Perfect Pitch Shot Setup

Cutting strokes with your pitching is all about consistency. In this video, I’ll show you how to set up for a perfect pitch shot. Nail this setup, and you’ll find it easier to dial in your distance control. Check out this video now to hit consistent pitch shots!

  • Feet 2 1/2 Club Head Widths Apart
  • Ball Under Logo of Shirt
  • Stance Square to Target
  • Small Amount of Axis Tilt


The pitch shot is really one of the easiest shots in golf, but if you're not setup correctly this shot can leave you trembling in fear anytime you get on a tight lie or anywhere around the green where a lot of finesse and delicate touch is required.

                I'm going to show you how to make this shot super, super simple today so you never have to struggle with it again. Today we're just going to talk about the setup in this video because the setup is going to predetermine so many things that are so critical in a short game.

                When it comes to hitting a proper pitch shot there's a couple things that you really want to think about. One is your angle of attack. Your angle of attack is one of the primary determining factors of the quality of shot and the result that you're going to get out of it. Most golfers set themselves up in such a way that their angle of attack with the club is going to be very steep and very sharp. When you do that that's going to require that you catch that ball just perfectly and it's going to be very hard that you don't get a lot of grass or dirt in between the club face and the ball, which brings us to our second point, and that is spin control.

                Certain pitch shots you want a lot of spin. Certain pitch shots you don't want much spin. Spin is primarily determined by the angle of attack, the club face angle, and the speed of which you hit the ball. Of course, you can throw some contamination factors in there, like when you come in too steep and you get a lot of grass between you and the ball. That's going to take away spin.

                By contrary, if you come in too shallow and actually hit up on the ball you're going to blade it and that's going to put no spin on the ball and you're going to blade it across the green. How do we get all of these complicated factors to work together for us really, really simply? One is setting up to the ball completely different than what you've probably been taught in the past. That is with the ball more up in your stance.

                When people are taught to pitch like this with the shaft leaning well forward the problem with this is what are you doing to your angle of attack and the loft on the club? This 56 degree wedge has now become pitching wedge of that, that's got maybe 45-48 degrees of loft on it. I want all of that loft on there because I need that for spin. If I could have more loft on the club I can swing faster, which will create more friction between the club face and the ball, which will create more spin, and it'll keep me from sticking the club in the ground when the shaft is vertical because the bounce of the wedge is what's going to strike the ground first. The bounce is going to allow the club to glide through the grass rather than this leading edge acting like a knife and digging into it.

                First things first, we've got to get our ball positioned right. This is huge. As I move the ball more up off my left instep rather than back here behind my right ankle, you can see a huge change in the angle of the shaft. This is now going to allow the club to bottom out like a grandfather clock, nice and shallow, and more importantly, in the exact same spot every time. If I have the ball way back in my stance, it's going to be really easy for me to do that stuff, lay the sod over it. That's really embarrassing. We don't want to do that stuff anymore. Setup ball position off the left instep.

                Stance-wise, do you want to setup square, open, what have you? You really want to setup pretty square. Again, where this open stance stuff came from was having the ball way back in your stance. You don't need to do that when you're setup to the ball correctly. With the shaft more upright you're going to setup more square, makes this a lot easier to figure out where you're swinging the club and where you're aiming, and to keep a more consistent path into the ball.

                The last thing when it comes to setup is how far away do you setup to the ball? From this view here a lot of times people want to get really far away, and that gets the club face with the loft opening up and aiming to the left. You actually want to setup a little bit closer to the ball than you normally would and do the opposite so that the toe of the club is slightly lower than the heal. I'm not talking about like this, but just slightly because that allows this toe of the club to slide through the grass and not catch and dig. This is another protection factor. When you're setup like this it's really easy for the heal of the club to dig in. If it's just slightly on it's toe and you're stood to the ball just slightly closer than you normally would, then no matter what it's really easy for the club face to glide through the turf and not worry about laying the sod over.

