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Improve your wedge distance control with Dustin Johnson’s unique drill

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Most amateurs understand how important hitting solid wedge shots are for their score. Many of us fail to practice a major factor of effective wedge play, however, distance control.

I was watching Dustin Johnson on the Augusta National range before his Monday practice round with Gary Woodland. Johnson was hitting his driver, and when Dustin Johnson hits his driver on the range you watch. After he finished hitting about 10 drives, he went back to hitting wedges. For the next 45 minutes, he was using a wedge drill I had never seen before. It threw me off because he was not aiming at any particular flag or worrying about how close he could hit a shot to the hole, which is common when practicing wedge play.

Johnson started the drill by finding the yardage to the back of the first green. He hit his first wedge to that yardage. His next shot landed slightly past his first shot, his third longer than his second and so on until he was outside of his wedge yardage. He repeated this process for 45 minutes working on wedge shots from 4o-100 yards. Once he got to 100 yards, he went back to the 40-yard target and restarted the drill.

This drill can be easily repeated by amateurs, even though their cluster of balls will probably not be as tight as Johnson’s. In order to do this on your own, head to your local range and find the yardage to the shortest pin on the range. Once you have it, aim to the left or right of the green in order to have a clear view of the landing area. Try to land a wedge pin high. After you have hit a shot that yardage and established a good starting point, try to land your next shot slightly past of your target ball. Repeat this process until you are out of your wedge range.

While doing the drill, it’s important to keep in mind an estimate of your target yardage so you can start to develop a feel for a 65-yard shot, a 70-yard shot, etc. You may not have a launch monitor behind you on the range like Johnson and a lot of PGA Tour players do, but you can get the data you need with a laser rangefinder or by walking off distances (provided no other golfers are around). In the process, you’ll develop dozens of stock swings for a variety of distances.

Leave a comment if you have any feedback regarding the drill or variations you have found to be successful!

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Trey is a recent University of Michigan graduate where he studied Information Analysis. He is a Sports and Culture Writer who specializes in Golf. If you have any inquiries or questions you can reach him at (treypezzetti@gmail.com).

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Speedy

    Jun 9, 2018 at 9:32 pm

    Too many “don’ters” here. Time to be a “doer”.

  2. Luis Pantin

    May 20, 2018 at 8:58 am

    Buy the Swin Caddie SC200…. this tool is perfect for distance control… and to play games by yourself on the range… and for less than $350 it’s a teacher for life…. this is your 15th club in your bag… you will not regret ever.

    I have it and use it as much as I can… it’s a par maker when you lay up …

    • larrybud

      Jun 7, 2018 at 6:35 pm

      unfortunately, they’re not that accurate since it can’t measure spin rate or launch angle (only ball speed), and the distances are all calculated from “stock” or average values

  3. Greg V

    May 19, 2018 at 10:46 am

    Nick Faldo did this with his 7-iron starting at 100 yards. Good drill.

  4. Sin Nombré

    May 18, 2018 at 11:41 pm

    I asked for a full wedge and the salesman came out with an iceberg salad. It was delicious, but alas, still chili dipping out on the links. Doritos and guacamole anyone?

  5. Mike C

    May 18, 2018 at 9:21 pm

    This drill is specifically designed for someone using Trackman during practice like DJ does so you know exactly how far the ball is flying. He addresses this in the article but his solution isn’t sufficient.

  6. Mike901550

    May 18, 2018 at 5:52 pm

    Yep
    Until my range has 1. Balls with dimples 2. Balls not covered in mud. 3. Premium balls . It’s a waste of time

  7. Mul

    May 18, 2018 at 2:06 pm

    Glad I came across this article, I usually just wing it under 100 yards!

  8. TMan

    May 18, 2018 at 1:47 pm

    Interesting! Iam
    going to try this drill. thanks for the information.

  9. stacey

    May 18, 2018 at 1:37 pm

    Great stuff. I will definitely try this out!

  10. Ty Webb

    May 18, 2018 at 12:26 pm

    Yeah saw Tom Lehman do this about 25 years ago. Yawn.

  11. Gordon Crossman, PGA of Canada

    May 18, 2018 at 12:11 pm

    I am a Class “A” Teaching Professional in Canada and I have a drill I call the “Wave”. You take your the most lofted club, take a few practice swings stretch out a bit hit a few balls to get the feeling to start your practice session then you take a full swing with the club without hitting hard and note the landing area then the next ball must land short of the previous shot then the next shot short of the previous one until you can bring it in as close to you as you can by swinging the club as a mini swing. Once you accomplish this you start hitting a little longer by landing the ball pass the previous ball then the next ball pass the previous until you reach the length for that club then repeat the process back and forth like a “Wave” coming in and then going out, this can be done with any club in particular wedges where you may have to loft a shot over a bunker with a tight pin placement, maybe a 15 yard shot. I feel it helps to develop feel plus you create a number of more shots in your bag and it is a fun practice drill to develop feel.

