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Why you’re pulling your wedges, and how to stop

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One of the best feelings in golf is to hit a monster drive within wedge range — especially when your buddies have 7-irons in their hands back behind you — so you can actually attack the pin. You take dead aim at the flag, but after you hit your shot you look up and see the ball heading left of the green with its left blinker on. Crap! Your buddies hit the green with a 7-iron, but you just dumped it in the hay with a wedge.

Why does this always happen with your wedges? Why can you never take advantage of your length off the tee? I’m here to tell you why.

In order to hit wedges straight at your target you need to have your club path and your impact face angle moving down the line together at impact (within reason). Now we know there is most always some diversion between the face angle of your club and its path, but if you can make it small and have everything moving towards the pin the ball will fly pretty straight. This is especially true with wedges, which fly straighter than your other clubs because they create higher spin lofts that negate curvature.

Figure 1

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 5.26.08 PM

Take a look at Figure 1. The white line in the left window is the target line, the blue line is my path and the red arrow is my impact face angle at impact. See how the path and face are more or less heading toward the target? This is what we want to see in order to hit straight shots with wedges.

Pull with wedges can be due to a few different factors, but the first most common problem is what I call “happy hands” through impact. Happy hands refers to a slowing down of the body’s rotation through impact, causing a flipping or rolling of the hands. That thrusts the face angle left of the club path. In Figure 2, you will notice that the path is from the inside at 3.3 degrees, but the face angle is -3.1 degrees left of the target. For that reason, the shot started a touch left of the target and moved farther left, as you can see in the ball’s curvature screen.

Figure 2

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 5.26.17 PM

The secret to stopping these pulls is to go to the range and hit shots with head covers under your armpits. This drill makes your body and arms stay more in sync through impact, reducing happy hands. When you body is connected, the hands will work with — not against — the motions of the torso.

A side note about equipment: Wedge pulls can also be caused by wedges that are not fit correctly. If a wedge is too upright, golfers can hit pulls when the heel of the club impacts the ground and flips the blade left… the heel dragger. Standard off-the-rack lie angles for wedges are 64 degrees, but many PGA Tour players use wedges with slightly flatter lie angles to deal with long rough that can shut their club faces through impact. Getting the proper lie angle is just as important as choosing the correct loft and grind, so if you’re serious about your game make sure your wedges are dialed in by a reputable club fitter.

The second type of pull is one born out of a club path and club face that are too far left of the target at impact. As you can in Figure 3, the path and the face are inline, but they are pointed well left of the target. This can be caused by faulty alignments or an over-the-top motion caused from an improper pivot during transition.

In order to stop this type of pull, make sure you swing your wedge like you try to every other club — from the inside, never from out-to-in — unless you are hitting a special shot. I would suggest hitting balls off an uphill, sidehill lie (where the ball is above your feet) in order to gain a better understanding of this transitional feel.

Figure 3

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 5.26.28 PM

The third and worst type of pull is the over-the-top, happy-handed yank shown in Figure 4. This is caused when your right shoulder starts the downswing and your pivot stalls through impact, allowing the hands to take over. In fact, this type of shot is one that kills beginning and intermediate golfers when the ball is above their feet.

Once again, the secret here is to swing more from the inside and keep the rotation of your body moving to reduce the flipping motion of the hands at the bottom.

Figure 4

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 5.26.38 PM

If you’re pulling your wedges, one of these three reasons — or your wedges themselves — are causing the problem. Armed with this knowledge you should be on your way to diagnosing the problem, but I always I recommend seeing a qualified PGA Professional or professional club fitter to help you make the fastest and most sustainable progress.

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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: [email protected]

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Chris

    Sep 9, 2016 at 7:46 pm

    Tom

    Can “happy hands” with wedges also cause ballooning (gap and sand wedges launching 30-34 degrees) on full shots or is this caused by something else?

  2. Snowman9000

    Sep 9, 2016 at 7:10 pm

    When the wedge is too upright in the normal ranges of lie angles, it’s not that the heel digs and makes the club turn over. It’s simply that the face points to the pull side. Two degrees upright with a wedge will make a noticeable difference to the pull side.

    • kloyd0306

      Sep 10, 2016 at 5:06 am

      Absolutely correct but the biggest surprise is that Stickney doesn’t know this. He, along with many who also don’t know, need to visit Ralph Maltby’s brilliant explanation on You Tube.

  3. ron

    Sep 9, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    I bought one of those magnetic things to stick on your club face to show where the face is aiming, and realized that what looked square at address was actually aimed way to the left. Now I set up with a face that’s “looks” slightly open= No more pull shots.

    • emerson boozer

      Sep 14, 2016 at 3:56 am

      i need to get me one of those. good idea.

