30 Yard Golf Pitch Shots

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Published: February 16, 2014

How to Hit the 30 Yard Golf Chip/Pitching Shot

The 30 yard pitch shot is a very tough one for golfers at all levels. So what is the secret to playing this shot? Well, the first one is to never put yourself in a position where you are faced with this shot!

In the 2005 British Open, Tom Watson asked Jack Nicklaus why he didn't try and drive a particular hole after Watson put his tee shot on the green. Nicklaus replied, "Because the 30 yard pitch shot isn't my best." If the best golfer in the history of the game didn't want to face this delicate shot, don't feel bad if you don't feel comfortable playing it either!

30 Yard Chip Shot Club Options

There are many ways to play this shot, from using a putter to a lob wedge, but I always like to keep things simple and play the shot that gives me the greatest margin of error. Playing this shot also requires a plan and a goal. The first goal is that no matter what, our next shot will be with the putter.

So many shots are given up by high handicap golfers from these simple little pitch shots because they try and pull off a low percentage shot. The "in thing" to do these days is to reach straight for the 60 degree lob wedge and fly it all the way to the hole with a lot of spin. It's pretty to watch but is the lowest percentage shot apart from a full on flop shot to play in this situation for most golfers.

As I mentioned, our first goal is to get this ball on the green so that the next shot is taken with our most accurate club in the bag, the putter. Part of our plan is to figure out what club in our bag gives us the greatest margin of error to get this shot close to the hole while still meeting goal number one of making absolutely certain that the ball will end up on the green.

If the green is open up front, meaning there are no hazards such as water or sand, learning how to play a low running basic chip shot with a less lofted club gives us the most room to make a mistake.

In this video, I demonstrate four different shots. The first I play is with the hybrid. I use it first because it's the most fail safe and versatile shot for the average golfer to learn.

The second is with a three wood for longer chip shots. The third is with a 7 iron when you need to carry the ball about 10 yards and finally, I use the lob wedge to carry it most of the way there with a lot of spin for a fun golf pitching shot.


Checkpoints for Practice

  • Chuck demonstrates several approaches to avoid chunking a 30 yard pitch shot
  • Use a hybrid with a fairly square stance, ball off the left instep, weight slightly forward, and a normal grip to carry most of the way then roll like a putt
  • The 3 wood with the same stance, setup & stroke will carry a bit less and roll more
  • With a 7 iron, the ball is a bit back, off the right big toe, to come down more sharply & fly all the way to the green
  • With the 56 or 60 wedge you want to use the bounce to avoid digging into the ground
  • Get the bounce to release down, allow the hands to release a bit, have the ball & divot up in your stance
  • The wedge is a riskier shot, more suited for playing out of the rough for the first cut

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Video Transcription: 30 Yard Pitch Shots

Jack Nicklaus once said that the 30-yard golf pitching shot is the hardest shot in all of golf. A lot of golfers just don't have a clue what's the best way to hit it, what's the safest way to hit it from different lies, and those types of things. That's what we're going to talk about today.

I'm going to show you several different ways to play it. We're going to start out with this tight lie here. This is mown, tight bentgrass, so it's a very, very tight lie. It's very wet, it's on a little bit of an upslope, and slightly into the grain. 

Tight lieTight lie - wet, mown bentgrass, upslope & into the grain

Those things spell "chunk" for most amateur golfers. It's a very, very scary shot because they're very afraid that they're going to stick the blade of the club into the grass. I'm going to show you what's honestly one of the safest plays, once you learn how to hit it.

It's actually with a hybrid or a 3 wood. There are a couple different options. I'm going to show you the hybrid first because I've got about five, six yards to carry here, where there are some rough spots in there that I don't really want to try and roll the ball over.

Using my hybrid, which has about 17 degrees of loft, I can get it to carry almost onto the green. I don't want it to carry that far because I want it to roll like a putt, but basically this is going to allow me to read the green, play the slope of the green, and have a very failsafe shot so I'm never going to chunk this thing. For golf pitching, this is ideal.

Fairly square stanceFairly square stance, ball off left instep

The only thing that could really happen in this 30 yard pitch shot is I hit it too far. That's what happens for most people, so that's just a matter of learning to develop the feel. The good thing is, because it's pretty similar to a putt, it's pretty easy to get the feel of this guy.

The first thing - obviously you're going to want to practice this shot on your practice green as much as you can - but as you're coming out you need to start to find out where your stroke bottoms out. This will be predicated primarily on how much weight you have forward. You don't want a tremendous amount of weight forward. You maybe want to be 60/40.

You don't want to hit down on the ball too sharply because that's going to drive the ball into the ground, have it pop up, and then it's not going to behave correctly. It's going to have a chance of bouncing and skidding offline. We want to come through fairly shallow, which is why we don't want to be way out on our left side.

The second thing is ball position. Again, we don't want to hit way down on it, so we don't want the ball way back like this. This is going to cause the ball to drive straight into the ground, pop up, and bounce offline.

Behind the pinThe ball carried 5 yards, ending up behind the pin

We're going to come through pretty shallow, so I'm playing this kind of off my left instep here, and with a fairly square stance. My right foot is pretty square to the line and my left foot is slightly open. This just allows me to get a little bit of rotation in there. I don't need a lot of rotation in a typical golf pitching stroke, but this allows me to freely rotate and release the club down the line here.

