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Short Game University: How to hit wedges 101

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GolfWRX.com welcomes back instructional writer Tom Stickney, whose articles here have garnered over 15 million views. Tom has written from GolfWRX for almost five years with articles that feature technology for the average player using a TrackMan focus on all parts of the game. We’re happy to announce he’s beginning his writing once again, and we look forward to what he has in store for our readers.

Tom has been the Director of Instruction at such prestigious Clubs at BIGHORN Golf Club in Palm Desert, California, The Club at Cordillera in Vail, Colorado, Promontory Golf Club in Park City, Utah, and most recently The Four Seasons Punta Mita Golf Club in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. You have seen him ranked as a Top 100 Teacher by Golf Magazine, a Top 50 International Teacher by Golf Digest, and a Top 25 Teacher by Golf Tips Magazine.


As with any level of player the ability to hit wedges solid, online, and control the distance is paramount to lower scores. It can help you when you hit the ball into trouble on par fours and you pitch out, on par 5s when you lay up, and to take advantage of a good drive when you have that perfect yardage as well.

Sadly, I believe that this and fairway bunkers are the most under-practiced aspects in all of golf, so in this article, I’d like to help you become better with your wedge shots.

In my opinion, there are three wedge keys at the BASIC level…

  1. The pivot: How you twist and turn
  2. The low point: Where the club hits the ground
  3. Your face to path: Controlling the ball

Now, before you say anything, of course, you need to control the distance you hit the ball and your trajectory as well, but if you cannot at least “hit” the shot then you cannot control the other two I just listed.

In another article (after you master this one) we’ll cover how to better control your distances and your trajectory.

The pivot

The pivot is simply defined as how your body twists and turns during the swing and how you displace weight. Your pivot controls things like rhythm, balance, a steady head, and influences your low point etc.
When hitting wedges the weight should stay mostly centered within your feet (as shown below) and on the inside of your rear foot. If the weight moves side to side too much while hitting these type of shots you will tend to hit the ball unsolid.

Some players tend to put more weight on their forward foot and leave it there during the wedge shots while others tend to keep it more like their full-swing. Personally, I like the idea of a touch more weight forward but as long as you can control where you impact the ground then you are fine.

In order to understand and feel the pivot, cross your arms and turn your shoulders to the “top” of your backswing while keeping the weight on the inside of you rear foot. Now reverse the process into your “finish” position keeping the weight on the inside of your forward foot.

As you move back and forth everything should work together- back and through- so the club, arms and hands, sternum, and zipper all reach the top, impact, and the finish together. The reason why you pivot in this way is to reduce hand action. The better the pivot the less you will rely on your arms and hands to drive the club thus making your low point and release point more reliable under pressure.

And remember the less hand action you have the easier it will be to begin the golf ball where you want. Since the pivot also controls the transition of the club, if you have a solid and correct pivot motion, the club will always be delivered in the way it was designed to move and good shots will be the result!

Low point control

One of the most important things in order to facilitate solid wedge shots is the ability for you to control where the club impacts the ground. The club’s low point must be in front of the golf ball for all shots hit off the ground, if not, you will instantly lose power and consistency.

The easiest way to visualize your low point is to draw a line on the ground perpendicular to your target, place a ball just on the forward (target) side of the line and hit a shot. Now note where the divot begins. It should always start “on the line and forward” never behind it and this will help you to understand the importance of your low point.

Face to path

TrackMan has also shown us that curvature is mostly created when the face and path diverge thus your face to path relationship is very important when hitting wedges.

Studies have also shown that the ball begins mostly in the direction of the face and curves away from the path (with a centered hit) as shown above.

The face (at impact) is shown by the red arrow (11.8 degrees right of the target) and the path is represented by the blue line (-1.2 degrees left of the target) so the face to path relationship in the example above is 13 degrees and the ball curves to the right. Obviously, the more loft you use coupled with less clubhead speed causes the ball not to curve as much, but it still is a matter of the face to path relationship. So, the shorter the wedge shot the more important the starting direction becomes because the ball won’t have the time nor the speed to be able to curve “back” to your target.

If you want to hit your wedges as straight as possible, I would suggest you put the following image in your mind…imagine the path and the face moving in the same “down the line” direction at impact. If you diminish the amount of face to path dispersion you WILL hit the ball straighter than you ever have with the wedge. Now, obviously we know that doing what you see in this image is not the easiest thing to do nor the best way for all players to hit the ball but it’s a good visual to say the least.

Hopefully, by now you have a better idea how to control your wedge swing and its three major keys. Remember, the first idea is to learn how to “hit” the shot with some type of reliability then we’ll add in different factors as time goes on!

 

 

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Tom F. Stickney II, is a specialist in Biomechanics for Golf, Physiology, and 3d Motion Analysis. He has a degree in Exercise and Fitness and has been a Director of Instruction for almost 30 years at resorts and clubs such as- The Four Seasons Punta Mita, BIGHORN Golf Club, The Club at Cordillera, The Promontory Club, and the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. His past and present instructional awards include the following: Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, Golf Digest Top 50 International Instructor, Golf Tips Top 25 Instructor, Best in State (Florida, Colorado, and California,) Top 20 Teachers Under 40, Best Young Teachers and many more. Tom is a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 25 people in the world. Tom is TPI Certified- Level 1, Golf Level 2, Level 2- Power, and Level 2- Fitness and believes that you cannot reach your maximum potential as a player with out some focus on your physiology. You can reach him at [email protected] and he welcomes any questions you may have.

