Master controlled wedge shots to lower your handicap this offseason!
By Tim Connor
FACT: The majority of golf – anywhere from 55 to 65 percent – is played within 100 yards of the hole.
QUESTION: Do you spend 55 to 65 percent of your time practicing this part of the game?
ANSWER: In relation to most players I’ve talked to: No.
So, let’s explore how we can improve your game this offseason by becoming more proficient with your game from 100 yards and in! This can be done from three learning key points all good wedge players maintain:
- Ball-first contact.
- A system to consistently manage distance.
- Effective control on trajectory.
1. Contact is king.
To properly strike a wedge shot, the club needs to hit the ball first and ground second. Many struggle in this regard, because they often hit the ground before the ball or don’t hit down into the ground at all, which results in fat or thin shots and a lack of consistent distance control.
Let these four keys guide you to create this ball-first contact:
- Feel 65% of your weight on the lead foot in your setup.
- Maintain this feel of weighting throughout your backswing.
- In the downswing, transition this 65% of weight on your lead foot to 90%.
- Maintain this feeling for the duration of the swing.
2. Dial in your distance.
Now that we’ve established ball-first contact and you’re able to hit these shots with consistency, it’s time to dial in your yardage. After all, what’s a crisply-struck wedge shot good for if it ends up nowhere near the target?
The first step is to pick your “favorite” club once inside 100 yards. My personal go-to is the 54-degree sand wedge because I don’t have to max it out to hit it 100 yards, which means there’s more room for error than having to smash my 60 degree perfectly from this distance, and it still has enough loft to carry and spin amply from shorter distances to stop quickly once it lands on the green.
Once you’ve picked your go-to club, practice hitting shots by swinging to these three main check points during the backswing and through-swing for a baseline reference on how far each goes, and length of swing needed for distances in between:
1. Clubhead knee-high to knee-high.
2. Clubhead waist-high to waist-high.
3. Left arm (for a right-hander) parallel to the ground to right arm parallel to the ground.
3. Own your trajectory.
Golfers who struggle with wedge contact also likely have a lack of consistent trajectory, namely in hitting the ball too high, with very little distance.
We’ve established how proper ball-first contact will immediately help these shots, and by truly understanding and owning your trajectory to compliment this, the final step to becoming a competent wedge player awaits:
Combat the adding of clubface loft at impact many people struggle with by using a “straight arm” finish, while keeping the club in line with your left arm at this point in the through-swing.
Learning to do this will help you deliver the club with the same loft time after time, which, combined with ball-first contact, will result in consistent shot trajectory that further helps to dial in the yardages.
The time to work on this is now!
Now that we’ve established the three keys to wedge your way to lower scores, the offseason is the ideal time to work on putting these traits into your game.
So, stop by your local GolfTEC and talk with a Certified Personal Coach who can help you effectively monitor these changes and come out firing at the flag in 2016, with a wedge game you’re proud to own.