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Instruction

Fixing the shanks: How to stop shanking the golf ball (GolfWRX Explains)

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May you never be concerned about fixing the shanks! But if you’re begging the golf gods for guidance how to stop shanking the golf ball? Ready to offer up your first-born child for the wisdom how to stop shanking irons? Frantically asking Google how to never shank a golf ball again?

Fear not. We’ll get to drills to stop shanking irons shortly that are guaranteed to ingrain the proper feel and anti-shank action, but first, a brief discussion of what exactly a shank is (other than will-to-live crushing).

More often than not, a shank occurs when a player’s weight gets too far onto the toes, causing a lean forward. Instead of the center of the clubface striking the ball—as you intended at address—the hosel makes contact with your Titleist, and—cover your ears and guard your soul—a shank occurs.

How to stop shanking the golf ball

If you’ve ever experienced the dreaded hosel rocket departing your club at a 90-degree angle, you know how quickly confidence can evaporate and terror can set in.

Fortunately, the shanks are curable and largely preventable ailment. While there are drills to fix your fault you once the malady has taken hold, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

How to stop shanking the golf ball

If you’re trying to understand how to stop shanking the golf ball, you need to understand where the ball makes contact with the club during a shank.

Fixing the shanks

To avoid shanking the golf ball, it’s important to lock in on some keys…

  • Have a proper setup and posture…Athletic posture, arms hang down, neither too bent over nor too upright, weight on the balls of the feet.
  • Keep your grip light and arms tension free…If 10 is a death grip of golf club and 1 is the club falling out of your hand, aim for a grip in the 4-6 range. Make sure your forearms aren’t clenched.
  • Maintain proper balance throughout the swing…50/50 weight to start (front foot/back foot). 60/40 at the top of the backswing. 90/10 at impact.
  • Avoid an excessively out-to-in or in-to-out swing path…Take the club straight back to start, rather than excessively inside (closer to the body) or outside (further away from the body).

The best drill to stop shanking the golf ball

Set up properly (as discussed above), flex your toes upward as you begin your swing and keep your chest high (maintain your spine angle) throughout the swing.

Other than those focal points, keep your brain free of any additional chatter, which only exacerbates shankitis.

(For more advice, be sure to check out what our friends at Me and My Golf have to say below)

Now you know how to stop shanking the golf ball and have the tools to never shank the golf ball again.

Praise the golf gods!

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Cameron Smith’s 3-month Covid-19 training block

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Whilst Covid-19 has presented countless grave health and economic challenges to the world’s population, it has also provided opportunity for many people to focus their attention on projects that they normally wouldn’t have time for.

Turns out PGA Tour players are no different, and in the case of Cameron Smith, we used the enforced break from competitive golf to undertake a very rare, uninterrupted 3 month block of strength training.

Cam plays 25-30 events a year spread across 4 continents and this presents a number of challenges to overcome from a training and programming perspective:

– Varying facilities

– Travel fatigue and jet lag

– Concerns around muscle soreness affecting ability to perform on course

– Physical and mental cost of competing

When combined, these challenges can often render even the most carefully planned training programs redundant. So whilst many golf fans were coming to terms with a prolonged absence of PGA Tour events, I was getting stuck into designing programs that would hopefully elicit the following outcomes for Cam:

– More muscle mass

– More strength

– More power

In a normal season, I’m hesitant to prescribe programs that focus on muscle gain, because the nature of the training volume tends to tighten Cam up (reduce his range of motion), reduce his club-head speed and elicit a lot of muscle soreness…..not an ideal combination for short term performance! But I knew in this case, we could get stuck into some higher volume work because we would have plenty of time to recover from any lost mobility, reduced speed and increased soreness before tournaments started again.

 

Mid March – Program 1 – General Hypertrophy Focus

We decided with the global virus outlook looking dire and the PGA Tour promising to deliver a 30 day notice before resumption of play, we should focus on hypertrophy (increasing muscle size) until the 30 day notice period was delivered. At that point we would switch to a more familiar power based program in preparation for tournaments starting up again.

Program Breakdown:

– 4 weeks

– 3 sessions per week

– 1 x lower focus (legs, glutes, core)

– 1 x push focus (chest, shoulders, triceps, core)

– 1 x pull focus (back, biceps, core)

– Gradually increasing volume over 4 weeks (more reps and sets to failure)

Training Variables:

Sets: 3 to 4

Reps: 8 to 12

Tempo: 2-0-2 (2 seconds up, no pause, 2 seconds down)

Weight: around 70% of maximum

Rest: 60 seconds, but this can vary when pairing exercises together in supersets or mini circuits

 

Example Workout – Lower Body Focus (legs, glutes, core):

 

Example Exercises:

 

Mid April – Program 2 – Lower Body Hypertrophy Focus

As Cam was about to finish up his first hypertrophy program, there was a fairly clear indication that there would be no play until mid June at the earliest. Knowing that we had 2 more months of training, we decided to continue with another hypertrophy block. This time increasing the focus on the lower body by breaking down the leg work into 2 seperate sessions and ramping up the training volume.

