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The Wedge Guy: Manage your lay ups

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Having written a blog and responded to hundreds of questions about wedge play, one question I seem to get very often is something like this:

“On very short par 4s or when I lay up on par fives, and have a 30-50 yard pitch shot, I have a problem spinning the ball enough to make it stop”, or “I have a problem controlling my distance. What can I do?

My answer to these is always the same, and it’s kind of like the old joke where the guy goes to the doctor and says, “Hey Doc, it hurts when I do this”, to which the doctor replies, “Then stop doing it.”

The mid-range or “half wedge” is one of the hardest shots in all of golf to hit to your expectations. Each one is slightly different, which makes it very difficult to groove the precision you expect. I strongly suggest the alternative – playing to your full swing wedge distances when you are facing a short par four or hitting your second on a par five.

I recall back in 2007, when I wrote about Zach Johnson’s strategy coming into The Masters. He said afterward that he had determined beforehand that he would not try to hit any of the par fives in two. But did he hit his second shots as close to the green as he could? NO. He laid up precisely to his full lob or sand wedge distance so that he could hit full swing shots, achieving maximum distance control and optimum spin. That let him actually play the par fives better than any other golfer in the field and win the green jacket.

For each of us, we should have our “comfort zone” swing with each of our wedges, which produces pretty reliable yardage nearly every time. And with just a bit of practice and trial, it’s not all that hard to be able to “dial in” additional reduced yardages by gripping down on each wedge a precise amount. I actually wrote a book in the early 2000s called “The SCoR Method”, which explained in detail how to achieve this level of precision with your wedge play. Maybe I should put that book back in print, huh?

I’ve long been a proponent of carrying a full complement of scoring clubs to optimize your short-range performance. In my own game, for example, from anywhere between 70 and 117 yards, I know that I can make a comfortable full swing and hit most of my shots within only a few yards (only 10-15 feet or so) of my desired distance, by choosing the right wedge and gripping it precisely. And it only took me a couple of hours one day to build my wedge distance chart which includes, for example:

  • 110-113 yards? Grip down the 45* wedge on half inch and swing away.
  • 103 to 107 yards? Full swing 49*.
  • 78-81 yards? 53* wedge gripped down 1 inch.

You can build your short game precision the same way. First, develop your “comfort swing” yardages with your wedges. I suggest that is about an 80-85% power swing to produce consistent distance and trajectory. Then learn how many yards it takes off each wedge when you grip down ½” and 1”. That gives you three precise distances with each wedge. If you carry four, like I do, that means I can hit the ball – with reasonable confidence – twelve or more different distances with the same swing!

There are no real shortcuts to accurate wedge play, but this works. And it beats the heck out of the dreaded “half wedge”, which your goal should be to not give yourself any more of them than you have to.

I highly advise you to learn your comfortable full-swing distances with your wedges, dissect them even more with precise hand placement, and play to those yardages. You’ll see immediate results.

 

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Terry Koehler is a fourth generation Texan, a native of a small South Texas town and a graduate of Texas A&M University. He has had a most interesting 40-year career in the golf industry. He has created five start-up companies, ranging from advertising agencies to golf equipment companies. You might remember Reid Lockhart, EIDOLON, SCOR, or his leadership of the reintroduction of Ben Hogan to the golf equipment industry in 2014. For almost 25 years, his wedge designs have stimulated other companies to slightly raise the CG and improve wedge performance. He has just announced the formation of Edison Golf Company and the new Edison Forged wedges, which have been robotically proven to significantly raise the bar for wedge performance. Terry serves as Chairman and Director of Innovation for Edison Golf, which can be seen at www.EdisonWedges.com. Terry has been a prolific equipment designer of over 100 putters and several irons, but many know Koehler as simply “The Wedge Guy”, as he authored over 700 articles on his blog by that name from 2003-2010.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. ChpNRun

    Aug 5, 2020 at 9:07 pm

    I play 48*, 54* and 58*. Distance good on quarter (yes, it won’t spin back) and half (release 3-5 yard). Problem is the 3/4 wedge shot. I have trouble controlling the distance sometimes.

    During warm-up, I’ll try some 3/4… if they have wild distance gaps, no 3/4 that day.

    This also meshes with the old post WWII golf pros back in the late 1960s. Their advice to members during lessons I shagged balls for: “Stay out of the 40- to 100-yard range if you’re not a pro.”

    So, it was set up for a half wedge or lay back for a full wedge.

    One thing that hurts partial wedges: Some people use too much arm, as if it’s a pendulum chip and run shot. Even on partial wedges, you need to turn through the shot.

    Terry: the guys who wrote “Lowest Score Wins” will argue that laying up to a preferred 90-yard distance rather than pushing ahead to 53 yards decreases the chance you will hold the green.

  2. Acemandrake

    Aug 5, 2020 at 8:49 pm

    I like the half-wedge. It’s the ultimate feel shot.

    Soft, arm dominant swing with a quiet (not stiff) lower body.

    Practice & confidence help 🙂

  3. Radim Pavlicek

    Aug 5, 2020 at 12:09 pm

    The idea of laing up makes only sense when you hit the green from the position. If you aren’t able to hit the green consistently from lay-up position you should advance the ball as close to the hole as possible. That’s just physics.

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