The Wedge Guy: Fixing what’s broke
Understand that today’s post is coming from a bona fide lifetime range rat. I’ve always loved time on the range, hitting ball after ball after ball, trying to become the best ball-striker and shotmaker I could be. My Dad’s advice as I was growing into the game was always, “there’s nothing wrong with your game another five thousand practice balls won’t fix.”
My childhood idol was Ben Hogan, so I studied his books, “Power Golf” and “Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf,” relentlessly. And I made myself into a pretty good player, with the strength of my game always being hitting fairways and greens. To be honest, the chipping/pitching/putting part of the game just didn’t interest me all that much.
Maybe because my father and my brother were both such good putters and pretty effective around the greens, I felt like my mark had to be through outstanding ball-striking.
But as I got older, I realized that any measurable gains I might make on becoming a better player would be through improving my scoring skills. Even the best players in the game only hit 12-14 greens per round, and I’ve always been right there. But PGA players turn that into 65s and 68s, while I turned mine into 71s and 75s, or worse.
The point of sharing that is to encourage all of you to – as we enter the 2022 season – to honestly and candidly assess where it is your game can use the most improvement. And my bet is – regardless of your handicap – you’ll find that answer is within 50-75 yards from the flag. Whether your goal is to break 90 or par, you’ll likely find that the shots that kept you from that goal are happening much closer to the green than the tee.
- How often do you miss a putt under 6-8 feet for par or bogey?
- How often do you hit a chip or pitch shot that leaves you outside that range . . . or completely misses the green? I’ve always said when you have a wedge in your hand for the second shot in a row, you have completely thrown one or more shots away.
- So, unless you are committed to instruction and the long-term process of changing your swing to change your ball-striking consistency, your time would be better spent honing your short game skills and your putting, and here’s where I think we can divide into two primary groups – those looking to break 80 and those looking to break 90 or 100.
For you higher handicap players, I advise your practice time be invested in two primary areas:
- Learning to hit a basic pitch and chip shot so that you can do it with confidence and consistency. Your goal is to make sure a missed green (of which you have 13-15 per round) leads to nothing worse than a bogey almost all the time. Go to your golf professional and invest the time and money to learn a technique for chipping and pitching that is reliable and repeatable.
- Practice making putts of eight feet or less. If you can get better in this range, it will take pressure off your short game and lower your scores. Again, get a pro to help if you need to, as these putts are usually pretty straight and a sound technique will improve your performance quickly.
For you more advanced players trying to break 80, 75 or even par, your goals are not all that different:
- Learn how to hit a variety of shots around the greens. Even if you tend to always pull the sand or lob wedge, spend some time seeing what your other wedges can do. I find it a lot easier to just change clubs to make the ball fly lower and release a bit more, than I do to try to manipulate my technique to achieve those goals.
- Know when to be bold, when not to. Sometimes a missed green leaves us short-sided or with a high-difficulty recovery. If you aren’t sure you know that shot and can pull it off, play away from the hole and take your medicine with a bogey. Doubles usually come from those greenside shots that are the most risky.
- Like the other golfers, improve your statistics inside eight feet. That means working on your stroke a bit, but more likely working on your routine. Get your line, focus your attention on the putt and relax . . . make a sound stroke.
So, there is my advice for today. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it — and really analyze what might be broke.
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Clement: “Infallible” release drill to add 30 yards to your drives
Yes, you heard it here: INFALLIBLE! This drill will end all drills as “the” go to drill when your golf swing is hangin’ on or being too forceful! None of my students in the last month either online or in person, French or English, male or female, have messed this up. Pure Wisdom! And we share it with you here.
Kelley: How a change in awareness can influence your body turn
A simple change of awareness can help you understand how the body can naturally turn in the swing. An important concept to understand: the direction the body moves is the engine to the swing. Research also shows the direction the body turns can be just as important as the amount of turn.
Golf is hard because the ball is on the ground, yet we are trying to hit it forward towards a target. With our head looking down at the ball, it’s easy to place our attention (what we are mindful of) on the ground, losing awareness to where we are going. This can make the body move in all sorts of directions, making hitting the ball towards a target difficult.
But imagine if we looked out over our lead shoulder with our attention to the target and made a backswing. Being mindful of the body, the body would naturally turn in a direction and amount that would be geared to move towards the target in the swing. (Imagine the position of your body and arm when throwing a ball). After proper set-up angles, this will give the look of coiling around the original spine angle established at Address.
With this simple awareness change, common unwanted tendencies naturally self-organize out of the backswing. Tendencies like swaying and tilting (picture below) would not conceptually make sense when moving the body in the direction we want to hit the ball.
A great concept or drill to get this feel besides looking over your shoulder is to grab a range basket and set into your posture with Hitting Angles. Keeping the basket level in front of you, swing the basket around you as if throwing it forward towards the target.
When doing the drill, be aware of not only the direction the body turns, but the amount. The drill will first help you understand the concept. Next make some practice swings. When swinging, look over your lead shoulder and slowly replicate how the basket drill made your body move.
The Wedge Guy: What really needs fixing in your game?
I always find it interesting to watch how golfers interact with the practice range, if they do so at all. I certainly can figure out how to understand that some golfers just do not really want to get better — at least not enough to spend time on the practice range trying to improve.
What is most puzzling to me is how many golfers completely ignore the rationale for going to the range to at least warm up before they head to the first tee. Why anyone would set aside 4-6 hours of their day for a round of golf, and then not even give themselves a chance to do their best is beyond me. But today, I’m writing for those of you who really do want to improve your golf scores and your enjoyment of the game.
