Distance Control For Pitching

July 5th, 2018
VIDEO: Transcript

If you’re looking to be a little bit better with your distance control and your pitching with your sterling irons single length irons or your irons and wedges in general, then I’ve got a few things here to share with you that can hopefully help you improve your distance control.

So, the first thing is to check your lofts, so the equipment thing here, and make sure that there’s a nice, even spread that’s going to give you the distance capping that you want, and/or that works for you and your style of play. So, for example, with the sterling irons here, we have five-degree gaps, [0:00:45] pitch is 45, the other gap is 50 to this end, 55 to the lob, 60, so there’s five degrees, a nice, even spread there so that’s going to help with the distance capping. Me personally, I actually go up to six. I don’t use the lob wedge; I like to have an extra club at the other end of the bag for longer approaches, and I bend my gap wedge and sandwich up, so I go 45, 51, 57, and generally, I don’t really like lofts over 57 or 58 personally. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t play a 60 or a 62, or 64, whatever you want – it just suits my style of play, my style of game. So, you can have six-degree gaps, five-degree gaps as these are designed, or even go with four-degree gaps, whatever you want, just get your gapping down and get it in a way that suits your style of pitching, suits your game, basically. So, that’s the first thing I would say, is just the equipment lofts, the lofts, and equipment check here.

And then, next, I would say to check your contact and contact is super important, and with sterling irons here, we’ve designed the clubhead to have the sweet spot right in the center from a left to right standpoint here. Some wedges are made with the sweet spots out more towards the toe. Some irons have the sweet spots more towards the heel. We’ve designed ours to be right in the center there, and that doesn’t mean you necessarily have to hit the center. Sometimes, with pitching, you probably want to be a little bit lower on a clubface because you get a little bit more spin, but the important thing is just that you’re striking it consistently in the same spot on the face because if you miss the sweet spot or – well, the sweet spot is going to have the most amount of ball speed, the most amount of energy transfer from club to ball – the further out you get from the sweet spot there, then the more ball speed that you can lose, so it’s super important to whether you’re striking the sweet spot or a little bit low, or wherever you want to be hitting that you’re consistently hitting the same spot as often and as closely, and as tightly of a strike dispersion as you can.

So, to work on that, I’ve got a couple little drills here. Get some Dr. Scholl’s OdorX Foot Powder Spray or some other kind of foot powder spray, or a kid’s chalk spray, some kind of little spray that you can spray on the clubface, wipes off easily with a towel, and the little thin film that’s going across the face there, when you hit balls with it, it’s going to leave imprints on the clubface with where your strike is, so you can hit five, ten balls or something and just kind of see what your strike pattern is. If you’re pretty consistently on the same point in space, then you’re probably okay and you probably don’t need to be watching this video because your strike is good, but if your strike is a little bit inconsistent, then that could certainly be something you can work on, so just get a bucket of balls, get your foot powder spray or whatever spray you’re using, and just practice on the bucket of balls, practice improving your strike, and you don’t have to necessarily think too much about how to do it, just kind of let yourself finetune, let yourself adjust and don’t overthink it, and just try to improve your strike there.

A couple things that can help with that are one, I would say to use the air blow or humming drill trick – drill, I guess, whatever you want to call it. So, either hum while you’re swinging or just blow some air out through your nose and mouth such that you can sense it, but other people, if you don’t want to have someone hear you humming, you can just blow air out, and watch for the flow, you want the flow to be smooth, ideally. So, [humming] when you’re swinging, but if it goes [humming], then you’ve got a little bit of tension that you can work out of your swing, and why that’s important is because think of a tetherball going around a maypole, if there’s no rigidity in the rope there, the ball is going to be coming around the same point in space every time, but if you have a little bit of tension and you’re shortening your work during the time that it’s going around, then it’s going to affect where it’s coming around every time; it’s not going to come around the same point in space, and you got not much room to work with here to have a good strike and again, you want that consistent strike so you get the same ball speed. So, being smooth, being tension-free, being relaxed, not necessarily being slow or guiding it, but just watching the tension that you have in your swing can help the club come around in the same point in space. That’s one thing that can help you out.

And then also, what you might do from a technical standpoint, you’ll watch the amount of shaft lean that you have, try and come in a little bit more shaft vertical in picks, in your sweep, or collect the ball rather than hitting down on it and taking a divot, if you’re hitting down on it, especially with the shaft leaning forward like this, this leaning edge can really grab into the ground, so if you’re coming through a little bit more shaft vertical, the bounce, the bottom part of the club there is exposed a little bit more, so it kind of almost – it doesn’t prevent but it decreases the amount of dig that it’s going to have if you do catch it a little bit fat. So, being shaft vertical can help give you a little bit more forgiveness there so you’re not catching them fat on occasion or if you do catch them fat, your distance control is going to be a little bit better because the club is still going to get through there, and then picking or sweeping, or collecting the ball is going to help as well because again, you’re minimizing the chance of you hitting the ground which can really affect your distance control and also when you are picking or sweeping it, you’re going to get a little bit lower strike on the face rather than in the center or a little bit higher, it might be a little bit lower, and we won’t get into vertical gear affect in this video, but it’s going to give you a little bit more spin which is something that a lot of people want more in their pitches, so that’s just kind of a nice by-product there. So, that’s another thing I would say.

