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Michael Lamanna, PGA Golf Digest Best Teachers by State 2017-2018 Soutwest Section PGA Teacher of the Year 2016

Golf Lessons in Scottsdale/Phoenix

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For better chipping from tall grass, CLICK HERE
 For better chipping from a good lie, CLICK HERE
 How to Hit Long Drives
 For longer, straighter drives, CLICK HERE
Here is a drill to perfect your SWING PLANE.  Just click on the image.
 Click on the image below to see a Ben Hogan Tip on How to Start Your Down Swing





The pitch shot is perhaps the most important shot in golf.  Over seventy percent of shots are played from sixty yards or less and most shots from off the green are pitch shots.  In addition to being a shot that is used frequently, proper pitching technique mirrors proper full swing ball striking fundamentals.  The pitch stroke is a mini golf swing with a few slight differences and when students learn a fundamentally sound pitching stroke, they can graduate to a full swing with ease.  In other words, if you wish to drive the ball better, you can learn valuable lessons that will help through pitching.


What is a Pitch?

A pitch is a high shot that stops.  It is executed with one of the wedges, most commonly the sand wedge or lob wedge.  The dynamics of impact are similar to those of a full swing with an iron. The head of the club strikes the ball a descending blow and a small divot comes out on the front side (target side) of the ball creating backspin.  This shot should not be confused with a chip or a lob shot. 

The chip shot is used when a player is very close to the green and it is a low shot that runs.  The chip is typically executed with a lower lofted club and the technique for chipping is more like that of putting.  The head of the club does squeeze down on the ball as it does with pitching, however the angle of approach is much less sever, there is less club head speed and the path of the club is much more linear. 

A lob shot is a risky shot that makes the ball go straight up and fall straight down.  The head of the club “slides” through the grass and undercuts the golf ball producing little or no backspin.  The technique for lob shots is much the same as a sand shot.

When should a player pitch the ball?

As a rule, players should select the least risky shot that will make the ball stop next to the hole.  Always consider putting as your first option.  This is the least risky of all strokes and it allows for the greatest margin for error in execution. 


If you determine that there is too much long, uneven grass between your ball and the hole for effective putting, then next shot to consider is the chip.  This shot is less risky than a pitch or a lob.  Chipping launches the ball low so the landing spot on the green is very close to you.  It is always easier to hit a spot on the green that is close to you rather than far away.


If you are in a situation where more airtime is needed to fly over the taller uneven grass that surrounds the green and if you want the ball to stop fairly fast, then you should next consider pitching. 


The lob shot is a high-risk shot and should only be used as a last resort.

Here is the maxim for a better short game:

  • Putt whenever possible.
  • If you cannot putt, chip.
  • If you cannot chip, pitch.
  • Lob the ball as a last resort.


Pitching setup:



Setting up properly for any shot in golf is critical to success.  When you hold the handle of the club you should grip down to the middle of the handle.  This will allow you control the movements of the club head.  Your grip pressure should be very soft, approximately a 3 or 4 on a scale of 1 (light as you can) to 10 (tight as you can). 


Stand square or slightly open with the feet placed 10 to 12 inches apart when playing from a flat lie.  If the lie is uneven you may widen the stance for better balance. The ball should be placed in the middle of your stance and the hands should hang in the middle of your front thigh and the shaft of the club leans toward the target.  You will have to adjust the ball position back towards the trailing side foot (right foot for right-handers) when playing from a down hill lie.


Your weight should be balanced 60% on the front shoe and you should never shift the weight back on the back swing.  The weight remains on the forward foot through out the stroke.


Pitching back swing:


Start your back swing by turning the shoulders away from the target and hinge the wrists so that the club head moves up.  The upper body dominates the back swing and the lower body should move very little.  There should be no active movement of the legs and hips. Any movement from the waist down on the back swing should be a natural response to the turning of the upper body.


Three critical things must happen on the takeaway:


First, your wrists must hinge early on as you swing the club back.  This early wrist cock will allow you to come down into the ball for crisp, pinching contact. 


Second, as the head of the club is swung back parallel to the ground, the toe of the club must point up toward the sky.  This club head position (square) allows you to create more height on your shots.


Finally, make sure that the weight stays on the front shoe and that the club head never moves to the inside. 


Down swing:



On the down swing, the lead arm remains extended and the arms and club “fall” into the hitting position.  One of the biggest mistakes that one can make is to throw the club at the ball with the arms and wrists.


The lower body begins to rotate toward the target and it pulls the club through the hitting area.  Lower body rotation is a vital power source for pitching.  This rotation should be smooth and it should blend with the movement of the arms.


