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My story originally appears on PGA.com on 4/18/22
On Saturday, at the Hoakalei Country Club in Ewa Beach, Hawaii, Hyo Joo Kim, shot a final round 1 under par, 71, to win the 2022 LOTTE Championship. On the 18th hole, Kim secured a two-shot victory when she hit a fantastic pitch shot to two feet and tapped in for birdie.
In a post round interview, Kim said: “I’m proud of that shot. Maybe I made a lot of people sit on the edge of their chairs, so I felt great about it.”
Kim, like many professionals of the LPGA and PGA Tour’s, relies a great deal on her short game, particularly her pitching and chipping ability. It’s one thing to have a solid short game but to pull off these shots to perfection, in the heat of tournament play, is what separates winners from contenders.
A Review of Pitching Fundamentals
Even the best in the world like Kim rely on constantly honing the basic fundamentals of the various aspects of the game through dedicated practice. With that said, I wanted to share the basics I teach my students as it pertains to pitch shots around the green.
Pitching Set Up
For pitching, widen your stance a bit and open up to your target line a little more than you would with a standard full swing shot. I like to see a player’s weight distribution be roughly 50% – 50% for this shot. The ball position will be more towards the center of your stance.
With a pitch, your intention is to carry the ball more towards your target and have little roll out, which is the opposite of its sister short game shot, the chip. In terms of a particular club to use for this type of shot, a more lofted one, such as a 52, 56, or 60-degree wedge will be necessary. That exact club selection all depends on the distance you will need to carry the ball to your intended landing point.
The Pitching Motion
For pitching around the green, you will use the rotation of the body, with the feeling of the arms and club being very connected to the body, acting as the driver of your motion with this shot.
In the backswing, you will rotate your shoulders and core back, much like you would in a full swing. During this, you will impart a slight degree of wrist hinge…. this will help in delivering the club a little more steeply into the ball on the downswing. This will launch the ball high.
It is important to maintain your wrist hinge through impact and have the hands and shaft leading through impact. Fight the urge to try and help the ball get up by “scooping” or lifting it. The loft of the club, if delivered into the ball correctly, will do this and you, so you do not need to “help” by scooping.
Your hands and club will exit slightly left as your body rotates towards your intended target. Keeping the body rotating and moving, with good tempo, is critical in the execution of a pitch.