Playing army golf? You really want to check out this video as you may have a bad grip causing some major short circuits in your golf swing.
Short Game University: How to hit wedges 201
In the previous article of Short Game University, we discussed how to hit a basic wedge shot covering three very important fundamentals
- The pivot: How you twist and turn
- The low point: Where the club hits the ground
- Your face to path: Controlling the ball
I promised you in the next article we’d discuss the second steps of how to hit wedges, which involves controlling your distances and how to control your trajectory. We’ll assume that you have the first part down and you can hit solid, straight, consistent wedges so now it’s time to move on. But if you cannot hit the ball solid each time then you will find that the next two items will be much harder to master. Lastly, we’ll also assume for the sake of our article that each time you hit a wedge shot, the face is clean, dry, and the grooves are not filled with hardened dirt or sand.
How to hit wedges 201
Controlling your distance
Obviously, after hitting the ball solidly and online, the next factor is to hit the ball the distance you want it to go. Now, remember we are focused on carry distance when it comes to wedges, not the total distance. The only thing you can control is how far it goes — what it does when it hits the ground can only be estimated at best.
There are many techniques for controlling the distance that have been discussed and written about, but I’d like to focus on what I’ve found to be the easiest for people to adopt with very little practice — I’m not saying it’s the only way or the best way — but it’s the quickest.
1. Adopt 3 swing stages
The last thing we want to do when it comes to controlling distance is change our swing. That is much harder to do than simply altering our backswing length. I simply suggest three positions for you to “remember,” and from there you will see the ball traveling different distances.
The first position is when the club shaft is belt-high in the backswing, the second is when the forward arm is parallel to the ground in the backswing, and the final is when the hands are shoulder-high at the top.
These three positions will give you stopping points to focus on, thus altering your backswing length and overall distance production. Don’t forget you can use any club to do this, and sometimes club distances can overlap.
2. Using the same tempo and swinging shorter to longer
Now that we have identified the three swing length stages, the hard part is making sure you use these backswing lengths all with the same tempo. It does no good if you take it back to chest high but then swing down at Mach 1. The only way this is going to take distance off the ball is if you move back and through at the same tempo regardless of the backswing length used. Remember, our goal is to make the same swing each time so that we can produce the same distances consistently from each position!
Now that we have found our three positions, swung with the same tempo, the final key for distance control in this example is to make sure you are swinging “shorter to longer” meaning you always move into a full-finish for each of these positions. We never want you to cut off your finish or slow down through impact because these factors will cause you to hit the ball unsolid, not be able to control your distances, and will bring into play the potential for the super-fat shot that only goes 15 yards — which stinks!
Controlling your trajectory
On the professional side, they have no problem hitting the ball solidly or controlling their swings producing different distances, but they can also do this using any trajectory they want. Think about a back pin into the wind- a low, driving shot is better. What about a tucked pin over a bunker to a narrow green, a high shot is the only way.
So how do you simply go about changing your trajectory? Most people would answer put the ball closer to your front foot to hit the ball higher and closer to your back foot to hit the ball lower. And they would be right, except for one thing…
Most people fail to understand what this is actually trying to accomplish: altering your dynamic loft at impact.
Let’s take for example a 56-degree sand wedge, the static loft is 56. But when you put the ball back in your stance and lean the shaft forward trying to hit the ball lower it is reduced to 54 degrees (or whatever.) When you put the ball forward in your stance and hit the ball higher the shaft “backs up” (very slightly) and the dynamic loft could be increased a touch and the ball goes higher. Now obviously there are other factors that can play into trajectory control, but this oversimplified example is basically all you need to know at this point.
The best way to control dynamic loft is to practice hitting slow-motion shots from 50-yard shots (using your normal ball position) higher and lower, and you will feel how you have to manipulate the shaft in order to do so. If you want to become a great wedge player, then you must understand how to control your distances and trajectories.
So, how do we put this together?
The easiest way to put this all into motion is to start with a distance of 30 yards, lay out towels at 25, 30, and 35 yards. You would begin with the club and swing length that you would use to hit the ball this distance (30 yards) normally. Next with the ball in your normal wedge position try to hit the ball higher and lower to the same 30 yard distance marker. If you can do so, then you have now learned how to control your dynamic loft!
Next, see what it takes to do the same thing (low, normal, and high shots) to the shorter distance and next to the longer distance towel. Did you alter your tempo or move the ball around in order to do so? How did you feel it?
Once you have figured out this, you now have a better feeling of what you need to do in order to hit wedges different distances and with different trajectories. From there, you can expand this drill to cover shots from 30 yards all the way up to a full wedge swing. I will promise you that if you work on your wedges in this way, you will lower your handicap and become a much better player than ever before!
The Wedge Guy: Re-think mid-range wedge shots
For over 30 years, I have been almost myopically focused on scoring range performance, from the design of wedges to the study of techniques of golfers of all skill levels. I’ve had the good fortune of having reviewed over 50,000 golfers’ wedge-fitting profiles, and countless one-on-one conversations with every-day golfers to tour professionals and teaching pros alike. And I try to continually learn from all those encounters.
From my observations of most recreational golfers and their scoring range performance, the vast majority of players seem to routinely and almost automatically reach for their highest-lofted wedge when they have a less-than-full shot into the green. By that I mean any shot from just under full-swing yardage to greenside chips and short pitches.
I also believe that tendency or habit is costing many golfers in their scoring range success rate. Let me share some insight with you that you can use to improve some of your “red zone” shotmaking.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a column that shared why wedge “mastery” is so elusive for the recreational golfer, regardless of his or her skill level. You can read that article HERE. The key element to that elusive mastery of shot making with wedges is that the high degree of loft makes all wedge shots somewhat of a glancing blow to the ball, when you compare it to the impact with a 7-iron, let’s say, or even a driver. Those lower lofted clubs deliver a more direct blow to the ball.
In our most recent robotic and live golfer testing of wedge shots at intermediate ranges, we often saw a higher spin rate achieved with a lower lofted wedge . . . say a 54 rather than a 58 or 60. The reason for that is that impact is more direct, and more of the mass of the clubhead is above the strike point on the face. That improves “gear effect”, which is a basic principle of golf clubhead design.
Rather than get into anything super-technical, however, I will share my own experience gained as we have tested and measured the Edison Forged and other wedges in all kinds of shot-making scenarios. At 40-70 yards, as you would expect, shots hit with the 53 to 56 loft range would almost always deliver a lower trajectory than shots with 58 to 61 degree loft wedges. But you are likely surprised that the lower lofts consistently delivered as much or more spin and a tighter long-short dispersion variance.
In my own play, that research has inspired me to hit more of those mid-range shots with my 53 than with my 57, and the results are much more consistent. I still like the 57 for shots around the greens when I need that bit of extra loft, but I also reach for that 53 and even my 49 or 45 when the shot doesn’t call for a high ball flight because there is very little green to work with.
Another area where the lower lofted wedge is to your advantage is when the ball is sitting up in the rough. With the higher lofted wedge, you are much more likely to make impact high on the face, which greatly reduces the smash factor and therefore, how far the shot can travel. If you simply “loft down” one or two clubs – my bet is that you will dramatically improve your performance with these shots.
I encourage all of you to turn yourselves into “mad scientists” as well, and experiment with hitting those mid-range wedge shots with the next lower loft than you might ordinarily turn to. My bet is that you will quickly see your distance control improve, and you’ll be pleased with the launch angles and spin you still get.
Short Game University: How to hit wedges 101
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…
- The pivot: How you twist and turn
- The low point: Where the club hits the ground
- 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 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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