                To recap, ball up in your stance, shaft vertical, feet square, slightly closer to the ball to get the club slightly more up on the toe, the heal up in the air, and really simple, nice little chip shots, pitch shots will be the result. 

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Tom
Hi Craig, Just watched this after my latest review of pitching in which you spoke about my getting jammed up and needing more room to be able to swing freely. Yet Chuck talks about standing slightly closer to the ball - wouldn't this make it harder for me to have the room to clear?
June 30, 2020
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Tom. The issue isn't the fact of closer to the ball for you. More sitting so far back on the heels.
June 30, 2020
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Matthew
Hi Craig, I notice when I’m pitching now, using the same form as in the videos we reviewed, I am hitting fat, well behind the ball. Even when I was practicing at home in the videos, I could tell I was hitting behind the ball there too. I think that’s why I would get my weight so outside of NJA, bc it kept me from doing this. Any thoughts on why this is happening?
January 27, 2020
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Matthew. Sliding beyond neutral will typically lead to thin which is what saved you from fat. My suggestion is you have to keep the lead going. Sounds like trail take over. If you remember from the Master the Golf Chipping Stroke Video it will be hard to hit fat with lead in control.
January 27, 2020
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Matthew
Hi Craig, Few questions, are we still looking to be slightly outside of NJA as mentioned in the chipping setup? Also, if I leave my arms/hands soft, I generate way to much wrist hinge in the backswing for a pitch, and way to much lag coming down ( as you saw in video ). Only way I know to rectify this is to keep my Hands/wrists/arms with some tension to control it. Is that ideal or is there a better way to do it? Also, do we want to release the club like a full shot or hold the angle that we have at address? Lastly, should we setup with hands slightly forward or keep club vertical? Thanks!
January 16, 2020
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Matthew. You will not be outside NJA. You need to have enough tension to take control of the club, but not steer it. For a chip, you don't need a lot of wrist set/hinge. Dead hands, but the swing shouldn't be so big to have lots of wrist. If you struggle with laying over the sod you should allow for some release. For the simple bump and run you can keep the lead hand ahead of the club. Slight forward lean is fine, but players much over do this.
January 16, 2020
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Matthew
Hi Craig, is your response in relation to a chip or a pitch? Just for clarification, my questions were for pitch only. I was just referencing the chip bc on the chip video and notes for a chip, it was slightly outside NJA for setup, but it did not say this for a pitch. Just wanted to make sure we were on the same page. Thanks!
January 16, 2020
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Matthew. I was getting confused by your note which one referring too. Pitch: 2 - 2 1/2 club head widths apart. You shouldn't be outside NJA because you would have to move too much weight and have more axis tilt than requires.
January 16, 2020
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Matthew
Sorry for the confusion. Are you able to answer these questions for a pitch? Also, if I leave my arms/hands soft, I generate way to much wrist hinge in the backswing for a pitch, and way to much lag coming down ( as you saw in video ). Only way I know to rectify this is to keep my Hands/wrists/arms with some tension to control it. Is that ideal or is there a better way to do it? Also, do we want to release the club like a full shot or hold the angle that we have at address? Lastly, should we setup with hands slightly forward or keep club vertical?
January 16, 2020
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Matthew. Pitch: You don't want unnecessary tension in the golf, nor do you want to be a limp noodle. As the swing gets longer you will tend to add more wrist. Stay in enough control that the swing doesn't get too long, and you don't have excessive hinge. Just a little of the weight of the club set it for you. For a pitch you don't need a lot of forward shaft lean. Vertical is fine.
January 16, 2020
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Matthew
Awesome, thanks so much for the quick answers. Also, do we want a free release with the club head or continue to hold it off and kind of release it more with the body turn through the ball?
January 16, 2020
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Matthew. You still want the face rotating through and not stagnant. It will feel a little more body-ish, but you aren't trying to hold the face. It needs to have rotation to keep it shallow and slide under the ball. Doesn't need to be as aggressive as driver strike over a mountain. .