Impact is the moment of truth in golf as the ball picks up all of its flight data in this instant.  At impact the lead wrist should be flat, never cupped.  The shaft of the club should lean toward the target and the lower body should be open.  Using the lower body correctly is the key to attaining this position.  The head of the club should strike the ball and then the ground creating a thin divot in front of the ball.  Squeezing down on the ball is the key to consistent contact from a variety of lies.Finish:



Just after impact the lead knee straightens and the arms extend.  Just as in a full swing, this position (roughly three feet past impact) is the only time that both arms are extended.


At the finish: the back heel should be up (a result of body rotation).  Finish with your back knee lined up with the straight front knee and your belt buckle, arms and the shaft of the club extended to the target (medium length pitch).  When your arms and the club are parallel to the ground the toe of the club should point up to the sky.


For crisp contact, the arms should follow through the same length as the back swing.


Distance Control:


Primarily the length of the arm swing will control the distance that the ball goes.  Advanced players and professionals will also vary the body rotation speed instinctively.


For short pitches of 25 yards or less the arms should point toward the grass on the back swing and again at the finish.


For pitches from 40 to 60 yards the arms will point toward the horizon on the back swing and again at the follow through.


For longer pitches from 60 to 100 yards, the arms with point at the sky on the back swing and again at the finish.


In addition to these three wedge distances, a player has a full swing that includes the normal full swing weight shift, thus creating 4 distances that they can produce with each wedge.


Since the goal of pitching is to control distance you should practice these basic swing positions on the range and log how far each wedge goes with each of the four swings.  This can easily be done with a range finder and a little practice.  Log your distances on the back of a business, card laminate the card and attach it to your bag.  These base yardage’s will be used as a reference when playing and will help you to decide which wedge to select for the shot and how long a swing to make.

Additionally, you can move your hand position at address to fine tune the distances that you hit each wedge.  Grip down one inch from the middle of the handle to reduce your distances by 10 yards and grip up an inch to add 10 yards.


Which wedges should I carry?


There are four types of wedges that you may choose to carry and each these wedges have different lengths, lofts and bounce angles.  The bounce angel is the degree of bevel on the sole of the club.  Bounce is measured from the leading edge of the club to the bottom rear portion of the sole and it is measured in degrees.


The pitching wedge is an extension of your iron set (think of it as a 10 iron).  The exact specs for clubs in general and wedges specifically vary depending on the manufacturer. The typical pitching wedge will be 35.5 inches long, have approximately 46 degrees of loft and a low bounce angle (7 to 9 degrees).  Players typically hit these clubs a maximum of 130 down to 100 yards, depending on their club head speed.


The gap wedge normally is the same length as the pitching wedge and typical lofts vary from 49 to 52 degrees of loft.  These wedges usually have low bounce angles as well.  The gap wedge us typically used from 120 down to 90 yards.


A sand wedge is designed to be used out of green side bunkers or for shots on grass that is between fairway height up to deep rough.  It is typically 35 inches long and it has from 53 to 57 degrees of loft.  The sand wedge has more bounce angle, which makes it useful from the sand.  Typical bounce will vary from 10 to 14 degrees.  This club is used from the green side all the way out to 115 yards, depending on the players ability and club head speed.


The lob wedge has the most loft of any club in the bag.  It normally is 35 inches long, has from 58 to 62 degrees and the bounce angle is usually lower (8 to 10 degrees).  This club may be used from green side all the way out to 90 yards.  Its main use for shots that must stop very fast.


Which wedges are best for me?


The brand of wedge that you should carry is purely personal choice.  The features that you should look for in wedges and how many wedges to carry depend on a few factors.  First, for your sand wedge, you must consider the consistency of the sand at your home course. From soft sand a wedge with more bounce is easier to use.  From hard sand, carry a sand wedge with less bounce.


Your style of wedge play must be a consideration when selecting features for your wedges.  If your angle of approach is steep and you take slightly deeper divots with your wedge shots; you should choose wedges that have more bounce and a wider sole.  Select wedges that have less bounce and thinner soles if you have a shallow angle of approach and take little or no divots.


The final factor to consider when buying wedges is their utility.  By this I mean carry the carry clubs that you can actually hit and that you will use the most.  Players that struggle with long irons and fairway woods should consider carrying all four wedges.  Drop the three iron and four iron and focus on scoring clubs that you can actually hit.  All players should carry at a minimum a pitching wedge and a sand wedge.  Most tour players carry three or four wedges


Copyright Michael Lamanna 2006 all rights reserved.


