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The Wedge Notebook: A Guide to Improve Your Entire Wedge Game

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As you’ve probably heard from friends, instructors, and instruction articles like this one, improving your wedge play from inside 100 yards is essential to knocking strokes of your score. But how do you go about getting better? I provide you a basic strategy for improving your overall wedge game below.

These are the same basics we use for wedge play at Combine Golf in Scottsdale, Arizona, with our students. Click here to learn more about Combine Golf.

The Grip

StickneyGripVtoShoulder

Your grip is the only connection between the club and your body. Thus, ensuring you have a fundamentally sound grip is imperative for you to become the best wedge player possible.

The grip directly influences the club face and its directional position during impact, and as we know, the golf ball begins mostly in the direction of the face at impact. At slower speeds and with higher lofted clubs, the ball will not curve as much, which makes this point even more important if you want to get the ball close to the hole.

The V’s formed between your thumb and forefinger will be used to audit where your grip is positioned. For most players, the V’s should point somewhere between your right ear and right shoulder. Of course, there are exceptions to this fact and you will have to experiment to find your “perfect” grip position.

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There are also three pressure points to ensure that your grip is solid on the club:

  1. Where the right thumb pad meets the top of the left thumb
  2. The last three fingers of the left hand
  3. The underside of the right index finger

Posture

The posture you establish at address determines where your center of gravity is located and heavily influences the shape of your overall golf swing.

With wedges, there are two things you must ensure at address:

  1. You are not too close to the ball.
  2. Your spine is in a centered position.

In the photo below, you can see that the arms hang vertically and the club shaft is pointing at the belt-line, but there is still freedom between the arms and body. If you are too close, or crowd the ball, the club will work too vertically, or steep. If you stand too far away, the club will work too horizontally, or flat. Both of these swing shapes may cause poor wedge play.

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To establish the correct forward bending of your spine, lean forward from the hips with a flat back, allowing the arms to hang down just over the ends of your toes. Your center of gravity should be on the laces of your shoes in this position, as well. To complete this process, set the grip of the club in-line with your belt, and you will have a balanced forward bending of the spine with plenty of freedom to swing the club around your body.

A “Centered” Spine

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With wedges, unlike most of the other shots, we will preset the spine in a more centered condition to ensure your low point stays in front of the ball during impact.

Stance and Ball Position

Your stance is the foundational “base” that you will swing around, and it’s the launching pad for clubhead speed. The proper stance is one that allows the player to have ample balance coupled with the rotational freedom to move. For most players, the checkpoint is a stance that is around shoulder width.

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It is our goal with wedge shots to have a stance that allows the player the ability to rotate in a way that ensures a more connected motion back and through. Some players prefer a more narrow stance width on shorter shots. This is OK, but be careful that you don’t inhibit motion in the process.

Ball Position

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The position of the golf ball between your feet is influenced by the pivot of your body (how you twist, turn, and displace weight), as well as the club you are using.

With wedges, it depends on the shot and the trajectory you desire, however, for 90 percent of the shots you will play you should have the ball in the middle of your stance, just under your sternum. This will encourage a downward blow on the ball, which is what we’re looking for!

Alignment

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Surely you’ve heard somehwere along your golfing journey that your feet should line up “parallel left” of your target as if you were standing on railroad tracks. As demonstrated in the photo above, your body points along the left rail of the tracks while the clubhead points directly towards the target.

As Trackman Launch Monitor has shown us in recent years, however, this is not entirely correct because when you hit down on a golf ball the swing path is shifted more rightward.

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Therefore, when hitting wedges, you must aim a touch more to the left to ensure that your swing path does not shift too far rightward causing you to curve the ball too much from right-to-left.

The Pivot

TomStickneySwingDrill

The pivot is simply defined as how your body twists and turns during the swing while displacing weight. Your pivot controls things like rhythm, balance, a steady head, and influences your low point.

When hitting wedges, your weight should stay mostly centered within your feet (as shown below) and on the inside of your rear foot. If the weight moves side-to-side too much while hitting these type of shots, it will be more difficult to impact the golf ball solidly.

In order to understand and feel the pivot, cross your arms and turn your shoulders to the “top” of your backswing while keeping the weight on the inside of you rear foot. Now reverse the process into your “finish” position, keeping the weight on the inside of your forward foot.

As you pivot back and forth, everything should work together back and through so the club, arms and hands, sternum, and zipper all reach the top, impact, and the finish together, thus reducing hand action. The better the pivot, the less you will rely on your arms and hands to drive the club; this will make your low point and release point more reliable under pressure.

Low Point Control

One of the most important things in order to facilitate solid wedge shots is the ability for you to control where the club impacts the ground. The club’s low point must be in front of the golf ball for all shots hit off the ground. If not, you will instantly lose power and consistency.

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The easiest way to visualize your low point is to draw a line on the ground when you practice. Hit a shot and note where your divot begins. It should always start on the line and forward, never too far in front or behind it.

Face-to-Path

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Trackman has also shown us that curvature is created when the face and path diverge, so your face-to-path relationship is very important when hitting wedges. Studies have also shown that the ball begins mostly in the direction of the face and curves away from the path (with a centered hit) as shown above.

Screen Shot 2017-08-01 at 10.37.26 AM

The face is the red arrow (11.8 degrees right of the target) and the path is the blue line (-1.2 degrees left of the target), so the face-to-path relationship in the example above is 13 degrees and the ball curves to the right. Obviously, more loft on the club, coupled with less clubhead speed, causes the ball not to curve as much. But, if you want to hit your wedges as straight as possible, I would suggest you put the following image in your mind: Imagine the path and the face moving in the same “down-the-line” direction at impact. If you diminish the amount of face-to-path dispersion, you WILL hit the ball straighter than you ever have with the wedges.

Lastly, enjoy the process of becoming a better wedge player. Remember, the more often you practice, work on your fundamentals, and develop your feel around the green, the more strokes you will save and the lower you will score. Enjoy the journey!

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: tom.stickney@puntamita.com

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Dave R

    Aug 8, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    So do you replace all your divots and repair all your ball marks. Why do you loose golf balls your short game is like a touring pro?

  2. Matt

    Aug 8, 2017 at 5:21 am

    Hi Tom, great info. Just wanted to add, as a very average golfer with limited time to play, etc, that knowing a range of wedge distances is also really valuable information to have. I noted wedge distances recently using Pelz’ system (for each wedge loft in my bag using 7:30, 9:00 and 10:30 backswings) and have noticed a big improvement in my scores.

  3. Ude

    Aug 7, 2017 at 5:25 pm

    and you don’t play golf …. sooo obvious

  4. Bob Jones

    Aug 7, 2017 at 11:48 am

    Low point control is the part of pitching that doesn’t get talked about much, but is as important as anything else for controlling distance. During a playing lesson, my practice swings for an ~80 yard pitch were all clearly of different depths, and the pro told me right away I had to correct that if I wanted to master this shot.

  5. Chris

    Aug 5, 2017 at 11:53 pm

    I find this to be fairly sound, basic advice. However, I wish more instructors would also discuss the alignment of the forearms, elbows, and upper arms in the setup as well. You can have a technically sound grip, but misalign those parts and suffer with inconsistent face and path conditions. With wedge practice, those inconsistencies may not become as evident without a launch monitor, and bleed into and influence a full swing, to the players detriment.

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