Program Breakdown:

– 4 weeks

– 4 sessions per week

– 2 x lower body focus (1 x quad focused workout and 1 x hamstring / glute focused workout)

– 1 x push focus (chest, shoulders, triceps, core)

– 1 x pull focus (back, biceps, core)

– Gradually increasing volume over 4 weeks (more reps and sets)

Training Variables:

Sets: 3 to 4

Reps: 8 to 12

Tempo: 2-0-2 (2 seconds up, no pause, 2 seconds down)

Weight: around 70% of maximum

Rest: 60 seconds, but this can vary when pairing exercises together in supersets or mini circuits

 

Example Workout – Pull Focus (back, biceps, core):

 

Example Exercises:

Mid May – Program 3 – Power Focus

Once we received confirmation that play would be resuming 11th June at Colonial, we made the call to switch to a power focused program. Moving back to 3 days per week, lowering the volume and increasing the intensity (more weight and more speed in the main lifts).

The idea is to get the body used to moving fast again, reduce muscle soreness to allow better quality golf practice, and supplement the with more mobility work to re-gain any lost range of motion.

We also added some extra grip work because Cam discovered that with the muscle and strength gain, plus lifting increased weight, his grip was failing on key lifts…..not such a bad problem to have!

Program Breakdown:

– 4 weeks

– 3 sessions per week

– 1 x lower body focus (legs, glutes, core, grip)

– 1 x upper body focus (chest, back, biceps, triceps, core, grip)

– 1 x combined focus (legs, glutes, shoulders, core, grip)

– Volume remains constant (same sets and reps), aiming to increase intensity (either weight or speed) over the 4 weeks.

Training Variables:

Sets: 4 to 5

Reps: 3-5 for main exercises, 8-12 for accessory exercises.

Tempo: X-0-1 for main exercises (as fast as possible in up or effort phase, no pause, 1 second down). 2-0-2 for accessory exercises.

Weight: around 85% of maximum for main exercises, around 70% for accessory exercises.

Rest: 90 seconds, but this can vary when pairing exercises together in supersets or mini circuits

 

Example Workout – Combined (legs, glutes, core, shoulders, grip):

 

Example Exercises:

 

If you are interested in receiving some professional guidance for your training, then check out the services on offer from Nick at Golf Fit Pro

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Instruction

What you can learn from Steve Elkington

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When you think of great golf swings from the past and present time, Steve Elkington’s golf swing instantly comes to mind. His playing career has included a PGA championship, two Players Championships and more than 50 weeks inside the top-10 world golf rankings. This article will examine not only key moves you can take from Elk’s swing but learning to take your swing to the golf course.

As opposed to looking at a swing frame by frame at key positions, viewing a swing at normal speed can be just as beneficial. This can give students a look at the sequence of the swing as one dynamic motion. Research also suggests learning a motion as one movement as opposed to part-training (stopping the swing at certain points) will enhancing learning.

When viewed at full speed, the simplicity of Elk’s swing is made clear. There is minimal motion as he gets more out of less. This swing pattern can correlate to a conversation he once had with five-time British Open winner Peter Thomson.

When asking Thomson keys to his golf swing and it’s longevity, Thomson explained to Elk, “You have to have great hands and arms.” Thomson further elaborated on the arms and body relationship. “The older you get, you can’t move your body as well, but you can learn to swing your arms well.”

So what’s the best way to get the feel of this motion? Try practicing hitting drivers off your knees. This drill forces your upper body to coil in the proper direction and maintain your spine angle. If you have excess movement, tilt, or sway while doing this drill you will likely miss the ball. For more detail on this drill, read my Driver off the knees article.

Another key move you can take from Elk is in the set-up position. Note the structure of the trail arm. The arm is bent and tucked below his lead arm as well as his trail shoulder below the lead shoulder – he has angle in his trail wrist, a fixed impact position.

This position makes impact easier to find. From this position, Elk can use his right arm as a pushing motion though the ball.

A golf swing can look pretty, but it is of no use if you can’t perform when it matters, on the golf course. When Elk is playing his best, he never loses feel or awareness to the shaft or the clubface throughout the swing. This is critical to performing on the golf course. Using this awareness and a simple thought on the golf course will promote hitting shots on the course, rather than playing swing.

To enhance shaft and face awareness, next time you are on the range place an alignment stick 10 yards ahead of you down the target line. Practice shaping shots around the stick with different flights. Focus on the feel created by your hands through impact.

Twitter: @kkelley_golf

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