I’ve seen tons of research for my entire 40 years in this industry that consistently shows the number one goal of all golfers, of any skill level, from 100-shooter to tour professional, is simply to hit better golf shots more often. And while our definition of “better” is certainly different based on our respective skill level, the game is just more fun when your best shots happen more often and your worst shots are always getting better.
Today’s article is triggered by what we saw happen at the Valspar tour event this past Sunday. While Taylor Moore certainly had some big moments in a great final round, both Jordan Spieth and Adam Schenk threw away their chances to win with big misses down the stretch, both of them with driver. Spieth’s wayward drive into the water on the 16th and Schenk’s big miss left on the 18th spelled doom for both of them.
It amazes me how the best players on the planet routinely hit the most God-awful shots with such regularity, given the amazing talents they all have. But those guys are not what I’m talking about this week. In keeping with the path of the past few posts, I’m encouraging each and every one of you to think about your most recent rounds (if you are playing already this year), or recall the rounds you finished the season with last year. What you are looking for are you own “big misses” that kept you from scoring better.
Was it a few wayward drives that put you in trouble or even out of bounds? Or maybe loose approach shots that made birdie impossible and par super challenging? Might your issue have been some missed short putts or bad long putts that led to a three-putt? Most likely for any of you, you can recall a number of times where you just did not give yourself a good chance to save par or bogey from what was a not-too-difficult greenside recovery.
The point is, in order to get consistently better, you need to make an honest assessment of where you are losing strokes and then commit to improving that part of your game. If it isn’t your driving that causes problems, contain that part of practice or pre-round warm-ups to just a half dozen swings or so, for the fun of “the big stick”. If your challenges seem to be centered around greenside recoveries, spend a lot more time practicing both your technique and imagination – seeing the shot in your mind and then trying to execute the exact distance and trajectory of the shot required. Time on the putting green will almost always pay off on the course.
But, if you are genuinely interested in improving your overall ball-striking consistency, you would be well-served to examine your fundamentals, starting with the grip and posture/setup. It is near impossible to build a repeating golf swing if those two fundamentals are not just right. And if those two things are fundamentally sound, the creation of a repeating golf swing is much easier.
More from the Wedge Guy
- The Wedge Guy: It’s not all about distance
- The Wedge Guy: Are you really willing to get better at golf?
- The Wedge Guy: Anatomy of a wedge head
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Apr 22, 2022 at 7:20 pm
Totally agree. During a long spell of the putting yips
hit 15 greens in regulation, with 6 three putts .. shot 78.
When cause and cure was explained to me a few years later, yips corrected in 30 minutes.
“There is no similarity between golf and putting; they are two different games, one played in the air, and the other on the ground.”
— Ben Hogan
Apr 19, 2022 at 9:51 pm
You’re not going to break 100, or 90 consistently, until you get a better swing. Short game and putting don’t help you if you waste strokes getting the ball up to the green. When the handicap gets to 12-13 is when the greens game needs to be emphasized.
Apr 19, 2022 at 2:46 pm
For me, I need to be able to execute the shot I have just made perfect practice swings on. Literally perfect practice swings, then chunk, blade, etc. Frustrating. And practicing wedges on the range, a no-go. So inconsistent it’s annoying and not productive. I may get four to ten shots from a bucket of balls that are hit the way I intended them to be hit, and not one after the other, so I have no idea what I did correctly or incorrectly to get the desired results. I get bored on the range, and prefer playing instead, and I know I need the practice, I just wish I could pull off back to back to back to back shots with a wedge so I can gain some consistency.
I am 52, so maybe when I grow up I will be able to have decent wedge game. It’s only those shots that take me out, too. I can drive well, hit good irons, have always been a good putter and can read the greens well, just lack the wedge game.
I saw a video recently, adopted that technique, and am making better contact and have better form, but now I hit the shot further than I did before. More learning ahead.
One thing I have also learned recently, is spine angle makes a huge difference in my game. If I have the roundness, my shots are all over the place. Spine angle in a good place along with the shoulders, I can strike the ball much better, and that includes the wedge shots.
Apr 23, 2022 at 3:41 pm
@Loweboy,get a shag bag, fill it with the balls you game on the course, and find a quiet park (or your club, if you’re a member of one) to just hit a bunch of different wedges/short irons.
Tinker with: swing length, choking-down on the grip, how much to open or close the face at address, and see what those different changes do to your flight and roll.
Range balls just don’t feel or behave the same when hit, in my experience.
Plus, it’s cheaper than burning 10+ bucks at the range trying to do the same thing.
Richard Dean Johnson
Apr 18, 2022 at 5:03 am
My alignment stick is basically 4 feet long. Lay it down on the putting green to indicate 4 feet from the cup. Stick a tee in the ground at 4 feet. Lay the stick down again to indicate 8 feet. Stick a tee in the ground to indicate 8 feet. You can leave the alignment stick laying between the 4 and 8 foot tees if you like, but now your 3 ball putting effort can easily identify 4, 6, 8 feet. Do four sets of 3 ball putting at each distance. Eventually lay the stick down again to indicate 12, then 16, then 20 feet, etc..I usually feel by 16 feet if I can’t center the ball on the face of the putter two putts can become very testy.
Apr 14, 2022 at 3:13 pm
The Golfing Machine by Homer Kelley is all one needs.
“Sustain the lag.” – Ben Doyle