Perfect Posture for Success
Golfers striving to improve their scores must focus on fundamentals for success.  The single most important and most overlooked full swing fundamental is alignment at address.  The setup writes the script for the swing and all too often amateur and professional golfers swing problems can be traced back to address. Poor alignment causes swing compensations and leads to inconsistent shots while correct alignment breeds a simple and effective swing pattern.   All great golfers and teachers are aware of the importance of the setup because only correct alignment will reward a perfect golf swing.
The direction of a shot is controlled by two factors: 1) the path of the swing and 2) the face position of the club at impact.  Players who misalign their body at address are pre-setting an incorrect path for their swing and they will learn to compensate for their poor alignment by manipulating the face of the club or altering the path of their swing to get an occasional good shot. Timing these compensations becomes problematic, particularly under pressure. “If you setup correctly, there’s a good chance you’ll hit a reasonable shot, even if you make a mediocre swing.  If you setup to the ball poorly, you’ll hit a lousy shot even if you make the greatest swing in the world”. -Jack Nicklaus
“Before they ever begin swinging, I can improve nine out of every ten typical amateur golfers”. -Tommy Armour.
“What invariably distinguishes a good player from a poor one is their respective address positions or setups”. -David Leadbetter


A good setup helps you achieve three important objectives.  First, proper postureand foot placement allows you to maintain your balance through out the swing.  All great players are balanced from address to the finish, which allows them to hit the ball squarely in the center of the clubface.  Balance is the key to consistent ball striking and a good setup allows you to remain in balance when swinging.


Second, a good setup helps you to create power and to control the direction of the shot.  Key pre-swing elements such as ball position and body alignment create the conditions that lead to control. The body angles that you create at address directly influence the path and angle on which you swing the club.  They influence the actual in-swing body positions and movements; therefore your setup directly affects all elements of the swing.


Finally, all great players pre-set themselves in positions that they try to create at impact.  In other words, your setup puts you in positions of advantage, making a fundamentally sound swing possible.  Your swing evolves from your setup and if you want to achieve a good impact position, you can simply setup with impact in mind.  A good setup stacks the deck in your favor and places you in positions of advantage.


At address your body (feet, knees, hips, forearms, shoulders and eyes) should be positioned parallel to the target line.  When viewed from behind, a right-handed golfer will appear aimed slightly left of the target.  This optical illusion is created because the ball is on the target line and the body is not.  The easiest way to conceptualize this is the image of a railroad track.  The body is on the inside rail and the ball is on the outside rail.  For right-handers, at 100 yards your body will appear aligned approximately 5 yards left, at 150 yards approximately 10 yards left and at 200 yards approximately 15 yards left.
This poses a problem for golfers because there are two aiming points.  The club aims down the target line and the body aims on a parallel line called the body line - just left of the target line for right-handers.
The most common alignment error is a closed stance.  For the right-handed golfer this means lining up too far to the right.

Your body should bend at the hips, not in the waist (your buttocks will protrude slightly when you are in this correct posture). The spine is the axis of rotation for the swing, so it should be bent towards the ball from the hips at approximately a 90-degree angle to the shaft of the club.  This right angle relationship between the spine and the shaft will help you swing the club, arms and body as a team on the correct plane.


Copyright Michael Lamanna 2006 all rights reserved.


The Perfect Grip
Why Worry About Your Grip?
Placing your hands on the club correctly is one of the most overlooked fundamentals in golf.  Your grip provides the only physical connection with the golf club therefore it affects all aspects of the swing.  The direction and distance of the shot and how the club feels as you swing are all influenced by the grip and a flawed grip is usually the root cause of chronic swing problems.
Why Do Most Golfers Slice?
Winston Churchill once said: “Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an even smaller hole, with weapons singularly ill-designed for the purpose.”  While this quip illustrates Mr. Churchill’s personal frustration with the game, his observation regarding the equipment is not far off the mark.
By rule, the shaft of the club must connect to the head of the club on the heel.  This connection balances the head weight on the outside of the shaft.  During the swing, the club accelerates from 0 M.P.H at the top of the swing to 100+ M.P.H. at impact in less than ¼ of a second.  This explosive acceleration occurs as the club is orbiting around the body creating centrifugal force.  This force applies over 120 pounds of pressure pulling away from your body and since the toe of the club balances “heavy” the club face typically opens in the process.   This is why most golfers - particularly novice golfers - slice their shots and having the correct grip can counteract this force.
Over the years, thousands of golf instruction books have been written and all of them touch on the subject of the grip.  While there has been some agreement on grip fundamentals over the years, there have been many opposing views.  Some differences involve changes in equipment while others represent improvement and more understanding of exactly how the grip affects the swing.  Finally, since instructors have no universally accepted terminology often their conflicting words are used and readers are left to interperate the authors meaning.  In order to understand what constitutes the modern version of the correct grip, one must be aware of how the grip has evolved and why certain grips were advocated by teachers and players.
Evolution of the grip


