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5 keys to flighting your wedges lower for better control

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If you watch the best players in the world hit wedges, you’ll see them frequently using a shot that most amateurs don’t have. It’s called a “flighted” wedge, and it flies with a lower-than-normal trajectory and usually moves from right-to-left (for righties) into the pin. This is helpful because the lower ball flight stays below the wind, improves consistency and offers more spin. It’s a shot that can take an average wedge game to the next level.

Below are my 5 keys to flighting your wedges for better control.

1) Maintain a Consistent Angle of Attack

The best wedge players nip the ground with their wedges, only “bruising” it, not spending their day on the course carving up pork chops. That’s because their angle of attack (AoA) isn’t overly steep and their swing mechanics allow them to re-create a desirable impact position (an AoA that’s a few degrees downward to ensure clean contact) time after time.

All golfers golfer should aim to take shallow divots like tour players, but getting a little steeper is OK so long as you’re consistent. You want the ball to launch in the same “window” with a predictable trajectory and amount of spin when the ball hits the green.

2) Control your Dynamic Loft

The loft of the club at impact is called dynamic loft, and if you want to lower the flight of your golf ball you will need to reduce it. If you lean the shaft forward too much at impact, however, you will reduce your trajectory to a point that the landing angle of the ball is too flat and no amount of spin you produce will make the ball stop or spin back. This factor is the most difficult one for most amateurs to control, so you will need to practice.

3) Reduce the Overall Height of the Ball Flight

As stated above, if you decrease the dynamic loft you will decrease launch angle and the overall height will be affected. Take this with a grain of sand. We desire a “flatter” ball flight, not a head-high screaming bullet into the green. You know what your normal peak trajectory looks like (around 75-90 feet for most golfers) with your wedges, so make sure it is a touch more flighted than your full-shot height.

4) Manage Spin Rates

The spin rate of the ball will influence its landing action on the green. It makes no sense to spin one shot at 10,000 rpm and the other at 6,000 rpm from the same distance. The point of flighting a wedge is consistency, not adding variance.

The key to a consistent spin rate, assuming your mechanics are solid, is keeping your wedge face and grooves clean and making contact on the same part of your club face time after time. The next time you’re practicing using your favorite launch monitor, make sure to keep an eye on the spin rate and try to keep it in a tight range.

5) Move the Ball into the Pin from Right to Left

First, I want to thank Mike Bender. He taught me the aspects of moving your wedge shots into the green from right-to-left and why you should do it.

He and Zach Johnson worked on this before Zach won The Masters, and it was one of the keys to his success. Most greens are pitched from back to front, so if you hit the ball into the pin from right to left and land the ball right of the pin, the ball will land, hop and spin back, moving toward the hole instead of away from it. When the ball stops, you’re also more likely to have an uphill, right-to-left putt, which is statistically the easiest putt to make for right-handed players.

To move the ball from right to left with your wedges your club path must be right of your face angle at impact. Pay attention to your starting direction and make sure the ball is beginning a little to the right of the pin so you can move the ball towards the pin, not away from it.

The Numbers

Let’s take a look at what a flighted wedge shot looks on Trackman so I can show you what the numbers should look like. One thing I like about the latest Trackman software (TPS 4.1) is the ability to see my average number within each data point, as well as the plus-minus difference between all my shots; it helps me chart how tight my tolerances are in each category.

Here is a screenshot of my “flighted” wedge practice session.

TrackmanWedgesFlightedEdit

You can click/tap the image to enlarge it.

The big numbers in each category are for the last shot hit, while the smaller numbers (on the left) are the averages for the 15 or so shots I hit for this article.

Angle of Attack

My AoA is right about -7 degrees, which is OK for this shot. As you can see, it was a very consistent data point at only 0.8 degrees of difference. I would prefer to have a slightly less downward AoA, but at least it’s consistent.

Dynamic Loft

My dynamic loft on this shot was 38.9 degrees with my 54-degree wedge. While this might look good, it represents too little loft for my needs. As stated above, when you hit down too much on the ball you’ll tend to also lean the shaft too far forward. If I shallow out my AoA, the dynamic loft will fall more inline with what I’d like it to become.

