A Lesson Learned: Executing the Perfect Pitch

Luke Donald executing the perfect pitch
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Luke Donald showed off a stellar short game on his way to capturing the WGC-Accenture Match Play title.
Chris Fry, PGA

Problem Area: Fundamentals
Series: Lesson Learned

Published: Sunday, February 27, 2011 | 10:33 p.m.

What a great show this week at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. The incredible play of Luke Donald was as impressive as you could ever hope to see in such a format. Donald only played 89 holes total, he led after 81 of them and never trailed to an opponent all week! And Martin Kaymer's performance elevated him to the no. 1 player in the world according to the World Golf Ranking.  For any golf fan, it was a week to watch, enjoy and of course, to learn from.

For this week's "A Lesson Learned," the topic seemed easy for me. So many people kept making a reference to the yardage here at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain, as if hitting it a long way would be key to winning. Obviously, it wasn't as Luke Donald is nowhere near the bomber than Bubba Watson, J.B. Holmes, Phil Mickelson or Tiger Woods is. So what was key this week? Believe it or not, it was the short pitch shot. Because when a course is this long, you're going to miss greens and an effective short game is what would set a player apart.
As we all saw this past weekend, those greens at Dove Mountain in Arizona were not only fast but undulating, making getting the ball close impossible at times! The key to conquering tough greens like those when pitching is to create a game plan. Watch the PGA and LPGA players closely as they design their pitch; a technique easily noticed as they walk all over the place. First they walk to the flagstick area, often pacing out the line while finding a solid landing zone.  Next, they gauge the distance and carefully examine the terrain between themselves and the hole.
At first glance, it may look unnecessary, but there is a great deal of information being gathered and implemented. To execute the perfect pitch, follow this game plan.
1. Pick your trajectory
Judge how high or low you want hit the shot. I always stress taking the low route as often as possible because there is less room for costly error. 
Some factors that play into the trajectory decision are:
  • How close you are to the green
  • How much green is between you and the flag
  • The terrain between you and the greenThe speed of the greens
  • The lie of your ball 
2. Pick your landing circle
A hula-hoop sized landing zone is usually perfect. It is not too big and is small enough that it creates a more specific target. Remember, once the ball lands it will begin to roll like a putt. This means you must take the break, speed and other factors into account
3. Rehearse the stroke
Start by taking practice swings looking at the landing zone and visualizing the balls trajectory, hitting the zone and rolling to the hole. It is vital to take real, purposeful practice swings.
Limit the time you stand over the ball thinking, and pull the trigger. 
At first, this system seems a bit much, but as you continue to practice and plan out your pitch it will become second nature and you'll be left with much shorter putts.
Chris Fry, founder of the Chris Fry Golf Academy, is one of the leading instructors in Arizona. Coupled with his considerable experience having taught over 5,000 lessons in the last 4 years, Chris expects the CFGA to help golfers dramatically improve and enjoy the game even more. You can visit www.ChrisFryGolf.com for more information on Chris and/or follow him on Twitter at @ChrisFryGolf

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