January 16, 2020
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Terry
Craig, Using this approach with a PW, 1- what distance would this work best with and 2- similar to chipping, would you recommend no wrist cock or break in the right arm going back? 3- should we release the hands after impact or hold the face off?
May 18, 2019
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Terry. Depends on your normal PW length. You can use this shot for a low flighted 50 yard PW, or even up to 110 yards. You don't want to lock the arms. But, you want to shy away from a lot of wrist set and hands. You are using more of your body rotation for force versus leverage from the wrist. The trail arm will have to have a little flexion for it to be a longer version of the shot. More of a body release versus arms and hands. Quiet hands with very minimal release. Opposite of a stock golf shot.
May 18, 2019
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Thaddieus
The practice green at my course in Miami has incredibly tightly mown Bermuda around the greens. I have no real problem pitching with my 60 degree and not taking any type of divot (just brushing the grass) when the ground is dry, I'm on a relatively flat lie, and/or the grain is running with me. My problems start when the ground is wet, which is often, and I have either a slightly uphill lie or the grain is running against me (or sometimes all three). If I'm not careful I will hit those pitches fat every single time. The only thing I've found that works is to consciously try to release the club with the left had sooner than I would under normal lie conditions. Any other suggestions for those lie conditions?
February 26, 2019
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Thaddieus. You may need to use the bounce a little more to help you out with the murky conditions. Try not to open the face too much. However, you are correct. If you allow for a better release it will keep the path shallow to slide under the ball better. Take a look at Master the Golf Chipping Stroke Video. Understand the error you may be adding to steepen the AOA into the strike. Now, depending on how far you are trying to hit the wedge (full). You may need to make some adjustments as mentioned in the Uphill Lies Video.
February 26, 2019
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James
We have a long par 5 hole on our course with a ditch 130 yards from an uphill, very elevated green, Now during the winter the ditch is out of range with a driver. If you get a really long drive close to the ditch it is possible to reach the green with an elevated wood but the green has a severe down slope from left to right and it slopes up from front to back with problems missing the green right. So the percentage shot is to lay up leaving a pitch shot into the green. Invariably the flag is near the bottom right and nearer to the front of the green. There is a steep bank in front of the green ruling out a bump and run. I have looked on the site on how to play a pitch shot from around 60 to 75 yards on an uphill lie but can't find anything. How would you play this shot and what club to go with? I would normally play a standard wedge around 100 yards, I do have a 53 degree gap wedge that I can strike well 60 yards but really need to get it just right so not to leave it short in the bank. The safe shot for me is a knock down shot going down the shaft of an 9 iron and play a three quarter shot. I would be interested in your views. It is a no go to go left leaving a nightmare severe downhill putt. Also go too long and you are left with a a sweeping downhill putt right to left swing. I attach two pictures, one showing the approach to the green and the green looking back to the tee so you can see the elevation.
January 28, 2019
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James
This shows the green
January 28, 2019
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello James. A few thoughts on the subject. Is there any other option with the layup? To me it seems you are leaving yourself a most daunting shot. I would actually lay a bit further back to have a more full striking shot into the green. The percentage hitting the green with a stock full wedge seems easier than the awkward yardage uphill shot. Getting closer not always better. Also, I would typically go with a 60 from that yardage and play it like a penetrating wedge. The 60 is still going to get plenty of height with good spin control (Penetrating Wedge Shot Video). Chuck discusses the same 60 yard approach. Finally, take a look at the Uphill Lies Video. Playing a little less swing, but with a club with enough loft to get some height. A typical pitch isn't going to be 50-60 yards. That is a little maxed out.
January 31, 2019
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James