Height

I’m pleased with the overall height of my shots, though the AoA and Dynamic Loft ranges were a touch off. The height of my shots stayed relatively consistent at 43.4 feet (my shot traveled about 75 yards on average) with a variance of only 3.5 feet. At least I will have a consistent shot reaction from the golf ball when it hits the green.

Spin

I am not as concerned with the overall rotations per minute, but the rather the consistency of them. My average spin rate was 4760 rpm (not too bad for the range balls I was hitting), but I was concerned with my range at 1142 rpm. As you can see, I hit too many short and spinny wedge shots that didn’t go as far as the others, radically affecting the overall spin consistency. I must stay “down” a touch longer though impact for this to subside.

Face-to-Path

The value here was -4.6 and the consistency was +/- 1.6 degrees, showing me that most of my shots were moving in the direction that I’d like them to be moving. It’s easy to “hang” wedges or overcook them when you don’t practice, so this isn’t too bad for me.

StickneyFlightedWedgesEdit

So it’s off to the lesson tee for me to make sure I can do this without hitting down on the ball too much. Learn how to flight your wedges, your scores will thank you!

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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]

38 Comments

38 Comments

  1. Dill Pickleson

    Feb 22, 2017 at 1:23 am

    I like this article. It’s a guideline that I can reference. And, confirms my believe that a little right/left is good.

    Sure, more time can be spent on HOW but you have to start somewhere, right?

  2. T bone

    Feb 20, 2017 at 9:14 am

    As a +handicap and a fader of the golf ball, I completely agree with Tom about the draw for this particular golf shot. While the article doesn’t really instruct on how to do it without the launch monitor, the advise of hitting a slight (1-3yds) draw is KEY to LOW, CONSISTANT wedges. The phrase my instructor used to use is “coming in strong to the pin”. The draw matches the elements better of good wedge play, meaning it’s easier to compress the ball with only taking a SHALLOW divot. For me, trying to fade a wedge means I am going to take a ton more grass, my hands need to be ahead of the ball way too much causing inconsistency, the ball will fly slightly HIGHER with the fade, leaving more room for wind to effect the shot. Even if I do manage to hit the proper distance, the increased spin of the fade will have the ball zipping back instead of that nice couple hops and stop. If any of you have access to a grass range, try taking swings that barely brush the grass, I bet you will find that the more left you swing, the harder to do, especially when trying to press hands forward to hit lower shots. Bottom line, with the short (most important) clubs, a SLIGHT draw is the stronger shot that will leave you with better birdie ops. The high floater should only be used when needed.

    • Yessir

      Feb 21, 2017 at 12:51 am

      Literally 100% spot on about hitting low cuts and taking too much turf. Low draw wedges have always been my things, easy to stay shallow and keep dynamic loft down controlling the flight and spin. Really can’t do that moving the shaft leftward.

    • Dill Pickleson

      Feb 22, 2017 at 1:18 am

      nice post.

  3. Golfwrx and chill

    Feb 19, 2017 at 4:53 pm

    Error 404: instruction not found

  4. Fire left

    Feb 18, 2017 at 8:12 pm

    This article is terrible. Zero actual instruction. “If you want to hit controllable low wedges just flight it lower by having a tour pros swing plane and lowering dynamic loft. Oh and hit a draw.” Thanks Tom I’ll be wedging it like ZJ in no time!

  5. Alex

    Feb 18, 2017 at 7:55 pm

    I agree with everything except the ball should be coming into the green left to right not right to left.

  6. Jeff

    Feb 18, 2017 at 6:43 pm

    This is another awful article, plus the fact that you as a teaching pro can’t do it htf are amateurs that play once a week expected to do it.

  7. Skip

    Feb 18, 2017 at 11:56 am

    “he next time you’re practicing using your favorite launch monitor, make sure to keep an eye on the spin rate and try to keep it in a tight range.”

    Ya lol, ’cause we’ve all got one of those.

