Today I have some tips from just such a book. It's called Turn Three Shots into Two, by PGA teacher Bill Moretti. My hardback was published back in 2002 and is no longer available, but the book is back out in an electronic edition. The Kindle version is just $4.99 so I imagine that's the going price in other electronic versions as well.
Moretti's book is about how to best use the various aspects of your short game to lower your scores. And in the section on pitching, he lists four common errors that weekend players often make.
- Getting too ball-oriented. Simply put, you focus too much on the ball and the lie... and then you make an awkward stab at the ball. Moretti suggests making a few relaxed practice swings where you just brush the ground to get an idea of how fast to swing, then address the ball, take one last look at your target and JUST HIT THE BALL. Don't obsess over making the perfect shot; focus on making a smooth one.
- Getting the ball too far back and your hands too far forward. This just delofts your wedge and creates a very low shot. Moretti also says this will tend to cause pulled pitches -- that's something you want to avoid! He says that placing the ball near your lead heel is always a good rule of thumb. He also says you should remember that, with a narrower pitching stance, the ball may appear to be farther back than it really is.
- Overaccelerating the stroke. This is something that you've heard me harp on frequently. This is what causes you to jerk shots. Moretti says this so eloquently: Acceleration should never be forced. He wants you to focus on your swing rhythm, and he says that he's never seen a successful pro with a short backswing and a long followthrough.
- Finally, he cautions against using your wrists too much. There will be some wrist movement in your swing; it's part of what creates your rhythm. But your hands, wrists and forearms work as a unit: you don't want to be hitting at the ball with just your wrists. Moretti says that a lot of what weekend players think is wrist action is actually done with elbow bend. "Soft" wrists tend to flex naturally when the arms move properly.
If you focus on the proper things, many of these problems will simply disappear from your game.
In many ways, these tips can be summed up in one phrase: Stop trying so hard! Relax and enjoy playing this game we love so much -- or, as some athletes from other sports put it, let the game come to you. You'll find the game a lot more rewarding if you do.