To clarify things a bit more Craig. First of all, I looked at Chris’s video that I have looked at before and my major problem on an uphill slope is getting that weight transfer over to my lead side due to the problem I have with the left leg, in fact it is almost impossible for me to do it, especially coming towards the end of the round on the 16th. The pin placement in the winter tends to be about halfway between the two guys in the white and about ten yards from the right at the bottom. The slope from the bottom of the picture down to the where the guy in the red is has such a severe slope and swings from the left. It is easier to pace it in winter conditions but summer when it is running, you would not want to finish on the apron at the top, as the likelihood is you will run off the green at the bottom. Behind that guy in red there is a swale about 10 feet deep below the green. However, if you are going to err in your approach shot you would be better off in that swale than at the top! Looking at the approach a good idea was to aim left and run it up the slope but they have since put in a revetted bunker as shown in the new picture. What also makes it difficult to stop the ball is that the prevailing south-westly wind is with you! If you can hit the green near the front you have a chance to finish in the middle but still have that tricky side slope putt downhill, unless you finish near the right-hand edge from the approach. If you can get your second shot up to that bank where the pitch marks are then you have a good chance to pitch it near the hole or at least in a good position make a long putt or get a five. When the pro’s or top amateurs play it, they are normally playing their second shot about ten yards short of that ditch with 8 or 9 irons coming in really high after having played a 3 wood off the back tee.
January 31, 2019
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello James. Your descriptions are very good, but without visual testing it out in-person. It is tough for me to gauge. Opinion to help with situation. Figure out a shot/distance you can comfortably control height and trajectory with consistency. Same as Zach Johnson laying up on all Par 5's at Augusta to a yardage he knew he could consistently land in a 5-10 foot circle. From there you can use the slopes as necessary. I agree about playing to the pitch where most pro's hit too. But, also tough for me to provide if that's the best case since they get much more practice at those finesse type shots.
January 31, 2019
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James
Hi Craig playing in very wet and windy conditions yesterday, I had a really great back nine to come in second on 36 points, the best I have had all winter. Now that hole 16 – the wind was coming in from right to left and slightly behind, so I aimed my drive off to the right side of the fairway assuming the wind would push back towards the centre but the ball did not deviate an inch. Furthermore, I’d struck the drive so firm it ran out into the light rough. The ball was sitting down a bit and I had 218 yards to the elevated green and under the conditions no chance of reaching the elevated green. So, I went with my little 9 wood and allowing for the draw I get with that club and wind from the right went for a plateau on the left 60 yards short of the green leaving me with a good angle to a pin placement at the back of the green and landed in it. It was not lying that good, being on the slight bump in the semi but on the downside. I was mulling over the gap or wedge (pin 100 yards) but went with the ¾ wedge. I used Chuck’s wedge technique and caught the ball plumb with the divot coming after the ball and it came off fizzing landing on the middle of the green and finished on the back edge, 10 yards above the pin. Left with a downhill putt from right to left but in my favour the wind was against and paced a smooth putt into the hole for a birdie 4! I was elated as the extra two points I gained there put me into second place in the winter league, 2 points behind the leader with three rounds to go. Please thank Chuck for his wedge advice and yourself for all your teaching and encouragement.
February 6, 2019
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello James. Good birdie! Thanks for the update. Getting the solid strike and controlling the spin is a must. The 3/4 swing allows you to be aggressive and know that you can get a little check on the ball.
February 6, 2019
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James
You have given me some food for thought Craig. Ideally the easier shot for me would be to hit that bank in front of the green; a few years ago I was able to hit the green in two if I could get my drive to within 20 to 30 yards of that ditch and then use my 9 wood that gives me a very high shot. In the winter it is beyond my physical ability. As I said the ground the other side of that ditch slopes all the way up to that bank which then becomes very steep. However, there is a level area about 15 yards the other side of the ditch that would leave a distance of around 118 to 108 yards depending where you landed. Obviously the ditch presents a risk, when I say ditch, it is a trench lined with railway sleepers 10 feet wide and 7 feet deep! So I would be looking to land the second shot just beyond the ditch so it is not a percentage shot. If I took it on I'd want to be within about 115 yards of the ditch to be able to play my 9 or 8 iron, both clubs I feel comfortable with. Depending on conditions, having landed in that band of level ground, would leave me with the option to play my 8 or 7 iron to the elevated green. The elevation adds around a club or club and half to the shot from that area for me, but it would be a full shot.