And then, I should have mentioned the clock drill. So, it’s common in teaching or in the instruction world to, if you imagine the face on view of yourself like this, and then you swing, and then wherever your lead arm goes to, so say in a clock, this is going to be going to 9:00, this is going to be going to like, 10:30, this is like, 7:30-ish, and I’m not talking about being this or like, perfect here, but you get the idea. There’s a certain amount of distance you want to take the club back in your back swing and then have it come through in the same amount, so if you go to 10:30 over here, you go to 10:30 over here, and you measure the distance with each of your wedges for, say a 7:30, a 9:00, and a 10:30 shot, so that gives you some decent distances or an idea of distances. Generally speaking, the 9:00 ones are, at least in the testing that I’ve seen, are going to be the ones that are the most accurate, not as much as the 7:30 and the 10:30s, the 9:00s are pretty good, so you’re going over here to over here with your different wedges. However, I think that’s good to give you a general sense and it’s okay if you play by number, and I used to play by number, but I actually found out that I’m a little bit better playing instinctively, and when you think about other sports, if you’re throwing a baseball, you don’t think to target, you don’t think about like, “Okay, when I take it back this far and throw it this way, it’s going to go this distance. I take it back this far and come all the way through, it’s going to go this distance.” I think in baseball, you just kind of look at your target and then you react. I think that pitching distance control is a little bit better when you’re using your instincts, and I say this because like when I used to do the clock drills, those worked okay in practice, and when I sat there and hit ball after ball, after ball, like I would be hitting the same distance, same distance, same distance, and then I get on the course and/or particularly this one time, I played in the Tusker Kenya Open, a challenge tour event in Kenya, and it was the country’s open basically, a big televised event, a lot of galleries around, so I had some nerves going there, and then I hit a nice, big drive, and then I had a pitch, maybe a 60-yard pitch in the back pin. I’m like, okay, that’s the shot, and I’ll do that with my wedge but I had some adrenalin going there, and then I just flew out way over the green and I make a double bogey when I had just a simple pitch there. So, I had a few of those instances, and I guess that’s a little bit more about emotional control and mental control there, but it got me looking more at playing pitches by instinct versus a clock system. I think a clock system or just a half swing to half swing, so you don’t have a think about a clock, but if you want to think a half to half, that kind of thing, that can help too, but that can get you started, but I think personally, as you become a better player, doing those by instinct is a little bit better, so there’s a drill that you can do for that called the all-clubs, all-flags drill, and basically, the idea is you go to every flag on your driving range and you hit every club to it, so you’re getting out of your mind of like, what the distance is and playing by number, and you’re playing more by instinct. That’s more for irons, I guess, but similarly, you can do that with your wedges, and just pick like, oh, there’s a brown spot out there, I’m going to hit my pitch [0:12:23] to that, and then you hit one there and then you switch clubs and you grab your sand wedge into the same spot, and then you pick, there’s a little thing over here and you hit to that spot and then you go over to this spot and switch clubs and hit it to there, so you just practice your instincts and just let yourself take it back as far as you need to, and then come through, and like other sports where you’re throwing a football, throwing a baseball, kicking a soccer ball, just react to that instinct and the instincts, and your gut is like, really good on that if you learn to trust yourself when you play pitches like that. So, personally, I think that’s a little bit better than a clock type system.

But, I think that’s all for that. Just to recap here, make sure that the lofts on your wedges are gapped how you want them, and then make sure that your contact is consistent, so use the foot powder spray or chalk powder spray to make sure that you’re making consistent contact, and then to help with that, watch the amount of tension in your swing, use the air blow or the humming trick, and then from a technical standpoint, watch the shaft lean, be a little bit more shaft vertical, sweep or pick, or collect the ball, all those things are going to give you a little bit more forgiveness as far as your strike goes, and help you be a little bit more consistent with your strike which is going to help you with better distance control, and then you can either start out with the clock drill if you’re a person that plays by number, if you’re a very number-type person or if you’re a little bit maybe more artistic and personal, I think that’s a little bit better, practice playing those more instinctually with this all-clubs, all-flags drill.

So, put all those things together, give those things a try, and hopefully, those things can help you improve your distance control with your pitching, and just making a better [0:14:32] in general with your sterling irons or whatever wedges you’re using.

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