Jim Suttie: Becoming a better pitcher of the ball

There is probably not a more frustrating situation in golf. After hitting two great shots to the green, you are just short, and then you proceed to skull your short pitch shot over the green.

Here is the situation: The pin is only 15 to 20 yards from you and you have to get the ball up and down. Recently, I have seen more golfers than I care to mention either skull the shot over the green, or hit the ball fat and leave it short of the green.

In most cases, this shot is caused by using your hands too much and simply trying to scoop the ball up.

In order to hit this shot correctly, you have to be tension free. Most of us are trying to steer the ball to the hole. A step in the right direction is to try to keep your grip quite light and keep that same grip pressure throughout your entire stroke.

The choice of club should probably be your sand wedge. This club has enough loft where there is no need to try to help the ball up in the air. Just "hit down" into the ball, and the ball will go up.

Take a very narrow stance with the ball positioned in the center of the stance. One of the big tips here is to start with the weight mostly on your front leg and keep it there throughout your entire swing. This, in effect, will cause you to hit down on the ball. There shouldn't be a lot of wrist cocking on the backswing as most of the motion is coming out of the shoulders and arms. The length of the swing should only be to about to 9 o'clock.

Where most amateurs make their mistake is in the transition. They tend to start the downswing with their hands and arms instead of starting down with the turning of the body. Most golfers over-accelerate the clubhead, hands and arms from the top of their swing.

The transition should be slow and deliberate. The arms should follow the body turn on the downswing. Unfortunately, most of you start your downswing with your hands and arms causing the skull shot or the fat shot. The challenge here is to keep your tempo even in both directions. In addition to this, you should try to swing the same length in both directions.

One of the fundamentals that apply to all shots in golf is to maintain a flat left wrist at impact. This is especially true with the short pitch. The hands will be ahead of the clubhead at impact as the body turn brings the club through the hitting area. As the club comes into the finish, both arms will be extended as the chest is turned toward the target. There will be no feeling that you are using your hands very much in this shot, but there will be a distinct feeling that you are turning toward the target.

To ensure that you hit slightly down on the ball, put a tee two inches in front of the ball when you are practicing this shot. Hit the ball first, and then have your club clip the tee.

The next time you have this 10- to 20-yard shot, hit it with confidence. Get rid of the idea that you have to use your hands and "scoop" the ball up, and start turning your body at the target. Practice this shot and watch your scores go down. Tension free is the way to be.

Dr. Jim Suttie, 2000 National PGA Teacher of the Year, is available for lessons at Suttie Golf at the Club at Twin Eagles North Naples and Cog Hill Golf Club, Lemont, Ill. For lessons and program information call 800-765-3838 or Jmsuttie@aol.com.

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