PGA Championship Tip-Pitching

It happens all too often for a hacker. A tee shot in the woods or a mishit approach and the result is a 30-80 yard pitch shot. Too short for a full swing, too long to bump and run or putt.

Jon Hoecker is the head pro at Brook-Lea Country Club. He says the worst mistake an amateur will make is to try and help the ball into the air. The less experienced player will try to scoop the shot and the result is likely just a big scoop of the ground after a chunked shot. "You want to feel like you're going to sweep the ball off the ground," Hoecker says.

The simple way to good pitch shots begins with putting about 60 percent of the weight on the front foot. This will promote hitting down on the ball. The clubface will handle getting the shot airborne.

Another key is that the follow-through should be as far forward as the backswing goes backwards. Hoecker says by watching the follow-through, he can determine instantly if a player is a good pitcher.

The length of the backswing will vary depending on how far the shot needs to travel. For this, Hoecker says you can only learn through practice. The goal is to know that a quarter swing goes 30 yards, for example. "Start with 20 yards apart-30, 50, 70- have an idea what (those distances) feel like," Hoecker says. "Because you really don't want to be thinking about your swing when you're hitting the ball. When you hear a yardage, that means I should put this amount of force into the shot." 

In the rough, it's important to read the lie. If the grass is pointed at the green, then the ball will likely come out very easily. It will react much like a shot in the fairway.

If the grass is pointed against the ball in the rough, then the task is much more difficult. "The club will get grabbed by the grass," Hoecker says. "Tends to slow it up, tends to get the ball to pop up and come up short."

For more tips and information, check out the Western New York PGA section website.

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