How a 76-year-old mastered swing tempo to improve his pitch shots

Senior golfers takes a backswing for a pitch shot on a golf course

By using a new game plan, this senior golfer has now dialed in his pitch shots.

Images via Jerry Norman

Welcome to Shaving Strokes, a new series in which we’re sharing improvements, learnings and takeaways from amateur golfers just like you — including some of the speed bumps and challenges they faced along the way.

One of my favorite parts about my job is hearing success stories from other players.

Sure, when I’m on the golf course competing, I want to bury everyone and shoot the lowest score. But along the way, I’m still rooting for them, congratulating them on a good shot, and helping them (if possible) improve certain areas of their game.

So when I receive emails telling me about their journey towards shaving strokes, it gets my attention.

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A few months ago, a 76-year-old golfer named Jerry messaged me in response to an article I wrote about only using a 6-iron on shots outside of 50 yards. As Jerry and I got to talking, I thought, maybe he’ll want to share his story, helping inspire other players to keep grinding in order to reach their golf goals.

He told me that his biggest gains came from improving his tempo on pitch shots, which allowed him to be more aggressive around the greens.

Jerry was kind enough to share some of his learnings — which didn’t include working with a coach — so take a look below to see if his tips can help dial in your pitch shots as well.

All this should go without saying: If you’re interested in sharing a firsthand experience for a chance to be featured in a future Shaving Strokes article, either email me at or message me on Instagram. We’re all in this together, so let’s share our wins, our learnings, and our frustrations to help one another improve!

Jerry’s steps that helped improve his pitch shots

As I mentioned above, Jerry didn’t use a golf teacher to improve. Instead, he just used good ol’ hard work, grinding to practice his weaknesses until he felt like his pitch shots were in a good spot.

While he didn’t use a coach to improve his pitch shots, he did utilize resources like watching videos online — something many amateurs can probably relate to.

“I didn’t work with a coach or teacher, but I’d watch [pitch shot] videos from old GOLF instructional tips on bump-and run-chipping,” he said. “These featured varying the backswing and club selection in order to control air and roll distance.”

Here are some of Jerry’s other tips that he learned.

1. The secret to turning around his pitch shots

For me, it was having a repeatable technique.

Basically, I went to a practice facility and measured the carry distance for each of two swings: a 30-degree and a 50-degree backswing. I used a smooth tempo that I felt was repeatable over time, and I measured my distances with a rangefinder.

I eventually discovered that I only needed to use two clubs — my sand and gap wedges.

Ironically, the sand wedge yields 30 and 50 yards with 30- and 50-degree backswings. The gap wedge gives me 40 and 60 yards with the same backswing length.

I try to always keep the same tempo, but vary the swing length as needed to account for slope, in-between yardages, and other factors. More often than not, I’ll put the ball within the six foot “circle of love” around the pin.

2. Advice for other amateur players

This is a great question!

I’ve got a friend who is new to golf and is athletically gifted and full of desire. Unfortunately, his technique is terrible! So I’ve encouraged him to find a good instructor, given the potential I see.

While I didn’t have an in-person teacher for improving my pitch shots, for those looking to improve fast, a golf teacher is the way to go.

When I first got into the game, I asked my friend which clubs he’d recommend in order to play better. Without hesitation, he gave a one-word response: “Lessons”.

I took that advice and learned so much about golf.

So my advice to other amateurs is to find a good instructor and take lessons when you’re ready to commit to improving. Whether you’re a new player who’s trying to learn the basics, or an experienced player trying to get better in certain areas, a teacher can provide the guidance to reach those goals.

3. What’s your next goal, and how are you going to accomplish it?

I’m currently averaging a score in the mid-to-upper 80’s; with occasional ventures into the 90’s. Other than my iron play from the fairway, I’m a better golfer than that.

So my goal is simple: To start scoring in the low-to-mid 80’s more regularly.

Unlike some of the improvements I made on my own, I’m currently looking for the right instructor to help get me there.

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Nick Dimengo Editor