Instruction: How to pull off the straight-arm pitch shot
April 03, 2014
By Richie Coughlan, Head Instructor, TOURAcademy TPC San Antonio, PGATOUR.COM
- (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
I was watching many of the PGA TOUR players in the short-game practice area last week at the Valero Texas Open, and nearly all of them were pitching the ball with straight arms and little to no wrist cock. This style of pitching, made famous by Steve Stricker, is perfect for low-to-medium height pitch-and-run shots, where you have plenty of green to work with and don’t need to fly the ball in high and soft. For the average recreational golfer, it’s the safest and most efficient way to pitch the ball, since it takes the wrists out of the equation and all but eliminates the fat shot. The more wrist cock you have, the more prone you are to release the clubhead early and hit the shot fat or thin. It’s also a much easier to way to play those very difficult 30-, 40-, and 50-yard partial wedge shots.
Hold the club shaft out in front of you with your arms parallel to the ground, and rotate the clubface a turn to the right to slightly open the face. Then regrip the club. The higher and softer you want to pitch the ball, the more you open the face—or simply choose a higher-lofted wedge.
For a low shot, play the ball approximately 1 inch back of center in your stance (measured between your heels), with your hands slightly forward of center and your weight also slightly forward. The club shaft should lean forward with the butt end of the grip pointing just left of your belt buckle. Grip halfway down the handle for more control and feel, which will force you to stand closer to the ball than normal.
Swing your left arm back to about 8 o’clock, so that the shaft is parallel to the ground. There should be very little wrist deviation at all from your address position, meaning the relationship between your left arm and the shaft remains about the same. It should feel to you as if the wrists aren’t cocking at all, although they will some. You don’t want to create too much leverage on the backswing, as that will cause you to dump (i.e., early release) the angle between your left arm and shaft too soon.
Simply turn your chest to the right on the backswing, keeping your arms and torso connected. The farther you want to pitch the ball, the farther you want to swing your left arm back and rotate your chest to the right. Note the angle between by left forearm and club shaft is less than 45 degrees. A full wrist cock would bring this angle closer to 90 degrees, which steepens the angle of attack into the ball and adds more wrist components to the downswing.
At impact, the clubhead should be moving down and trailing the hands, and the shaft should have a slight forward lean to it. Your hands should be ever-so-slightly forward of the clubhead, the left wrist flat, and the right wrist slightly bent. There should also be a straight-line condition between the left arm and club shaft. Critical: Make sure that the arms and torso remain connected through impact. If the body stalls, you’re not going to make solid contact. The proper feeling is that of the torso pulling the arms, and the arms pulling, or lagging, the clubhead into the ball. The farther you want to hit the ball, the faster you rotate your arms and torso through.
Rotate your arms and torso through so that your chest is facing the target at the completion of the swing, and your arms are extended, very much mirroring the position of your backswing. Provided your arms and torso rotate together and the wrists don’t break down, the clubhead should remain out in front of your chest. There’s no rehinging of the wrists—the arms should feel nice and extended, with little change to the angle between your left arm and shaft from address.
Richie Coughlan is the Head Instructor at TOURAcademy TPC San Antonio in San Antonio, TX. To learn more about Richie and what the Academy has to offer, click here.