Achieve Consistent Distances on Pitch Shots with 7-8-9 Drill

Ai Miyazato plays a pitch shot
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Many amateurs I play with hit the ball well from tee to green, but when they get within 50 yards of the green, in pitch shot range, they seem to struggle. "I don't have time to practice pitch shots," they tell me. "The pros have all the time in the world to stand and work on these shots, so they develop feel."

The 7-8-9 Method is a drill for pitch shots that requires a little practice initially, but once you have established your distances you will be able to rely on it in the future.

Below, we'll review the 7, 8 and 9 o'clock positions and a few more general tips for pitch shots. 

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The 7 O'Clock Position

The 7 o'clock position in the 7-8-9 drill
The 7 o'clock position in the 7-8-9 drill for pitching distance accuracy. Mel Sole

Begin by picturing the hours of a clock

Imagine as you address the ball that you have a large clock in front of you. Learn to swing your left arm (for right-handed golfers) to the various "hours" of the clock as a way of controlling the distance on your pitch shots. The 7 o'clock position is pictured above.

Notice in the photo above that there is a slight wrist cock. This is important as you need to cock the wrist to help deliver a slightly downward blow through the shot.

Practice hitting pitch shots by taking the club back to the 7 o'clock position until you can consistently hit shots a certain distance. This will become your 7 o'clock shot.

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The 8 O'Clock Position

The 8 o'clock position in the 7-8-9 pitching method
The 8 o'clock position in the 7-8-9 pitching method. Courtesy of Mel Sole

This is the 8 o'clock position.

Practice hitting shots swinging your left arm to 8 o'clock and note your distances. Swing with a consistent tempo and you will learn what distance is associated with your 8 o'clock position. This will become your 8 o'clock shot.

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The 9 O'Clock Position

The 9 o'clock position in the 7-8-9 Method
The 9 o'clock position in the 7-8-9 Method. Courtesy of Mel Sole

This is the 9 o'clock position.

Practice the same as the first two shots, while swinging your arm to 9 o'clock.

Finish off swinging the arm to 10 o'clock and you will now have four specific distances that you can consistently pitch the ball. Distances will vary from player to player as in full shots, but once you have them established you have a tried-and-true method on which to rely.

After working with the 7-8-9 drill, you'll find yourself 40 yards from the flag on the course and can say to yourself, "OK, this is my X o'clock shot." And now you know for sure that if you swing your arm to that position, the ball is going to go about 40 yards.

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General Rules for Pitch Shots

Weight on front foot in pitch shot address
With pitch shots, keep your weight on your front foot at address. Courtesy of Mel Sole

There are three general rules that are very important with the pitch shot.

1. Weight on Front Foot: Notice that at address the majority of my weight is on my front foot. This is important to help you not only keep your body steady during the swing but to help you impart the downward blow that is important in creating the backspin you want on this shot. You will also notice looking at the other positions during the backswing (on previous pages) that my weight does not shift to the back foot at any time. I keep my weight on the front foot even at the top of my backswing. (This is only for the pitch shot - not for full shots.)

2. Consistent Pace to Swing: It is important that the pace of the swing be consistent throughout. It is no good swinging slowly through one shot and quickly through the next. You'll get very inconsistent results. Try to imagine a pendulum and the way it moves backward and forward at the same pace. Try to feel this in all of your pitch shots.

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Follow Through

Pitch shot follow through
The follow-through is important on pitch shots. Courtesy of Mel Sole

3. Follow Through: As you see here, it is important to follow through. Do not stop your follow through on this shot or you will constantly come up short. The follow through should finish at about 3 o'clock.

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The Finish

Finish position on pitch shots
Follow-through directly at the target on pitch shots. Courtesy of Mel Sole

And finally, as in the photo above, make sure that the follow through is directly at the target and not around your body. The hands should finish in about the middle of your chest.

Keep these three general rules for pitching in mind in both practices and play time.

And with just a little practice on the 7-8-9 Drill to establish your pitching distances and tempo, you will find that you are able to much better gauge your pitch shot distances and accurately pitch to the appropriate yardage. You'll also get a lot of comments from your playing partners like "Where did you learn to pitch all of a sudden?"