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Technique for a low, checking wedge shot

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There’s two simple ways that golfers can get their ball to stop quickly around the green. One is through loft, the other is through spin. Both types of shots have their pros and cons, but the sexier of the two options, and arguably the option that takes the least amount of timing and athleticism (due to the smaller range of motion) is the shot that checks up with backspin.

The challenge to this shot is to be able to contact the golf ball with enough of a descending strike to create friction, but to do so without exposing too much of the club’s leading edge, which leads to golfers sticking it in the ground. There aren’t many more embarrassing escapades in a golfer’s life than hitting the turf farther than the golf ball, right? To eliminate that recurring embarrassment, let’s try to understand how the golf club needs to be used to execute this shot. We’ll then add the dynamics of the movement to make this shot an added weapon to your short game arsenal.

The first step in executing this shot is understanding how to use the bounce of your sand wedge. Let’s discuss how the bounce of your sand wedge works statically, or without motion. To start, address a golf ball with your club face in a completely square position. For a simple reference point, let’s say the leading edge of your club face is square at 12 o’clock.

Note the Square Club Face and Slightly Open Stance.

Note the square club face and slightly open stance.

To pronounce or add bounce to your sand wedge, the club face needs to be more open, or pointing to the right (all directional characteristics in this article will be for a right handed golfer). It’s important for us to create more bounce, because bounce will encourage the club to skip through the turf instead of digging too much and causing golfers to take huge divots. For the purpose of this exercise, I want you to open the club face without changing your grip. We’ll make our goal 1 o’clock.

To add/pronounce bounce, note how the club face is now pointing to 1pm.  Also note the forward shaft lean.

To add/pronounce bounce, note how the club face is now pointing to 1 o’clock. Also note the forward shaft lean.

To attain the 1 o’clock position, take note of how the shaft of your golf club has to lean more left, or towards the target. This is a good thing! The more the shaft leans left, the more the golf club is still descending, or traveling down when we add motion. That variable equates to one of the big dynamic keys to achieve the necessary friction needed to execute this low, spinning shot.

Because the club face is pointing well right of the target now, an important problem for us to solve is: How do we hit the golf ball straight? It’s simple, just aim left… either statically (with your setup) or dynamically, by swinging more left on the downswing.

OK, so now we understand how the golf club needs to be used to accommodate the more descending strike required to execute this shot. The second step is to maximize the setup to help us execute this golf shot. Let’s start off with our ball being positioned slightly back of center, and our “target foot” pulled one ball back of square compared to our “backswing foot.” The club face should be square, or be perpendicular to the target. Favor more weight to your target foot. Keep your head even with the golf ball (never behind like the driver) throughout the entire motion.

Note the open stance, square club face, and head position forward of the golf ball.

Note the open stance, square club face, and head position forward of the golf ball.

Note the Square Club Face, but Open Stance.

Note the square club face, but open stance.

Finally! We’re ready for the third step. We need to tie in all the static elements of this golf shot with dynamic motion. There are two keys to the backswing. We want to keep the motion short and hinged. Do not allow the handle of your golf club to travel farther than a couple of hands widths outside of your backswing leg. You can hinge the golf club (the club head should be closer to the sky compared to the handle) as much as you want. The more the golf club is hinged, the better chance you have of delivering the golf club on a descending blow during the downswing.

Note the Short Arm Swing, as well as the higher club head/ lower handle relationship.

Note the short arm swing, as well as the higher club head/lower handle relationship.

Note how the hands and handle are at thigh level while the golf club is at shoulder level.

Note how the hands and handle are at thigh level while the golf club is at shoulder level.

On the downswing, there are two important elements that need to be achieved simultaneously.

  1. You must rotate the club face into an open faced position, so that by the time that your club face reaches impact, the club face is at the 1 o’clock position that you trained statically. The more you rotate the face open, the easier it is to have the golf club travel on the proper path to execute this shot.
  2. You will also need to turn your body more left on the down swing. Two important elements will be achieved with this body turn. The handle should be well forward of the club head at impact when you turn your body more left, which encourages the descending strike that is so important to achieve the shaft lean and friction needed to create added backspin. Also, the more you turn left the straighter your shots should travel. Remember, you are striking the golf ball with an open club face. The more your club face is open at impact, the more you must match up your golf club by traveling left with static alignment and body turn to hit the golf ball straight.
Note the forward handle, open club face and open shoulders parallel to the feet line.

Note the forward handle, open club face and open shoulders parallel to the feet line.

Note how much the body is turning left to help match up the path of the club to an open club face.

Note how much the body is turning left to help match up the path of the club to an open club face.