In the early days of the game, most golfers used a baseball grip.  This grip was very natural and instinctive.  The club was placed in the palm of the hands with both thumbs off the club on opposite sides.  The baseball grip was problematic in several ways. First, since the left thumb was not in contact with club it provided no support under the shaft at the top of the swing.  The club would slip in the palm and golfers lost control of the club at the top of the back swing.  Furthermore, since the club was placed in the palm of the hand, it was difficult to feel the club during the swing. 


Despite its shortcomings, “The St. Andrews Grip” or “Two V Grip” as it was sometimes called was used almost universally until the end of the 19th Century.

Harry Vardon turned professional at the age of 20 in 1890.  He was one of the first professionals to study and experiment with different grips to make his long shots more accurate.  He discovered that by placing the little finger of the trailing hand (the hand lower on the club - right hand for a right-handed player) on top of the index finger on the lead hand (the hand that is higher on the club) his hands worked together to control the face.





Additionally, he placed the lead-hand thumb on the club and then covered this thumb with the palm of trailing hand.  As a result, at the top of the swing his left thumb and right palm were directly under the club shaft supporting its weight. This grip, called “The Vardon Grip” was at the center of his success and is still today the most widely used golf grip. .  Vardon won over 62 professional tournaments including 6 Open Championships and one United States Open and was among the first class inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974 


Two other slight variations of the Vardon grip have evolved from his original technique.  Most players today actually take the little finger of the trailing hand and place it between the lead hand index and middle finger.  A smaller portion of the players hook the little finger of the trailing hand around the knuckle of the lead hand index finger.  Regardless of the actual variation players employ, Harry Vardon’s grip revolutionized golf and because of his playing record and influence on the game he is considered among the greatest golfers of all time.




By the mid-1930s the majority of professionals were using the Vardon Grip. Gene Sarazen, one of the premier players and teachers of the decade, was a notable exception.  Sarazen felt that players with small hands like his should use the interlocking grip and players with normal or large hands should use the Vardon grip. The interlocking grip was much like the Vardon grip except that the lead hand index finger and trailing hand little finger were intertwined instead of overlapped.  This locked connection kept the club more secure in the player’s small hands. Many top teachers and players followed Sarazen’s advice and to this day, the PGA Teaching Manual suggests the interlock grip for players with small hands and weak forearms.






Many young golfers start out with the interlock grip.  Ben Hogan used this grip as a youngster as did Bobby Jones and both switched to the overlap grip as they matured and their hands grew in size and strength.  Scioto Country Club Professional, Jack Grout, used his understanding of the grip and Sarazen’s theory and applied it to young student with small hands by the name of Jack Nicklaus.  Obviously the strategy worked very well!  Tiger Woods began playing golf as a toddler and has used the interlocking grip his entire life. With both Nicklaus and Woods using the interlock grip, one is hard pressed to argue against the second most popular grip in golf!





PGA Tour Professionals Art Wall Jr., Bob Rosburg, and LPGA’s Beth Daniel all won majors using the Ten Finger Grip.  Bob Estes and Campions Tour professional Dave Barr also use this grip.  This grip is similar to the Vardon Grip in that the lead thumb was set in the palm of the trailing hand.  The little finger on the trail hand, however, does not connect with the lead hand and is instead just close to the lead index finger and crooked around the shaft.   While this grip is considered viable, the hands are separated and thus tend to work apart during the swing. Most golfers using this grip tend to hit the ball lower and shorter than those who use the interlock or overlap styles.  Novice golfers often use this grip initially since it is simple to use and many golfers with arthritis can grip the club without joint pain.






Grip Positions



Throughout the 20th century it was widely understood that the exact placement of the hands influenced the face of the club.  During the days of hickory shafted equipment, the shafts twisted or “torqued” during the swing.  This required players to create power with long, flowing movements and they had to place their hands on the club in a way to rotate the face from torqued open positions during the down swing to square at impact.  Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen and Tommy Armour all advocated setting their hands on the club with the “V’s” formed by the thumbs and forefingers point to the trailing shoulder (right shoulder for the right-handed golfer). This position allowed them to rotate the face back to square.


