How To Hit A Pitching Wedge
Hitting a pitching wedge is very similar to hitting any short iron, mostly due to its bounce qualities. How to hit a pitching wedge depends on the particular shot that you want to hit, whether it be a short pitch into the green from the fairway, a chip from the rough or a flop shot. I will be expanding on some techniques to employ in these situations below.
First, we should establish a bit of background information.
What are the characteristics of a pitching wedge?
A pitching wedge, named for its common use of hitting pitch shots (longer than chip shots but shorter than full iron shots), is an iron with a clubface loft of around 43°-49°. This is generally the lowest lofted wedge in the bag, between a 9-iron and a gap wedge. The pitching wedge has a shaft length of around 34-38 inches and a bounce that can be as low as 2°-3°.
Pitching wedges are not typically used for bunker balls, balls that are sitting down in the rough or other soft lies because the bounce doesn’t promote sliding the club underneath the ball. Unlike a sand wedge, which has a relatively high bounce, a pitching wedge and most other irons have a tendency to dig into the ground, and this is ideal for tight lies on the fairway or fringe — a high-trajectory shot that carries about 75-125 yards and lands softly can be produced with a full swing. Pitching wedges are also useful for chipping or punching out of deep rough. They are a very versatile club, and every golfer should have such functionality in the bag.
The Pitch Shot
When you’re 100 yards or less to the flag, in the fairway, first cut or even the rough, a pitching wedge will often be just what you need to hit it high and soft into the green. The pitching wedge was once called the “10-iron” and it follows the normal loft progression of the numbered irons, so it would seem reasonable that your swing with a pitching wedge should be very similar if not identical to the swing of any short iron.
Keep the same ball position you normally would, align properly towards the target line and, assuming your swing is sound and produces solid ball contact, make the same swing you normally would with a short iron, whether it be in the fairway or the rough. For less power, simply make a shorter swing. It really doesn’t need to be made any more complicated than this.
If you want a higher trajectory that lands softer (but also doesn’t carry as far), open your clubface, re-grip the club and align left of the target (for a right-handed golfer) to compensate. You can also use a gap wedge or lob wedge instead to produced the desired result. Avoid using a sand wedge on tight lies because its higher bounce makes the shot more difficult.
The Flop Shot
Pitching wedges, although less ideal than higher lofted wedges like the lob wedge, can be used to hit flop shots. The general idea is to open your clubface wide, adjust your alignment, re-grip the club and accelerate down through the ball. You should only really consider a flop shot for tight or fluffy lies. Flop shots and the techniques used are explained in much detail in this article, and I strongly recommend you go there if you’re interested in learning how to hit a flop shot.
The Chip Shot
A pitching wedge can also be very useful for chipping around the green. It’s best to experiment with different lofts and clubface orientations to get the trajectory you want, whether it be a low roller or a higher shot with less rollout. In general, the longer the iron, the lower the trajectory and the more rollout there will be.
When it comes to chipping, I recommend what’s called “hinging and holding”. This is a technique that involves breaking your wrists in the backswing and keeping them breaked (hinged) through the shot and into the follow through; you should be accelerating through the ball so that you can hold the hinge without the club getting past your hands. If you don’t do this and you release the club near the ball, you can count on the leading edge coming up off the ground into the ball and blading the shot. This chipping method is effective with any iron, but a pitching wedge offers a nice balance between trajectory and rollout that arguably works well in most situations off the green.
Professional golfer Phil Mickelson is a proponent of the “hinge-and-hold” method, and you can see him demonstrate and discuss it in the video below:
What equipment is best for the job?
It’s important for serious golfers to have a quality pitching wedge in their bag, which is really just a wedge with an effective loft of around 45°. This wedge is available in 3 different grinds and 8 different lofts that you can choose based on what you know about your swing. Also check out the product reviews page for information and recommendations on quality wedges as well as iron sets that include wedges.