Practice Time Pitching
By Dee Forsberg
Worldclass players display remarkable artistry around the greens and spend an exceptional amount of time on their short game. Take time to work on your short game. An ideal practice session would have you hitting an equal amount of short and long game shots.
Next time you go to the driving range buy a medium basket of balls and go immediately to the practice green. After you have chipped and pitched the balls in the basket head for the range to work on your long game.
Practice with purpose!
Choose a target to hit to, distance to work on, and a club to work with. Your practice session should leave you with a feeling of accomplishment. Choose one to two goals to accomplish with your time. The goals should be achievable and based on the three variables; distance, direction, and trajectory. Most practice goes awry when players take on lofty goals that can’t be accomplished in one practice session.
Prep Your Practice Area
Don’t just drop your bag, throw balls down and start hitting. Take the time to think of your practice goals, choose targets, and use the hitting station to your advantage. First select an area that suits the shot that you want to rehearse. While a green is ideal for pitching, a driving range is also feasible as long as you have a target to shoot for. As children, many a good player practiced at a local park pitching into a bucket. Simply tools to help you prep your area include clubs on the ground for alignment, a towel for target practice, or pre-grouping ten balls together for instant statistics on your work.
Drills For Pitching
The Ladder Drills
This is the best drill for acquiring distance control with short and mid range pitch shots. The primary objective is hit successive shots onto the green at regularly spaced distances (like the rungs of a ladder).
Leapfrog Ladder: Land your first pitch 3 feet onto the green, the second 6 feet, the third 9 feet, the fourth 12 feet, and finish with 15 feet.
10/20/30 Towel Ladder: Place three towels at ten yard intervals and practice landing the ball onto the towels. You can hit in groups of ten to each towel or go up and down the ladder one shot at a time.
Limbo Ladder: Like the limbo, this drill should leave you closer to the hole with each pitch shot played onto the green. Start the limbo ladder with a shot that leaves you 10 or 15 feet from the hole. Each shot should get you closer to the hole. See how many shots it takes you to get within “tap-in” range.
Work The Bag
As you gain confidence with your distance control, expand your practice sessions to include different clubs. Tour players have an advantage over amateurs with their short game because they use so many different clubs to work their magic around the greens. While most pitch shots are played with a pitching wedge, include a sand wedge and 9 iron into your practice. Specialty wedges like the Gap Wedge and Lob Wedge are gaining popularity due to their influence on trajectory. There is a certain advantage to being able to control trajectory by simply switching clubs as opposed to changing your set up or swing.
In summary, pitching can become a strong part of your game with practice. The key is to have a strategy to play your ball on the green. Jack Nicklaus once said, “I never hit a shot in a tournament that I didn’t first practice on the range”.