By the 1940’s and 1950’s all professional golfers had switched to steel shafted equipment, reducing torque to a minimum and Ben Hogan emerged as golf’s most dominant player.  Ironically, Hogan was unsuccessful early in his career primarily due to a nasty “hook” that he occasionally produced under tournament pressure.  Hogan stood only 5’7” and weighed only 135 lbs. “Bantam Ben” as he was called, was forced to create the power necessary to be competitive by employing a tremendous body shift, trunk rotation, exaggerated club head lag and active forearm rotation. The latter two attributes often are the ingredients in the recipe for a hook.



Hogan began to experiment with various grips to combat his hook.  He discovered in 1946 that by placing his hands with the lead hand “V” pointed to his right eye and the trailing hand “V’” pointed to the chin, his club face never closed and he could only hit gentle fades to the right.  Satisfied with the results, he kept this grip change to himself and with his hook gone for good he proceeded to dominated golf for the next 10 years. 


On August 8th, 1955 this “Hogan Secret” was published as a cover story in Life Magazine. Hogan became the most influential source for golf instruction and technique for the next 25 years through this article and his two books, Power Golf and Five Lessons, the Modern Fundamentals of Golf.  Golf instructors around the globe embraced his technique and advocated the Hogan style grip. Unfortunately, the post 1946 grip position that was his “Secret” was disastrous for the average golfer as it naturally produced an open club face.  Inadvertently, Ben Hogan probably did more to create an army of slicers than any other single person in golf’s history.  In his own words and to his credit he did mention in Life Magazine that his grip was probably not advisable for the average golfer.










The Correct Grip


The grip is your only connection with the golf club.  Placing your hands properly on the golf club helps you better control the position of the club’s face at impact.  During the swing your body turns to create power.  Since the body is rotating, the golf club must rotate at the same rate.  In other words, the body and the club must turn together as a team.


A fundamentally sound grip also helps you create power and feel at the same time.  Wrist action is a power source and gripping the club too much in the palm of your hand reduces wrist action. The most sensitive part of our hand is the fingers.   Placing the club more in the fingers rather than the palm increases the amount of wrist hinge, which results in longer tee shots and more feel.


Lead Hand Position (Left Hand for Right-handed Golfers):


The most common error among golfers is a weak grip that is too much in the palm. This produces a shot that slices and lacks power. To grip the club properly for power and accuracy, use this simple procedure for the lead hand:




ld the club about 3 feet in the air, in front of your body.  With the club face square, place the club at an angle through the fingers.  The club should touch the base of the little finger and just above the first joint of the index finger (on the dots).




With the club at an angle and in the fingers, place your left thumb toward the back side of the shaft - a



With the completed lead hand grip, the thumb should be placed  at “


Trailing Hand Position (Right Hand for Right-handed Golfers):


The trailing hand (right hand for the right-handed golfer) is usually the dominant hand for most people.  It is important that this hand is positioned to deliver a powerful blow at impact without overpowering the lead hand.  The hands must be equal partners in the grip; therefore their placement is vital for consistent ball striking.


To place the trailing hand on the club correctly for the power grip, I recommend the following procedure:



Identify the three sections of the ring, middle and index fingers.



Holding the club with a perfect lead hand grip (left hand for right-handers) set the last joint (between Section 2 & 3) of the index finger of the trailing hand directly under the shaft.  The hand should be set at a slightly downward angle. Place the club handle so it touches the dots.  This places the club handle between Section 1 & 2 of the right ring finger, directly on Section 2 of the middle finger, and between Section 2 & 3 of the index finger.


The Completed Grip




Cover the lead hand thumb with the lifeline of the trailing palm and make sure the “V” formed by the thumb and forefinger points toward the back ear/shoulder area (parallel to the “V” on the lead hand).


The final characteristic of a sound grip is light grip pressure.  Griping the club too tight can cause thin, weak shots that slice.  A lighter grip enhances wrist hinge-a vital power source in the swing.  This light pressure also increases the amount of clubface rotation, thus improving your chance of squaring the club at impact. 


On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is light and 10 is tight, I recommend a pressure of 4 or 5.  This allows the club to be swung with power and control.  At address, feel relaxed and tension free in your hands and forearms.


Sam Snead said “Hold the club as if you had a little baby bird in your hand” This pressure combined with the proper placement of the hands on the handle will give you your greatest chance to produce longer, straighter shots.

 For more information and video tips on this topic, click here!


Copyright Michael Lamanna 2006 all rights reserved.