January 31, 2019
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Christopher
Question Do you recommend setting up with most of your weight on the lead side?
May 7, 2018
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Christopher. Not a lot and about max 70-30 lead to trail.
May 7, 2018
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A J
Hi, When looking at the set up for the pitch shot, is the narrow stance etc, used for pitch shots up to 70/80 yards, or is it just off the green. Regards Tmc
April 4, 2018
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Tony. More for shots just off the green.
April 4, 2018
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A J
Thanks Craig. Regards Tmc
April 4, 2018
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Dennis
Two questions.... Is there any benefit to opening the stance? Chuck had his feet quite close together... Second, what muscle group(s) to want to feel engaged in your swing?
February 10, 2018
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Dennis. Not really any advantage to open stance. About 2 1/2 club widths apart. You will be feeling the glutes and core. Very similar to the real swing.
February 10, 2018
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Dennis
One follow up. At what distance do you recommend starting to close your stance?
February 11, 2018
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Dennis. Narrow, or close? You will narrow depending on a few factors. Distance, club selection, preferred flight, etc.
February 11, 2018
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Dennis
I had meant narrowing my stance. But since you also mentioned close, I’m assuming you mean distance I’d setup away from the ball. Are there any good rule of thumbs for both these with say a 56 and 12 deg bounce versus a 60 with 8 deg of bounce? Thanks Craig.
February 11, 2018
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Dennis. I thought you were referring to a closed stance. No worries. When dealing with bounce think about the conditions. Hard turf, soft, wet, etc. Do you want the leading edge to dig, or not. More bounce will help you in softer conditions to keep from hitting it fat. If you tend to have a shallow angle of attack and pick the ball use less bounce.
February 12, 2018
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Greg
Hi Craig/Chris, Today in stableford scored 11 on the front and 19 on the back. The majority of the issue was poor chipping from non-level lies (all versions of them). This is my 95% shot when inside 60 yards and level. What is happening I am just catching the ground before the ball and the shot becomes almost a 5% shot..... Any suggestions on video to watch? Thanks, Greg
January 31, 2018
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Greg. Sounds like you are scooping versus hitting a nice pitch. Take a look at the Penetrating Wedge Shot. You can play a small version of that shot which should make it a little more consistent for you. If it is strictly greenside or right around the green. Use the Master the Golf Chipping Video to make sure you are lead arm controlled.
January 31, 2018
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Donald
Hi. As with the full shot are you controlling the club with the lead hand, keeping the dominant hand soft and allowing the club to release through the hitting area.? Cheers
November 2, 2017
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Chris (Certified RST Instructor)
Hi Donald, Yes that is 100% correct.
November 3, 2017
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Rudy
Question: Is the set up the same when in heavy grass with ball setting down in grass when contact with the ball is difficult.
August 8, 2017
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Chris (Certified RST Instructor)
Hi Rudy, my sincerest apologies that we missed this question. Not sure why it didn't notify us instructors when you posted it. Yes, the setup will remain the same. You may need to steepen the plane just a little bit to be able to compensate for the heavy lie. You can do that by feeling the club move a little more vertically in the takeaway. Just try not to overdo it. Hope that helps.
November 3, 2017
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Chris
Should I rotate my shoulders in the backswing with the pitch shot or try to take the club straight back? thx.
March 15, 2017
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Christopher. You will still want to initiate and use some shoulder rotation.
March 15, 2017
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Richard
Clay's chipping and pitching seems to place weight 70% on lead leg and rotation around lead leg. Chuck's does not seem to do that. What to do? Also is stroke lead side dominate or does trailing hand dominate touch and feel?
