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The pitching wedge (PW) is the most common wedge used in golf. It’s known for its great versatility, being useful for full shots near the green, bump-and-run shots, and when you’re in trouble in thick rough.
Hitting a pitching wedge is very similar to hitting any short iron. But like other wedges, how to hit it depends on your lie and 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 even a flop shot.
In this article, I’ll give some background information about the pitching wedge and discuss how to hit it in a variety of different situations.
What is a pitching wedge?
A pitching wedge, named after 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. Its bounce is generally low for a wedge but it can range anywhere from 4°-10°.
The term bounce is technically the angle between the leading edge and the trailing edge when the sole is resting on the ground. It refers to the quality or feature of an iron that allows it to “skim” the ground near the bottom of the swing arc.
Unlike a sand wedge, which has a relatively high bounce, a pitching wedge and most other irons have more of a propensity to dig into the ground.
This is ideal for tight lies on the fairway or fringe, since you can get the leading edge underneath the ball much more easily. With a full swing, this allows you to produce a high-trajectory shot that carries about 75-125 yards and lands softly.
Pitching wedges are also useful for chipping or punching out of deep rough. They are a very versatile club, and every golfer should put it to use during their rounds.
A Typical Pitch Shot
When you’re 120 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.
The general wisdom is that the ball should be roughly in the middle of your stance when hitting a wedge, and that includes pitching wedge. You can adjust back or forward slightly based on what gives you the best results.
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 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.
Here are some additional tips for hitting a pitching wedge:
- get your grip right. See our full guide on how to grip a golf club for details. Consider choking (gripping) down on the club by an inch or so for better control.
- narrow your stance slightly compared to your longer clubs.
- move the parts of your body in unison and try to make a rhythmic swing.
- keep more of your weight forward in order to promote a steeper club path and ball-first contact.
The Flop Shot
A pitching wedge can be used to hit flop shots, but it’s less ideal than using a wedge with high loft and low bounce like a lob wedge.
Because the loft of a pitching wedge is too low to hit a flop, you need to open the face. This increases its effective loft, but a side effect is that it also increases the bounce.
This is why I don’t recommend using a high-bounce pitching wedge to hit flop shots, particularly from tight lies. If the bounce is too high, it becomes almost impossible to get the club underneath the ball cleanly.
The general idea for flops with a PW is to open your clubface wide, adjust your alignment, widen your stance, re-grip the club, and accelerate down through the ball.
With a pitching wedge, you should only really consider a flop shot for fluffy or soft 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, especially when you want to hit a “bump-and-run” style shot that produces rollout.
Some tips to hit great low-trajectory (bump-and-run) chip shots with a pitching wedge are:
- narrow your stance
- put the ball back in your stance
- lean the shaft forward to deloft the club
- make contact towards the toe of the club to minimize spin
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.
The Hinge-And-Hold Method
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:
When A Pitching Wedge Is Not Optimal
The best and worst uses for a pitching wedge depend largely on the bounce. As mentioned earlier, the bounce of a PW can vary significantly.
If you have a low-bounce pitching wedge in the bag (around 4°), it typically shouldn’t be used for bunker shots, balls that are sitting down in the rough, or other soft lies, because the lower bounce doesn’t promote sliding the club underneath the ball.
Higher-bounce pitching wedges, say 7°-10°, are much more versatile and can be used in a variety of circumstances. But at the upper bound of this range, you should probably steer clear of tight, firm lies which call for a low bounce.
When determining which wedges work best for you, you need to figure out what lofts and bounce (and perhaps grind) settings best suit your particular swing. Weekend hackers don’t need to worry about this too much, but serious golfers should make efforts to get it right as it can make all the difference when trying to shoot a lower score.
It’s important for serious golfers to have a quality pitching wedge in their bag and to know how to use it to its full potential.
At the end of the day, hitting a pitching wedge shot isn’t that much different than hitting any other iron. Depending on how far you want to hit the ball and the kind of shot you want to hit with a pitching wedge, you may have to adjust some variables in your swing.
Remember that having quality equipment (clubs, training aids, etc.) will not only help you hit your pitching wedge well, but also help lift up your entire game.
Thanks for reading. Are you learning how to hit a pitching wedge? Feel free to drop your thoughts in the comments below.