  12. Curtis Demorest

    May 18, 2018 at 11:53 am

    This is called the ladder drill…can also be used on the putting green. Have a mark at 5 feet then another at 20 feet and see how many balls you can get in the 15 foot area, with each putt going past the previous putt

  13. DB

    May 18, 2018 at 11:38 am

    Sadly, this WON’T work accurately for most amateurs who are hitting distance-limited or just plain crummy range balls.

    It’s good practice for partial wedge swings, but if you think that 65-yard wedge shot you perfected on the range is going to be exactly 65 yards on the course, you might be wrong.

  14. Mower

    May 18, 2018 at 11:20 am

    I’m on it! “Wedge Guerilla!”

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Opinion & Analysis

Golfholics Course Review: Spyglass Hill Golf Course

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In this new course review series, Marko and Mike from Golfholics provide their takes on the golf courses they’ve played around the world. The first episode starts with the famed, yet often overlooked Spyglass Hill. Enjoy the video below, and don’t forget to check out more videos from Golfholics on their YouTube page!

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Redkacheek’s DFS Rundown: 2018 CJ Cup

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Wow, what a crazy start to this season! Not only has the cheat sheet and slack chat plays over at the Fantasy Golf Bag been on complete fire, but the new golf betting model has now hit on two outrights and one FRL in back-to-back weeks! We get a much better field this week so definitely plan to keep this heater going here at the CJ Cup this week. Brooks Koepka will be teeing it up for the first time since being named the 2018 POY, along with guys such as Justin Thomas, Jason Day, Paul Casey, Billy Horschel, and our new favorite Sungjae Im. As you can see, this will be a fairly exciting event for a setup as similar as last week’s tournament.

Let’s go ahead and take a look at this course and see if we can pinpoint some key stats to take us to another Big GPP win or at least a couple good choices for an outright win.

The CJ Cup will be played at the Club at Nine Bridges, a 7,196 yard par-72 golf course in South Korea. Although this may appear like a similar course to TPC Kuala Lumpur last week, this one will play quite significantly tougher. As you can see below, in 2017 there were more bogeys than birdies for the week which doesn’t happen much outside of majors. Justin Thomas won last year’s event after shooting 63 in the first round but failed to break 70 the following three days. JT finished at nine under, which tied Marc Leishman, who coincidentally won this last weekend (2019 Fall Swing narrative). So why so tough if it appears so short? Let’s take a look.

So first off, let’s get this out of the way first. These greens are brutal. No joke; these greens were the single most difficult greens to putt on all of last year. Everything from one-putt percentage to 3-putt avoidance, these ranked the No. 1 most difficult on Tour all year. But here’s the problem: We all know putting is the single most variable stat, so using SG:P will tend to lead to a very disappointing pool of players. For example, coming into last year the players ranked Top 10 in SG:P finished 11-33-47-40-28-64-36-26-71-36, respectively. There is a still a stat that helped fine-tune player pools last year that I will recommend this year: my first key stat to consider this week is 3-putt avoidance.

The next section here I will just briefly touch on the driving accuracy and GIR percentage for this course. It is very average for the PGA Tour…that is really all you need to know. Driving accuracy ranked 48th and GIR percentage ranked 38th in 2017. This course is not difficult tee-to-green, plain and simple. I will certainly add the usual SG:T2G this week along with GIR percentage, but this course will favor most guys this week.

So besides putting, why are these scores so poor considering the appearance of an easy course? Well besides putting on these greens, scrambling here is brutal. Scrambling also ranked No. 1 most difficult here last year but again, this is a stat that is extremely tough to see useful trends. I will, however, encourage you to use SG:ARG to help narrow down your player pool more efficiently.

Remember that this segment of the Fall Swing will not yield strokes-gained data, so we must only utilize the traditional stats the PGA Tour keeps. On top of all the micro-scoring stats mentioned above, let’s take a closer look at this course from a macro level. This will be fairly straightforward when building your model. The par 4s here are extremely difficult, so add SG:P4 Scoring to your research (par 3 scoring is also very difficult but sample sizes are usually too small to include each week). Par 5 scoring was difficult as well but there is a better stat we can use than the P4 scoring mentioned above. The final stat we will be using is simply bogey avoidance. This will do a fantastic job of incorporating T2G, scrambling and putting into our model/research.

Overall this course is really an amazing layout but will pose a difficult task for the players. Just like last week, I encourage you to ease into the season by playing light and also primarily playing GPPs.