The second thing is grip. For a lot of golfers, they like to use their putting grip, and that's perfectly OK on a 30 yard pitch shot. That's going to take the wrists out of it a lot more. For a shot of this length - 30 yards is a pretty good ways, this is going uphill most of the way - I'm going to take my normal grip. That's going to allow me to release my wrists just a little bit to get a little bit of extra pop on the ball to get it to carry the whole distance or roll out the whole distance.

Let's start out with this guy and hit a couple of little shots here.

The ball is off my instep a little bit. I'm going to make a little stroke. It should take the break and start to come down the hill. Not bad. You'll see that that ball carried probably about five yards and ended up just behind the pin.

Now I can do the same thing with my 3 wood. My 3 wood has 13 degrees of loft. It's going to come out and start rolling a lot quicker. I don't need to make nearly as big a stroke here. This is really good for really long shots, or if you don't need to carry it over some of the fringe that might be a little rough in spots.

Practice strokesPractice strokes with the 7 iron

With my 3 wood, this is going to start to roll quite a bit earlier. Same chipping setup, same stance, same chipping stroke.

That one, you could see, skidded along the ground the whole way. It ended up in almost exactly the same spot, but flew much lower. The hybrid popped it up in the air just a little bit, carried a lot of the rough spots, and then rolled out.

Those are two great options because they're fairly failsafe for the scary 30 yard pitch shot. You don't have to worry about chunking it. You don't have to worry about laying the sod over it, you don't have to really worry about blading it. Because of the thick sole on the club, it allows it to glide through the grass if you don't make a perfect chipping stroke. It's a great shot and makes golf pitching very easy.

Now I'm going to look at hitting it with a 7 iron. This is a fairly commonly taught shot. It's just a little bump and run shot.

The basic key for this shot, you're going to play it back in your stance just a little bit more than you did with the hybrid because you are going to come down a little bit more sharply. You don't have the benefit of the big, wide sole to bounce along the turf here, but we don't want to have it way back in our stance like this either.

It's going to be kind of off my right big toe. I'm going to have a little bit of forward shaft lean, not much. Then this is going to be a pretty simple little stroke.

Shot flies to greenThe shot flies to the green

Again, I'm wanting to practice, in my practice strokes, brushing the turf. I don't want to sit here and start driving down into the ground and start taking divots. You want to try and use the bounce as best you can, but you do need to hit down on it slightly more.

Now we're going to hit this shot. This will fly all the way onto the green and then roll out. That one flew all the way onto the green, a couple of yards onto the green and...missed by an inch.

That's one shot. Then the last one, it was between the 56 and the 60 degree wedge. This is more of a preference play; you can do either one.

My 60 degree is ground down. I don't really have any bounce. If you're not real comfortable with that, use the club with a little bit more bounce, but because this is a really tight lie, this lack of bounce allows me to catch the ball really clean and not really worry about laying the sod over.

Use the bounceUse the bounce

The difference is, for most people when they take out their 60 they play the ball way back in the stance and they just chop down on it, have their weight way forward, and that's a great way to chunk shots.

I don't want to chunk this of course, so I'm going to actually teach you how to use the bounce of the club. Of course, the bounce is behind the leading edge. This is the leading edge, this is the trailing edge. The angle, how much lower this part is than this, is what's called the bounce angle.

You want to use the bounce because if you do that the club can never dig in the ground, so I could never really chunk this. Now, of course if I get a little crazy with it I could start to blade it, and that's why I don't have a lot of bounce on my club. That allows me to skim through the turf.

Divot forward in the stanceGet the divot forward in your stance

Now what I'm going to do is start practicing making little shots and releasing the club. When I'm doing this, you'll notice that I'm practicing my divot quite a bit forward in my stance. Because again, if I have it here I'm going to start to use that leading edge and dig.

As I'm taking my little strokes, trying to get the bounce to release down, you'll see my hands releasing just a bit. That's what's going to allow me to release the club down.

With this shot, I'd probably not do this on this type of lie because it's very wet and it's very tight, two things that aren't going to be in your favor for this shot. But if I had to carry it most of the way there for this 30 yard shot, this is going to be the shot that I'm probably going to resort to.

Now I'm going to take this, the ball is up in my stance, kind of where I had my hybrid shot, off my left instep, left big toe. Now we're going to fly this most of the way there.

That's what can happen if you don't catch it clean. I took a little bit of a divot, and again why I probably wouldn't hit this shot. Even trying to use the bounce I didn't hit it hard enough, so now I'm going to have to hit this a little bit harder and fly it most of the way there.

Hit with bounceUsing the bounce

That's a big risky shot. I know it scares a lot of golfers. It's one that you would really more want to play out of the rough for the first cut. You don't necessarily want to hit it off tight lies unless the ground is really firm and you don't have a lot of other things working against you.

You can see out of the other shots, the hybrids and 7 irons and 3 woods, they all ended up really close to the hole without a lot of work. This requires that you hit the shot perfectly and unless you have perfect turf conditions I wouldn't suggest it.

Go back to the hybrid, the 3 wood, and then maybe the 7 iron if you've got more that you've got to carry. Of course, you can hit 8-9 wedge, but only go to the 60 in these circumstances when you absolutely have to. When you have to carry it most of the way there, when you have to fly it over something, because it's the most high-risk shot for most golfers.

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