By Butch Harmon
Photos by Dom Furore
On pitch shots the No. 1 skill is controlling distance. If you work that back, the key to distance control is making predictable contact with the ball. Hitting it fat or thin — even a little — puts your distance all over the map.
A common reason for poor contact in pitching is too much wrist hinge during the backswing (above). A big hinge leads to a steep downswing and, of-ten, hitting behind the ball. Even when steep swingers hit it solid, they take deep divots—they're always on the verge of fatting it.
I prefer less wrist hinge going back (below) so you can brush the ground through impact. Steve Stricker is the best practitioner of this style: He keeps his wrists firm going back and turns his body in sync with his arms. Then, coming through, everything turns together again. It's very solid, very repeatable.
So pitch like Strick. Use your most lofted wedge, play the ball about middle and favor your front foot. Swing back wide, with minimal hinge, then turn and swing through. You'll see quick improvement in your contact—and start sticking them close.
Like wrist hinge, reducing weight shift on pitch shots will lead to better contact. You want to favor your front foot, because that'll help you hit the ball before the ground. Try this drill: Set up to hit a pitch, then lean toward the target and angle your back foot in and up on the toes (below). Hit shots like this, and you'll learn to stay on your front side.