June 6, 2015
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Richard. Chuck's is still placed with a little weight on the lead side. However, not mentioned as much. For this pitch shot you want to be lead side dominate. The video you are referring to with Chuck is more for just around the green and to really put a lot of spin on the ball. You will need a little trail hand to help slide under the ball to add the extra spin.
June 6, 2015
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Scott
On a 10-20 yard pitch, do you need to change your ball position if you have a moderate to bad lie in the rough
April 8, 2015
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Scott. Sometimes the setup needs to be adjusted. More often than not you just need a quicker wrist set to get steeper on the angle of attack into the ball.
April 8, 2015
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Travis
Your arms almost form a triangle and are very spread apart. In a full swing I was taught to keep my arms as close as I can. Should you not keep your arms closedo for a pitch shot?
July 24, 2014
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
They will be a little closer if you choke down on the club. However, there isn't really any need to squeeze them together because you will be activating different muscles than needed and getting the arms askew from NJA.
July 24, 2014
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wan
hi craig you mention 70% of your wt on the left side .How do you do it ? do you bend your left knee slightly as if squatting in the downswing or move your lt hip move laterally towards left thanks
June 7, 2014
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
You will laterally shift the weight to the left, barely outside of neutral joint alignment. The knee pressure will increase slightly, but you don't want to overly bend the left knee anymore. The feeling is just like the normal weight transfer to the left, just not a 3 inch shift.
June 8, 2014
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Mark
In terms of a rough ballpark figure, what is the maximum distance from the green that this pitching stroke may be comfortably used for a player who hits a full swing sand wedge about 115 yards? Is the conventional wisdom to virtually always hit the green on the fly. In general, at what point close to the green should you comfortably shift to the chip shot that does not involve as much wrist cock (assume no traps are in play).
June 7, 2014
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hey Mark, this is a hard thing to guesstimate. A lot depends on your movement. Play around with it and see what yardages you can do the move comfortably without forcing it. Typically the pitch shot will be within 50 yards. The chip shot assuming there are no hazards in play around 10 to 15 yards and in.
June 7, 2014
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Michael
Thanks Clay and Chris(for requesting more short game(, Great video!. I wish we had updated on how to hit the pitch shots. I know there are few older videos but Ive read the forums and there a lot of confusion between penetrating wedge shot, specialty shots around green, and pitch shots. The chipping video is very clear tho!! For this shot, you would use proper pitch video?,Break right wrist, flatten swing, use bounce to hit club?
May 16, 2014
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Chris (Certified RST Instructor)
Michael, our pleasure! We have some great stuff coming out this summer for sure. You are correct on the understanding of the technique.
May 17, 2014
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James
Hi Clay, This seems at variance to Chuck's penetrating wedges video where he encourages shirt buttons ahead of the ball?
May 16, 2014
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Chris (Certified RST Instructor)
A penetrating wedge shot is different than a pitch shot. That is why you are seeing a variance in the technique.
May 16, 2014
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Marc
I am not sure I understand the difference between a penetrating wedge shot and a pitch shot. When would you use one versus the other one? Thanks, Marc
March 23, 2016
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Chris (Certified RST Instructor)
Penetrating wedge shot would be used for much longer wedge shots. Almost full shots so to speak.
March 23, 2016
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Roger
Clay, Love these suggestions for better consistency in pitching. A couple of quick questions: Given Chuck's video on penetrating full wedge shots (with the ball back in stance etc.), can we assume that this setup is for a) short pitches around the green, b) partial wedge swings up to almost full wedge distance?
May 16, 2014
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Chris (Certified RST Instructor)
Hey Roger, yes you can use this setup for the shots you have listed.
May 16, 2014

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