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.
GolfWRX Radio: Masters preview with Ryan Barath and Brian Knudson
The Masters tournament is a special time every year and this April is no different. Barath and Knudson talk about their picks for players who could win as well as some players who they think aren’t ready to win. The discussion also includes some personal experiences with the Masters both at home and at the tournament.
Club Junkie: Wedge Wednesday! New Edel SMS and Cobra Snakebite
Wedge Wednesday is here! We have some new wedges from Edel and Cobra that were just released. Edel’s SMS wedge with Swing Match Weighting System is made to be adjusted for each player’s swing. Cobra’s Snakebite wedge has wider and shallower full-face grooves for more spin out of any lie.
Ways to Win: Up and down – The Spieth rollercoaster notches a rare short game win
Jordan Spieth is back! After a long hiatus from the winner’s circle, Spieth was able to break through at the Oaks Course at TPC of San Antonio to capture his 12th career PGA TOUR victory at the Valero Texas Open. It wasn’t easy, but then again, nothing ever is with Spieth. The Golden Child always seems to find a way to add dramatics whether its shots from the driving range to steal the British Open from Matt Kuchar or holing a bunker shot to force (John Deere) or win (Travelers) a playoff. That sense of drama and fun that has surrounded the always-vocal Spieth has been missing in recent years as his weekend struggles had him plummeting down the World Rankings.
Earlier this year, he started showing signs of life with a handful of 54 hole leads, only to be undone with mediocre Sunday performances. Through eight holes on Saturday, sitting at +1 for the day, it looked like this would also be just another missed opportunity. But then Spieth did what Spieth does. He made birdies in bunches and showed off that terrific short game.
Spieth has never been traditional in the way he wins. Though he is probably best known for his putting stroke, in his best years, he was also quite dominant with his irons. This week was no exception. We can use V1 Game’s Strokes Gained Stacked view to see how Spieth performed in Driving, Approach, Short Game, and Putting over the four rounds.
The first thing that jumps out, looking at Spieth’s performance, is his short game. Speith gained well over 4 strokes over the average PGA Tour player for the week. This is not common for PGA TOUR winners. The main reason is that gaining strokes in the Short Game requires opportunities from inside 75 yards. In order to have opportunities, that typically means that you have to miss greens. Most PGA TOUR winners do not many miss greens on their way to a trophy, however Jordan Spieth missed many at the Valero Texas Open. In fact, he finished the week tied for 66th in greens in regulation (GIR) hitting only 58 percent. This is certainly more of an outlier in terms of GIR for tour winners, but when you have a short game as good as Spieth’s, you can get away with it.
The second observation is that Spieth was almost perfectly average with Driving. He came out positive in strokes gained for the week, but finished 38th in the field for Strokes Gained Driving. Strokes Gained Driving accounts for both distance and accuracy and while Jordan is certainly not one of the longest hitters on tour, lately his struggle has been with accuracy. He is hitting around 50 percent of his fairways and while the rough was not overly penal this week, several times Spieth was putting himself into recovery or difficult situations.
Known for his putting, Spieth demonstrated exactly why this weekend. For starters, he had no three putts. While a lot of the field struggled to get the ball in the hole, Jordan minimized mistakes. In fact, Jordan gained strokes on the field putting from every distance bucket <25 ft. He gained almost more than one stroke per round on the field from four -15 ft each day. Those strokes add up at the end of the week and Spieth’s putter certainly gives him an advantage.
Spieth is peaking just in time for The Masters at a golf course where he has traditionally played very well. But what should he be working on heading to Augusta? We can use V1 Game’s Virtual Coach to breakdown his game and give us some insights on how he should be practicing this week.
V1 Game’s Virtual Coach tells Jordan that first he should work on Driving as it is currently the weakest part of his game (relative to other Tour professionals). The quick insight shows that he is missing to the right more than 30 percent of the time and is losing, on average, around a third of a stroke per round from putting his tee shots into recovery situations.
Next, V1 Game’s Virtual Coach highlights Approach as his next-biggest area of focus. With the Virtual Coach, we can go as deep as we want to go to get specific targets for practice. Clicking on “WORK ON NEXT” takes us to the Approach Histogram which shows us that Jordan is gaining strokes for most yardage buckets, but struggling from 151-175 yards. This is where he should spend some time practicing, but we can go even deeper than that. Clicking on the insight takes us to a breakdown of his performance from that distance, shows that he only hit the green 25 percent of the time and tended to miss long. These key insights could help Spieth fine-tune a problem area heading into one of the most important weeks of the year.
As a Spieth fan, I was delighted to see him breakthrough and win again on the PGA TOUR. Golf is better when Jordan Spieth is adding his theatrics to the mix. His combination of approach and putting mixed with unbelievable short game is a thrill to watch. It is rare to see a PGA TOUR winner do so much damage with the short game. This proves there is more than one way to win on tour and more than one way to get it done on the golf course.
If you want to play like Jordan Spieth and start practicing the areas that will impact your game the most, V1 Game can help simplify the results of your performance and get you focusing on the right areas to improve the fastest. Download the app for free and get started on your path to better golf.
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