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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Paul Azinger on Pitching

If you saw Paul Azinger's Golf Channel Academy show on Tuesday night, you got an in-depth lesson on pitching. GC will be showing it again -- several times, I bet -- so if you get a chance to catch it, by all means do so. I'm going to mention a few important things he said that may help you improve your scoring.

Zinger is one of the few players I've heard who says there's a difference between chipping and pitching AND can define that difference simply. Chipping is when you hit the ground with the front edge of the iron, while pitching is when you hit the ground with the bounce.
  • When you chip, the front edge hits the ground and you take a divot.
  • When you pitch, the bounce hits the ground and you don't take a divot.
That's pretty simple to grasp. It automatically tells you a number of things about the differences between them:
  • For a chip, the ball is back in your stance. For a pitch, it's up in your stance.
  • A chip is a steep downward strike. A pitch is a shallow "parallel to the ground" strike.
  • That, in turn, means that the shaft leans toward the target when you hit a chip but it points straight up or even leans backward when you hit a pitch.
  • When chipping, your hands are ahead of the ball at contact. When pitching, your hands are even with or even behind the ball -- which means the club head passes your hands at contact when you're pitching.
  • A chip shot flies low. A pitch shot flies relatively high.
  • After they land, chip shots roll much further than pitch shots.
Because there's a lot of instruction about chipping, Zinger focused on pitching. He had a few keys for proper setup:
  • You want a narrow stance when you pitch. In fact, he said he'd rather see your feet touch than be too far apart.
  • You want to take an open stance. (Zinger was very open, maybe 60° open, but he said you don't need to be that open if you aren't comfortable with it.) Your swing path swings along your foot target line.
  • You want your weight either distributed evenly between your feet or slightly on your trailing foot. (Yes, he said that goes against normal teaching but this is pitching, not chipping.)
  • You want a longer backswing and a shorter followthrough. Again, this goes against normal teaching but this is pitching, not chipping. A "decel" sort of stroke helps you swing the club head past your hands at impact.
And it's important to know where the bottom of your swing is when you pitch. He suggested a simple drill to help you learn the proper swing for pitching:
Place a tee partway into the ground. When you make your swing, try to hit the top of the tee. If you make a chipping stroke, you'll pick the tee out of the ground... but if you make a pitching stroke, you'll drive the tee straight down into the ground.
What Zinger is teaching is similar to the technique in this post I did a few months back on "New School Pitching." That post has a video so you might find it helpful in understanding what Zinger's talking about. The big difference is that the technique Brady Riggs shows in the video still has some forward shaft lean while Zinger has none. Of course, the irony is that "New School Pitching" is very similar to what Zinger was doing back in the 1980s and 1990s. (Isn't it always that way when people tell you they have something new?)

Zinger says that learning to pitch properly is a key to getting your score down because it's a more forgiving way to play. It's certainly something worth learning, so watching the GC show should be well worth your time. If I'm reading the GC TV listings correctly, it looks like it will run again today at 1pm ET and on Monday, February 3, at 1pm ET. Set your DVR!


  1. Does this work on short shots out of woolly Florida Bermuda rough around the greens? I find distance control out of this stuff a nightmare.

  2. According to Zinger, it often will. He said sometimes you need a chipping stroke to just chop down and dig the ball out, but that at other times his pitching technique provides a lot more control because the ball flies higher. He hit some shots out of fairly thick stuff on the show. When he did, it looked a lot like sand play technique to me because he started brushing the grass a few inches behind the ball.

    1. I think it needs a lot of practice. I tried a couple of shots during a round yesterday and on one shot the club went right under the ball and it went 4 feet. The next one I bladed across the green. Off to the practice area for me.

  3. This might be a good time to use Zinger's practice drill where you try to drive the tee straight down into the ground. It's clear that, if we want to be any good at this shot, we have to know where the bottom of the club is!


  5. He said swing on target line not feet line

  6. Thanks for the correction, John. I've noted it in the post.