With all that out of the way, let’s get into my core plays for this week…

Justin Thomas (DK $11,600)

Justin Thomas finally makes the core writeup. After a mediocre finish last week (5th place), he comes to Nine Bridges as the defending champion. Ironically, he beat out Marc Leishman, last week’s winner, in a playoff last year and I think he is going to be the guy to pay up for over $10k. JT won both CIMB Classic and The CJ Cup last year, and I would be very surprised if he doesn’t leave this leg of the Fall Swing (Asia) without a win. There’s a lot going for him outside of his recent form and course history (if that wasn’t enough), he ranks first in both SG:T2G and SG:APP, second in par 4 scoring, eighth in bogey avoidance and finally, surprisingly, 11th in 3-putt avoidance. If you are building only a few lineups this week, I think JT should be in around two-thirds of them.

Byeong-Hun An (DK $8,700)

Mr. Ben An makes the list again! Byeong-Hun An received a lot of praise from both Jacob and myself on the FGB Podcast last week and he did not disappoint with a 13th place finish, and really a strong chance to win going into the weekend. As part of a common theme you will see here, Ben An is the kind of consistent ball-striker to rely on each and every week. On the PGA Tour in the last 50 rounds, he ranks third along with a strong ranking in bogey avoidance (third) and GIR percentage (also third). He did play this event last year, finishing 11th at 4-under par, and if it weren’t for a final round 73 he had a realistic chance for the win! The price on Ben An is getting a little steep but I think we can still get some value out of it this week.

Kyle Stanley (DK $8,200)

Kyle Stanley should be considered a core play almost every week he is under $9K on DraftKings. One of the most elite ball strikers on Tour, ranking ninth in SG:T2G, 11th in SG:APP, sixth in GIR percentage and 14th in par 4 scoring, he sets up for another solid top 20. Last week Kyle finished 13th in Kuala Lumpur and now comes to Nine Bridges where he ended the tournament in 19th place last year. Kyle tends to be very “mediocre” so upside for a top 3 always seems to come sparingly during the season, but you still cannot ignore his skills at this price.

Charles Howell III (DK $7,700)

Charles Howell III is a lock for me this week. Coming off a strong showing last week (T5) but also an 11th-place finish at this event last year, he grades out as one of the strongest values this week at only $7,700. CH3 hadn’t played on the PGA Tour for over a month before appearing at Kuala Lumpur, causing him to fly well under the radar on his way to a solid top five finish. Always known as a superb ball-striker, Howell actually rates out 16th in bogey avoidance and 10th in 3-putt avoidance, both key stats for this golf course. Additionally, CH3 ranks inside the top 20 of both par 4 scoring and GIR percentage. In a no-cut event on a difficult ARG golf course, count on CH3 to gain enough placement points to pay off this solid price tag.

Ian Poulter (DK $7,600)

Ian Poulter may be extremely sneaky this week. We haven’t seen him since the Ryder Cup and most people that play DFS have severe recency bias. Poulter is a grinder, and considering the winning score should only be around 12-under par with lots of opportunities for bogeys, he should keep the wheels on all four days and have a chance on Sunday. One of the most surprising stats for me in my research on Poulter is that he ranks first in 3-putt avoidance, along with some impressive tee-to-green stats where he ranks inside the top 25 of all of my key stats mentioned above. Why is the 3-putt avoidance stat so important? As I noted in the course preview, these were the single most difficult greens to putt on last year with the worst 3-putt percentage. Outside of the key stats, it does seem like this course fits his eye as he finished 15th here last year. Ian Poulter will be another core play but I think he may come in quite under owned from where he probably should.

Joel Dahmen (DK $6,900)

Chalk Dahmen week is upon us and I am going to bite. Dahmen has been a DFS darling this year and last week was no different. Dahmen ended up finishing 26th which was largely due to a poor final round 71, which dropped him 11 spots. Even with that poor finish he was able to pay off his sub-$7K price tag, which is where we find him again this week. Dahmen ranks top 10 in this field in several key stats, including: SG:T2G, SG:APP, and bogey avoidance. If you need some salary savings but unsure about anyone under $7K, Dahmen should be your first look this week.

Also consider

Brooks Koepka
Jason Day
Marc Leishman
Paul Casey
Ryan Moore
Sungjae Im
Kevin Tway

Good luck this week everyone!

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Mondays Off: Bermuda vs. Bent grass, How to chip when into the grain

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How do you chip into the grain off of Bermuda grass without chunking the ball? Club pro Steve Westphal explains how to best handle the situation. Also, Westphal and Editor Andrew Tursky give advice on how to play in qualifiers or PAT (players assessment test) events, and they tell a few stories of their own.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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