  8. bogeypro

    Feb 18, 2017 at 10:55 am

    I like the data and the 5 points, but would have liked to have seen a little more instruction on how to hit the shots. Maybe a few practice drills instead of using a launch monitor that very few have access to play on.

  9. david

    Feb 18, 2017 at 8:47 am

    There’s an easier way to practice hitting lower shots at the range: tie a string to 2 sticks, the strings about 2 feet off the ground, and put the sticks about 4 or 5 feet in front of you, and try to hit the ball under that string. You’ll learn how NOT to flip you wrists and hit it on a proper trajectory

    • Daniel Smith

      Feb 21, 2017 at 11:56 am

      These comments are so salty about instructions and launch monitors. This is EXACTLY the method I used at the range and with a couple sessions I was able to consistently hit this shot. If you don’t know enough about the golf swing to take his comments and apply them then you shouldn’t be attempting this shot. Just keep hitting high wedges uncontrollably.

      You don’t need an LM to tell you spin/ball flight. 1. Move ball back in stance. 2. Look at your divot. 3. Look at your ball flight, it should be lower 4. Check the direction of the spin when the ball lands. HINT: it should move left.

  10. Devilsadvocate

    Feb 17, 2017 at 7:54 pm

    Tom I have a TON of respect for you as an instructor and usually you articles are FANTASTIC…. but what is this??? Zero swing thoughts, moves, or adjustments to make to get the numbers you speak of… why don’t u shoot me DJS driver numbers while youre at it? Im sure ill be hitting it 350 in no time!

  11. Joey5Picks

    Feb 17, 2017 at 3:47 pm

    “Take this with a grain of sand.” The phrase is actually “Take this with a grain of salt.”

    • Wizardofflatstickmountain

      Feb 17, 2017 at 4:00 pm

      Considering this is a golf site, you probably don’t find too many salt bunkers on the course…

    • Steve

      Feb 17, 2017 at 8:53 pm

      Did you at least hear the wind from the joke as it soared over your head?

  12. Cornwall1888

    Feb 17, 2017 at 2:22 pm

    Why do none of the instructions for this shot mention hitting it low on the face? that’s one of the main aspects of it and where most amateurs go wrong

  13. Leftshot

    Feb 17, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    Some good stuff, but left out one of the biggest factors. This shot requires a smooth swing. If you watch the pros they are hitting smooth 1/2 to 3/4 swing shots with an abbreviated follow through. They are accelerating into the ball, but 50% effort is about the norm. The whole point of this shot is consistency and accuracy.

    Important especially with amateurs. Most weekend golfer’s swings are a violent explosion and if they try to abbreviate the backswing, it’s an even more violent, abrupt transition. Because of this, the flighted shot requires practice, but has the added benefit of improving the player’s full swing if they transfer some of the skills learned here.

    • Acemandrake

      Feb 18, 2017 at 9:21 am

      Perfect

      A smooth, shorter, unhurried arm swing with a quiet (but still slightly involved0 body rotation) works for me. This also makes it easier to repeat.

      BONUS: You can practice this until the cows come home without getting tired.

      #dialedin

      • Double Mocha Man

        Feb 18, 2017 at 2:39 pm

        What range do you practice at? That has cows?

  14. MBU

    Feb 17, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    Hit it from right to left, with a draw? You’d be very likely to get a few shanks with that method, and in any case that piece of instruction is near pointless on many levels. But the rest of the article is sound advice.

  15. tom stickney

    Feb 17, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    If you don’t have a launch monitor available you can always use something in the distance to audit your trajectory.

    If the pin is on the right side of the green the obviously you wouldn’t move the ball in from right to left.

    • Jeffrey Purtell

      Feb 18, 2017 at 2:52 am

      What did golfers ever do before launch monitors????????????? I guess they just hit the ball already.

  16. Jimmy Ray

    Feb 17, 2017 at 12:36 pm

    my “favorite launch monitor”? Yeah, that’s gonna be tough. I have sooooo many lying around my private, GN-1 seeded, 275-yard backyard practice facility…

  17. Cmoregolf

    Feb 17, 2017 at 12:31 pm

    “not spending their day on the course carving up pork chops” Tell that to Jordan Spieth, his are the size of small parks.