So give this shot a go! Experiment with all the variables to find the right combinations that work for you. The more you experiment with these variables, the more you should be able to execute a larger array of spinning shots on the golf course. Finally, always use the ball flight and ball contact to help you problem solve your misses. Good luck!

Note the lack of divot. The bounce was used correctly!

Note the lack of divot. The bounce was used correctly!

Note how much the Body has turned, as well as how open the club face still is!

Note how much the body has turned, as well as how open the club face still is!

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Certified Teaching Professional at the Pelican Hill Golf Club, Newport Coast, CA. Ranked as one of the best teachers in California & Hawaii by Golf Digest Titleist Performance Institute Certified www.youtube.com/uranser

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Chunker

    Apr 11, 2014 at 10:47 pm

    Gotta try this because I chilli dip too many chips for my handicap.

  2. tinytim

    Feb 13, 2014 at 9:46 am

    no way thats a highspinner with that deep attackangle!

  3. Abman

    Feb 13, 2014 at 9:15 am

    The descending strike you prescribe is the opposite of the Trackman pitching research that Andrew Rice has done where he has found that a shallow angle of attack is better for a low, checking wedge shot.

    • Tim

      Mar 13, 2014 at 6:15 pm

      Abman…that’s great feedback. I would respond by saying ANYTHING with your technique can be overdone. Tiger has spent most of his career playing from too shallow of a down swing path, something 90% of all golfers would love more of. While I do recommend a descending strike, I also recommend not taking a divot. My research shows that the ideal amount of shaft lean towards the target at impact for this shot is approximately 10 degrees…enough to create the friction, but not so much to expose the leading edge and take big divots. I’m using different verbiage to communicate similar technical needs for this shot. Thanks for your comment.

  4. Evan

    Feb 7, 2014 at 8:47 am

    Good technique and shot to have for a low handicap. Not the easiest and most repeatable stroke for a mid- high handicap.

  5. antonio

    Feb 6, 2014 at 5:39 am

    Excellent article! Thanks.
    I am only missing one thing, acceleration through impact. I think that provided that your technique is correct you need speed (amount relative to the swing or shot you are triying to make of course) through impact to maximize ball spin.

    • Tyler

      Feb 6, 2014 at 10:43 pm

      Accelerating through all your shots is crucial.

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Instruction

Swing speed vs. quality impact

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In today’s age of hitting the ball as hard and as far as you can on tour, I am amazed at the number of amateur golfers who totally disregard the idea of quality impact. In fact, you can hit the ball further with better impact than you can with poor impact and more speed (to a point.) Sure, if you can kick the clubhead speed up 10 MPH-plus versus your normal speed, then this is not a requirement, but in reality most players only swing a few MPH faster when they actually try. Yes, this is true, I see it day after day. You might think you can swing 10 MPH faster but rarely do I see more than 2-3 MPH tops.

I had a student that came in the other day and was obsessed with swinging harder but when he did his impacts were terrible! When I put him on Trackman and showed him the data he was astounded that he could swing slower yet produce more distance.

Here was a typical swing he made when swinging faster 105.8 mph where the impact was low on the face and the ball carried 222.3 yards.


Here was a typical swing he made when swinging slower 102.9 mph where the impact was much better on the face and the ball carried 242.7 yards.

Now, obviously we know that this works to a certain degree of swing speed but it does show you that focusing on quality impact is a key as well. I’m always telling my players that I want them to swing as hard and as fast as they can AND maintain quality impact location — if you can do both then you can have it all!

The best way to understand impact quality without dismantling your swing is to use foot spray to coat the face of the club then hit a few balls to see where impact normally occurs and see if you can adjust.


If you can, great, if not, then go see your teaching professional and figure out why so you can find quality impact once and for all!

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Instruction

How to warm up for golf PROPERLY

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Leo Rooney, Director of Performance at Urban Golf Performance, shows you how to get ready to hit balls and/or hit the golf course.

Who is Leo Rooney?

Director of Performance at Urban Golf Performance
B.Sc Exercise Physiology
TPI, NSCA

Leo Rooney played 16 years of competitive golf, in both college and professionally. He got a degree in exercise physiology and has worked with anyone from top tour players to beginners. Leo is now the Director of Performance at Urban Golf Performance and is responsible for the overall operations but still works closely with some elite tour players and the UCLA Men’s Golf Team.

He also has experience in long driving with a personal best 445-yard drive in the 2010 European Long driving Championship.

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Instruction

Tip of the week: Let the left heel lift for a bigger turn to the top

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In this week’s tip, Tom Stickney gives a suggestion that would make Brandel Chamblee proud: lift the left heel on the backswing for a bigger turn.

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