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Instruction

Kelley: How to easily find your ideal impact position

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If you look at any sport, the greats seem to do more with less. Whether it be a swimmer gliding through the water or a quarterback throwing a pass, they make it look it easy and effortless.

In golf, there are a variety of distinct swing patterns to get into a dynamic impact position. I believe in efficiency to find that impact position for effortless power and center contact. Efficiency is defined as “the ability to produce something with a minimum amount of effort.” This can easily apply to the golf swing.

It all starts with the address position. The closer we can set up to an impact position, the less we have to do to get back there. Think of it like throwing a ball. If your body is already in a throwing position, you can simply make the throw without repositioning your body for accuracy. This throwing motion is also similar to an efficient direction of turn in the golf swing.

Once you set up to the ball with your impact angles, if you retain your angles in the backswing, the downswing is just a more leveraged or dynamic version of your backswing. If you can take the club back correctly, the takeaway at hip-high level will mirror that position in the downswing (the desired pre-impact position). In the picture below, the body has become slightly more dynamic in the downswing due to speed, but the body levels have not changed from the takeaway position.

This stays true for halfway back in the backswing and halfway down in the downswing. Note how the body has never had to reposition or “recover” to find impact.

At the top of the swing, you will notice how the body has coiled around its original spine angle. There was no left-side bend or “titling” of the body. All the original address position angles were retained. From this position, the arms can simply return back down with speed, pulling the body through.

The key to an efficient swing lies in the setup. Luckily for players working on their swing, this is the easiest part to work on and control. If you can learn to start in an efficient position, all you need to do is hold the angles you started with. This is a simple and effective way to swing the golf club.

www.kelleygolf.com

Twitter: KKelley_golf

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Instruction

Wedge Guy: Short iron challenges — and a little insight (hopefully!)

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In my experience, almost all golfers could benefit from better short iron play. The ability to hit it closer to where you are looking with your 8-, 9- and P-irons will do more for your scoring than most anything else you can do. So, why is it that so many golfers just don’t hit the quality shots with these clubs that they do and should expect?

I chose this topic in response to an email from Phillip S., who wrote:

“I’m hitting straight and consistent most of the time but I’ve got a big problem between my 8-iron and everything else below.  I can hit my 8-iron 140-145 fairly consistently every time.  I hit my 9-iron somewhere between 110-135.  My pitching wedge is a mystery….it varies between 85 -125 yards.  No matter how “hard” I swing, I can’t seem to hit my short irons consistent distances.  It’s maddening to hit a great drive followed by a pitching wedge short of the green from 110 yards away.  What am I doing wrong?

Well, Phillip, don’t feel alone, because this is one of the most common golf issues I observe. It seems that the lion’s share of technology applied to golf clubs is focused on the long stuff, with drivers and hybrids getting the press. But I firmly believe that the short irons in nearly all “game improvement” designs are ill-suited for precise distance control, hitting shots on the optimum trajectory or knocking flags down. I’ve written about this a number of times, so a little trip back in Wedge Guy history should be enlightening. But here are some facts of golf club performance as applied to short iron play:

Fact #1. Short irons are much more similar to wedges than your middle irons. But almost all iron sets feature a consistent back design for cosmetic appeal on the store racks. And while that deep cavity and perimeter weight distribution certainly help you hit higher and more consistent shots with your 3- or 4- through 7-iron, as the loft gets in the 40-degree range and higher, that weight distribution is not your friend. Regardless of your skill level, short irons should be designed much more similar to wedges than to your middle irons.

Fact #2. As loft increases, perimeter weighting is less effective. Missed shots off of higher lofted clubs have less directional deviation than off of lower-lofted clubs. This is proven time and again on “Iron Byron” robotic testers.

Fact #3. It takes mass behind the ball to deliver consistent distances. Even on dead center hits, cavity back, thin-face irons do not deliver tack-driver distance control like a blade design. In my post of a couple of years ago, “The Round Club Mindset,” I urged readers to borrow blade-style short irons from a friend or assistant pro and watch the difference in trajectories and shotmaking. Do it! You will be surprised, enlightened, and most likely pleased with the results.

Fact #4. The 4.5-degree difference between irons is part of the problem. The industry has built irons around this formula forever, but every golfer who knows his distances can tell you that the full swing distance gap gets larger as the iron number increases, i.e. your gap between your 8- and 9-iron is probably larger than that between your 4- and 5-iron. Could there be some club tweaking called for here?

Fact #5. Your irons do not have to “match.” If you find through experimentation that you get better results with the blade style short irons, get some and have your whole set re-shafted to match, along with lengths and lie angles. These are the keys to true “matching” anyway.

So, Phillip, without knowing your swing or what brand of irons you play, I’m betting that the solution to your problems lies in these facts. Oh, and one more thing – regardless of short iron design, the harder you swing, the higher and shorter the shot will tend to go. That’s because it becomes harder and harder to stay ahead of the club through impact. Keep short iron shots at 80-85 percent power, lead with your left side and watch everything improve.

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Instruction

Clement: Easily find your perfect backswing plane with this drill

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When you get on one of these, magic will happen! You can’t come too far inside or outside in the backswing, and you can’t have arms too deep or shallow at the top of the backswing nor can you be too laid off or across the line either! SEAMLESS!!

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