  18. Philip

    Feb 17, 2017 at 12:25 pm

    Go to the range and practice hitting lower flights until one finds a feel that works … at least that is my plan in 2 months

  19. Rick

    Feb 17, 2017 at 11:24 am

    Hi Tom,
    Thanks for sharing this information on how to hit low wedge shots. How do your students that don’t have access to a trackman practice this shot? Thanks.

  20. F

    Feb 17, 2017 at 11:15 am

    Ah yes, let me just take my trackman out in my spare time to hit wedge shots.

  21. Tim

    Feb 17, 2017 at 10:06 am

    So no actual info on how to hit this shot, k.

  22. straightdriver235

    Feb 17, 2017 at 9:18 am

    To play this shot, acceleration into the ball is more controlled, and it’s almost as if the ball were caught on the upswing. The club is still moving down and from the right, but the body and hands have started to move into the follow through and to the left. Hitting down to much with de-lofted face will still spin the ball up, causing a balloon, and reduce chance of right to left.

  23. C

    Feb 17, 2017 at 8:34 am

    About the ‘right to left’ thing… If a right-handed golfer draws the ball into the green, he/she will tend to end up on the left side of the green. This will leave uphill left to right putts, statistically harder putts to make.

    • J

      Feb 17, 2017 at 9:42 am

      Is the pin always in the dead center of the green?

      • AB

        Feb 17, 2017 at 11:04 am

        According to the article, yes and what if the pin is on the right side of the green should we still hit the R to L shot

    • Tom

      Feb 18, 2017 at 5:27 pm

      C ….” When the ball stops, you’re also more likely to have an uphill, right-to-left putt, which is statistically the easiest putt to make for right-handed players”

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Instruction

What you can learn from the rearview camera angle

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We often analyze the golf swing from the face-on view or down-the-line camera angle. However, we can also learn how the body moves in the swing from the rearview or backside view.

When seeing the swing from the rearview, we can easily see how the glutes work. The trail glute actually moves back and around in the backswing. This means the glute moves towards the target or towards the lead heel. Note the trail glute start point and endpoint at the top of the backswing.

To some, this may seem like it would cause a reverse weight shift. However, this glute movement can enable the upper body to get loaded behind the ball. This is where understanding the difference between pressure, and weight is critical (see: “Pressure and Weight”).

This also enhances the shape of the body in the backswing. From the rear angle, I prefer to have players with a tuck to their body in their trail side, a sign of no left-side bend.

This puts the body and trail arm into a “throwing position”, a dynamic backswing position. Note how the trailing arm has folded with the elbow pointing down. This is a sign the trailing arm moved in an efficient sequence to the top of the backswing.

Next time you throw your swing on video, take a look at the rearview camera angle. From this new angle, you may find a swing fault or matchup needed in your golf swing to produce your desired ball flight.

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How to stop 3-putting and start making putts

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When we are 3-putting we are ‘stuck in the box’. This means that when we are standing over the putt the second before we make our stroke everything happens to ‘go downhill.’ When this happens, depending on your playing level, things can become a bit erratic on the putting surface.

When a 3 putt happens, it is typically because you failed to do something before you made your stroke. The large majority of my 3 putts happen when I am not completely SOLD on the line of my putt, aka not committed. Questioning anything over the ball will lead to 3 putts.

Here is a breakdown/checklist on how to approach the green and get your ball in the cup without hesitation.

1. It starts with the approach shot into the green and the decision of direction you make to enter the hole. Scan the entire green with your eyes on the walk-up. Left to right and right to left. Look for a few seconds before you step onto the putting surface. This helps determine the high side and the low side, or if the green is relatively flat. Don’t be picky, just look and make a decision.

2. Once you get to the ball, mark it. Take 3 steps behind your ball mark. Now you must pick a line… Left, Center, or Right of the cup. (Skip step 3 if you know the line) It should take seconds but for those that are not sure it will take longer. Understand that every putt has a statistical level of difficulty. So to increase the odds, players must avoid putting in the unsure mind, and take the time to figure out a line. I also find that people who are 3 putting are overly confident and just not committed aka too quick to putt.

