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  • INSTRUCTION

    Travis' Takeaway: Pinehurst greenside special

  • This green's undulation is apparent as Oliver Fisher chips with a hybrid during a practice round at Pinehurst. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)This green's undulation is apparent as Oliver Fisher chips with a hybrid during a practice round at Pinehurst. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The bowl-shaped nature of the greens and shaved banks at Pinehurst No. 2 figure to make the collection areas a popular place this week. The players will have several different options when hitting from these tightly mown areas, including putting the ball up the slope (with a putter or hybrid) or chipping it back into the slope. Most of the players, however, will opt to pitch the ball up onto the putting surface, although how they choose to do this will vary from player to player. 

Many will choose to cock their left wrist up abruptly, which creates a steeper, more V-shaped angle of attack into the ball. The advantage to this method is that while the ball may come off on a slightly lower trajectory, it will do so with a lot of spin. The other method is to fold the right elbow on the backswing and keep the left wrist somewhat passive, which promotes a shallower, more U-shaped angle of attack and a higher, softer ball flight. They’re cutting the legs out from under the ball versus hitting down on it sharply, so that more loft on the clubface is exposed at impact. 

The latter method is one employed by Steve Stricker and last week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic winner Ben Crane. It’s also the one I often times recommend for amateurs who are too steep, because they don’t have to be as precise with the low point of the swing; thus, they’re less prone to dig with the leading edge and hit the shot fat. This is one short-game shot you can ill afford to hit heavy because if you do, the ball is going to roll right back down the slope to your feet. It’s a shot you’re going to see a lot of this week at Pinehurst, and is ideal for the recreational golfer who encounters a lot of tight, firm lies around the greens. 

To hit this U-shaped pitch, set up with the face on your sand wedge slightly open and your weight favoring your left side. Stand to the handle so that the butt end of the club points to the center of your body, which should put the ball in the middle of your stance. You should feel as if your body and shoulders are relatively square to the target line, and not excessively open (i.e., pointing left). If you open up too much the grip is going to point left of your hip, which will cause you to come in too steep.

On the backswing, do not consciously try to hinge the left wrist. Instead, feel as if you’re hinging the club up with your right elbow, which will in turn hinge the left wrist ever so slightly. Your right elbow should remain pointing at your right hip as you swing back; it should never move away from your side and point outside your right hip. By levering the clubhead up with your right elbow you’ll shallow out your swing just enough to bruise the turf—not carve a divot. As with all short-game shots, it’s important that you support the movement of the clubhead through impact by turning your chest to the target. The farther you want to pitch the ball, the longer you swing your arms going back and the faster you accelerate your body coming through.