythm to dictate the swing rather than attacking aggressively. Smooth, graceful swings promote consistency.
Practice with purpose and stay process-focused rather than results-focused. Pitching prowess requires learned feel that only time can instill. Stay patient and keep working at it.
Mastering pitch shots in golf requires both skill and finesse. The pitch shot fills a vital yardage gap for scoring, but demands precision from 50-100 yards out. Pitches must be struck solidly with enough loft to hold firm greens. Distance control comes down to factors like club selection, swing length, terrain, landing angle and greenside conditions. Pitching well leads to more scoring chances, but misses can be penal. Focus on sound setup, swing fundamentals, matching conditions, and disciplined practice to improve pitch shot accuracy. While not the easiest shot to master, honing your pitch shot arsenal will pay big dividends in saving par and converting birdies.