3. To commit, you must find the angle of entry into the cup. Walk up to the hole and look at the cup. How is it cut? Determine if it is cut flat or on a slope angle. This will help you see the break if you are having a hard time. Then determine how much break to play. Cut the hole into 4 quarters with your eyes standing right next to it. Ask yourself, which quarter of the cup does the ball need to enter to make the putt go in the hole?

I encourage using the phrases ‘in the hole’ or ‘to the hole’ as great reinforcement and end thoughts before stroking the ball. I personally visualize a dial on the cup. When my eyes scan the edges, I see tick marks of a clock or a masterlock – I see the dial pop open right when I pick the entry quadrant/tick mark because I cracked the code.

Remember, the most important parts of the putt are: 1.) Where it starts and 2. ) Where it ends.

4. To secure the line, pick something out as the apex of the putt on the walk back to the mark. Stand square behind the ball mark and the line you have chosen.

5. To further secure the line, place your ball down and step behind it to view the line from behind the ball. Don’t pick up the ball mark until you have looked from behind. When you look, you need to scan the line from the ball to the cup with your eyes. While you are scanning, you can make adjustments to the line – left, right or center. Now, on the walk into the box, pickup the mark. This seals the deal on the line. Square your putter head to the ball, with feet together, on the intended line.

6. To make the putt, look at the apex and then the cup while taking your stance and making practice strokes to calibrate and gauge how far back and through the stroke needs to be.

7. To prove the level of commitment, step up to the ball and look down the intended line to the apex back to the cup and then back to the apex down to your ball. As soon as you look down at the ball, never look up again. Complete one entire stroke. A good visual for a putting stroke is a battery percentage and comparing your ‘complete stroke’ to the percentage of battery in the bar.

8. Look over your shoulder once your putter has completed the stroke, i.e. listen for the ball to go in and then look up!

If you find a way that works, remember it, and use it!

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Instruction

Golf 101: Why do I chunk it?

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Whether you are a beginner, 10 handicaps, or Rory McIlroy, no one player is immune to the dreaded chunk. How many times have you hit a great drive, breathing down the flag from your favorite yardage and laid the holy sod over one? It’s awful and can be a total rally killer.

So what causes it? It could be several things, for some players, it could be a steep angle of attack, others, early extension and an early bottoming out and sometimes you’ve just had too many Coors Lights and the ground was closer than your eyes told you…been there.

This is Golf 101—let’s make it real simple and find one or two ways that a new golfer can self diagnose and treat themselves on the fly.

THE MAIN CAUSE

With beginners I have noticed there are two main things that cause the dreaded chunk:

  1. Players stand too close to the ball and have no way to get outta the way on the way down. This also really helps to hit Chunk’s skinny cousin: Skull.
  2. No rotation in any form causing a steep angle of attack. You’ve seen this, arms go back, the body stays static, the club comes back down and sticks a foot in the ground.

SO HOW DO I FIX MYSELF?

Without doing all-out brain surgery, here are two simple things you can do on the course (or the range) to get that strike behind the ball and not behind your trail foot.

This is what I was taught when I was a kid and it worked for years.

  1. Make baseball swings: Put the club up and in front of your body and make horizontal swings paying close attention to accelerating on the way through. After a few start to bend at the hips down and down until you are in the address position. This not only gives your body the sensation of turning but reorientates you to exactly where the bottom of your arc is.
  2. Drive a nail into the back of the ball: This was a cure-all for me. Whether I had the shanks, chunks, skulls, etc, focusing on putting the clubhead into the back of that nail seemed to give me a mental picture that just worked. When you are hammering a nail into a wall. you focus on the back of that nail and for the most part, hit it flush 9 outta 10 times. Not sure if its a Jedi mind trick or a real thing, but it has gotten me outta more pickles than I care to admit.

As you get better, the reason for the chunk may change, but regardless of my skill level, these two drills got me out of it faster than anything all while helping encourage better fundamentals. Nothing wrong with that.

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