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The Wedge Guy: Engage your core for better wedge play

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As I am getting to know a new group of golf buddies since I moved to a new club this past summer, I have the fun of observing all these new swings and techniques. What I see most often is plenty of struggles around the greens.

What I see most often in mid-to high-handicap players (and some low handicap ones) is a technique that is overly dependent on hand action, where body core rotation is practically non-existent. This causes the golfer to make a slap or jab at the ball with the clubhead in an attempt to make contact.

This reliance on your hands is then aggravated by one or two shots that are hit poorly, thereby making you more “impact conscious.” And the vicious cycle begins – bad shot, more handsy, another bad shot, tighter grip, another bad shot, quicker tempo, and holes just thrown away.

Years ago, I created a simple drill to feel how your body core should be engaged, even on short scoring shots, so you can try to cure this terrible affliction.

Pick up a wedge and take your normal grip. Now hold it directly in front of you, with your upper arms relaxed at your side and your elbows bent so your forearms are parallel to the floor and right in front of your chest. The club should be vertical, so that you are looking right at your right thumbnail (for right-handers). Now, keep your eyes focused on your right thumbnail and your upper arms close to your chest, rotate your upper body to move your hands and the club back and forth, starting about a foot in either direction. You want to feel like nothing is moving but your body core. As you continue to rotate back and through, lengthen the range of motion until you are making nearly a full shoulder turn. But always make sure that your hands are right in front of your sternum throughout the range of motion.

Now, extend your arms straight out in front of you, so that now the club is pointing away from you at about 45 degrees. Repeat the drill, moving the arms and club back and through only by rotating your body core. It helps to focus your eyes on the right thumb so that you are very aware if you start swinging the arms without rotating the body. That’s what a pitching swing should feel like – one-piece rotation of the body, with the arms and hands “quiet.”

The last piece of the puzzle is to gradually lower the club as you rotate back and through – do this by bending at the hips, flexing the knees and lowering the hands. Lower the club a little bit on each rotation, so that you continue to feel like the body core is driving the entire action. Once you get so that the club is brushing the turf or carpet as you go back and through, you will be feeling what a solid, functional and repeatable wedge swing should feel like.

I realize this is abbreviated but try it and I think you will see just how inactive your body might have been on your pitch shots.

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Terry Koehler is a fourth generation Texan, a native of a small South Texas town and a graduate of Texas A&M University. He has had a most interesting 40-year career in the golf industry. He has created five start-up companies, ranging from advertising agencies to golf equipment companies. You might remember Reid Lockhart, EIDOLON, SCOR, or his leadership of the reintroduction of Ben Hogan to the golf equipment industry in 2014. For almost 25 years, his wedge designs have stimulated other companies to slightly raise the CG and improve wedge performance. He has just announced the formation of Edison Golf Company and the new Edison Forged wedges, which have been robotically proven to significantly raise the bar for wedge performance. Terry serves as Chairman and Director of Innovation for Edison Golf, which can be seen at www.EdisonWedges.com. Terry has been a prolific equipment designer of over 100 putters and several irons, but many know Koehler as simply “The Wedge Guy”, as he authored over 700 articles on his blog by that name from 2003-2010.

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Vii Pii

    Nov 22, 2021 at 5:40 pm

    Pictures would be helpful.

  2. No Donkeys Allowed

    Nov 8, 2021 at 12:11 pm

    Kdouuuuuuche, Kdouuuuuuche, Kdouuuuuuuche, Kdouuuuuuuuche,Kdouuuuuuuuuuuuche, Kdouuuuuuuuuche, Kdouuuuuuuuuuuuuche….

  3. ChipNRun

    Nov 5, 2021 at 12:09 pm

    Terry,

    Players who don’t use the core often do well on “straight back-straight through” chip and run shots. But, they often have erratic wedge games because SBST doesn’t generate power for longer pitch (lofted) shots.

  4. dkash

    Nov 4, 2021 at 1:35 pm

    Tell Stan Utley that…..

  5. Vinnieluvv

    Nov 3, 2021 at 6:24 pm

    Engaging your core also protects your back. I also do it more now when putting and it definitely helps keep the back from flaring up.

  6. geohogan

    Nov 3, 2021 at 5:08 pm

    Our lower body needs to adjust to change in balance the movement
    of weight of our arms(25-40 pounds) causes even in small pitches.

    If we start from the ground up ie with our feet, our cores will automatically be engaged.

  7. Acemandrake

    Nov 3, 2021 at 3:47 pm

    Tom Kite said he was a good wedge player because he kept the butt end of the club pointing at his belly button throughout the swing.

    He also said he’d be really good if he could do that with all his clubs.

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Clement: Smash your fairway woods!

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This video is chock full of fairway wood wisdom that will allow you to understand several things including why a low spinning 5-wood would go much farther and what to focus on feel wise and sound wise with the SOLE of the club through the turf and ground. At least four solid nuggets throughout this video that will be sure to sharpen your fairway woods and hybrids!

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The Wedge Guy: Chipping away strokes

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I’ve always admired golfers who can really chip the ball well. Through my years in golf, I have seen players of all handicaps who are excellent chippers, and all tour professionals are masters of chipping it close. But for such a simple little stroke and challenge, chipping seems to be a part of the game that eludes many of us.

A good short game just cannot be achieved without a commitment to both learning and practicing. In watching the best chippers, it seems that their technique or chipping “stroke” is very similar to their putting stroke in style, form and pace. I think that’s because both chipping and putting are primarily “feel” shots. Yes, technique is important, but I’ve seen good chippers with all kinds of form and fundamentals.

This brings to mind two of my golf buddies who are both good chippers of the ball while employing totally different styles, but each one closely resembles their individual putting style. One uses a more stiff-wristed technique and quicker pace and tempo — just like his putting. The other, who is a doctor with a delicate touch, uses a more rhythmical pace not dissimilar from his syrupy smooth putting stroke.

Now let’s talk about techniques.

I personally prefer to use two different chipping techniques, depending on the chip I am facing. If I simply have to carry a few feet of collar and then get the ball rolling, I’ll choose a mid-iron or short iron, depending on the balance of carry and roll, and grip down on the club so that I can essentially “putt” the ball with the club I’ve chosen.

In employing this technique, however, realize that the club you are “putting” with weighs much less than your putter, so you want to grip the club much lighter to make the club feel heavier. It takes just a little practice to see what different clubs will do with this putt/chip technique.

On chips where the ball has to be carried more than just a few feet, I prefer a chipping technique that is more like a short pitching swing. I position the ball back of center of my stance to ensure clean contact and set up more like a short pitch shot. I usually hit this kind of chip with one of my wedges, depending on the balance of carry and roll needed to get the ball to the hole.

On that note, I read the green and pick an exact spot where I want the ball to land, and from there until impact, I forget the hole location and focus my “aim” on that spot. Your eyes guide your swing speed on chips and short pitch shots, and if you return your eyes to the hole, you are “programming” your body to fly the ball to the hole.

So, while sizing up the shot, I find a very distinct spot on the green where I think the ball needs to land to roll out with the club/trajectory I envision. From that point on, my complete focus is on that spot, NOT the hole. That loads my brain with the input it needs to tap into my eye/hand coordination. I think many golfers chip long too often because they focus on the hole, rather than where the shot needs to land, so their “wiring” imparts too much power. Just my thinking there.

One of my favorite drills for practicing chipping like this is to take a bucket/bag of balls to the end of the range where no one is hitting, and practice chipping to different spots – divots, pieces of turf, etc. – at various ranges, from 2-3 feet out to 20-30. I do this with different wedges and practice achieving different trajectories, just to load my memory banks with the feel of hitting to a spot with different clubs. Then, when I face a chip on the course, I’m prepared.

I’m totally convinced the majority of recreational golfers can make the quickest and biggest improvement in our scoring if we will just dedicate the time to learn good chipping technique and to practicing that technique with a purpose.

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Host Michael Williams talks with NextLinks CEO Dan Mechem about their bold leap into the world of entertainment golf. Also features Dominic Lee and the amazing conclusion of the Case of The Missing 5-Iron.

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