Mapping Wedges
By Erika Larkin on 7/10/13
It amazes me how often I ask a student "how far does your half-Sand Wedge go?", and they have no idea or at best, they have a rough range that spans 20 yards. We all hear how important it is to be good at 100 yards and in as a golfer but most amateurs do not take the time to practice on the short game enough (putting and chipping) let alone their approach game. But for as many people as there are that are missing greens in regulation it would be pretty helpful to have a solid feel for your approach shots and in turn this would help lower scores.

So with that said, one of the most valuable lessons I ever give students is taking them through a "wedge mapping". It is very helpful to know how far you can hit your wedges with different size swings and can really help people gain confidence with their approach shots and club selection 100 yards and in.

I would recommend you take the time to do this for yourself every once in a while to double check your distances and know exactly what your CARRY distances are. Here is how to do it:
  • You need 40-100 yards of space, some towels or cones or rods, a friend to watch where the ball is landing, 10 balls and your all of your wedges.

  • Next, determine a starting spot in the rough/fairway/range and then walk out distances in about 10 yard increments from 20-100 yards and mark them with towels/cones etc.

  • Start by hitting 10 balls with your SW using a quarter swing. Have your friend mark down how far the ball carried in the air on average.

  • Do this again with your other wedges and note the differences.

  • Go through the process and write down your distances with half swings, three quarter swings and full swings. You could do sets from the fairway/rough or using different ball positions if you want to really get specific. Remember, if the ball is going to be landing on the green in a real situation you need to allow for approx 5 yards of roll for a middle ball position or 10 yards of roll with a back ball position.

  • Review your results and make out a card that you can keep with you or memorize that charts all of your distances with all different size swings with your wedges. Now you have a map for success for your approach shots!
Have fun with this very worthwhile activity ... I KNOW this will help your game!

Erika Larkin is the Director of Instruction at Larkin Golf Learning Community, at Stonewall Golf Club in Gainesville, Virginia. She was named the 2012 Middle Atlantic PGA "Teacher of the Year" and the 2011 "Top Golf Pro" by Washingtonian Magazine and she's oobgolf's newest columnist! She writes on a variety of topics including instruction, so if you have a question for her or an idea for a column, email her at Enjoy!

[ comments ]
GolfSmith7 says:
Good word. I have done this bc of Dave Pelz short game bible so I know the distance for my wedges for the three swings you mention.
larrynjr says:
I did this from the Pelz SGB also and put them into a small Excel file, printed them and taped them to each club shaft just below the grip. In case I forget what club does what. I had actually stopped paying attention to this until recently and started using it again for pitch shots, still accurate and helps immensely!
legitimatebeef says:
Good point Erika. That said, I think it begs the question Why? Why do we all put such little effort and analysis into these shots? I think it's because they are not quite that easy. If it was as easy as finding an open space and mapping out distances, we'd all be better. But I think that these type of shots have a way of really exposing swing flaws. The 1/2 shots in particular I find to be a little tricky. In other words I feel that if one's technique is not that sound, the mapping isn't really going to be all that helpful.
GBogey says:
I practice this quite a bit and think I have gotten to be pretty good at my wedge distances for a mid-handicapper, but I continue to struggle with evaluating the roll. My guess is that this is due more to inconsistent setup and technique than anything else. The key factor is I know I don't take into account the course conditions in terms of soft / hard as much as I should.
jasonfish11 says:
Erika your posts are very good. This one included.

But wouldn't proper course managment be more important? If you are bad (and know you are bad) with half wedge shots. Dont pull a club that can leave you 50 yards into the green.

I hate 1/2 wedge shots (I could really benefit from your routine). But in my last 3 rounds I haven't had a single shot between 30-80 yards into the green.
theebdk says:
I have also done this and my short game definitely improved. Now practicing the execution is most of the battle. I have a piece of paper with my Pelz system distances, chipping ratios and regular club distances. I pull it out when I play and somehow feel more enlightened.
DougE says:
This is what has changed my game from an 18 to single digit handicap. I have been charting my less-than-full swing wedge (and short iron) distances (along with my full-swing distances) for a few years now. I know what to expect from tight lies, light rough and heavier rough....ball back in stance and mid stance. 60*, 56*, 52* and PW. 3-9 o'clock swing, 8:30-3:30 and 8 to 4, with little wrist break to full wrist break. Wet conditions and dry conditions. Hard course and soft. Uphill and downhill. I have charted everything and keep it in a handy custom-made, on-course booklet. Next to my four wedges, it is the most invaluable tool in my bag. Erika's suggestion is spot on. If you want to develop a good short game, this works, along with lots of practice. I am no better than the 14-16 range of handicappers I play with regularly....until we are within 125 yards. That IS my game and this charting/practice method is the reason why.
legitimatebeef says:
For me, I think it would all change if I were to use a rangefinder. Right now I use the markers on the course and pace off the rest. Inside around 60y I try to go on instinct. Not sure if that's the way. Think it's a little of both really, number and feel. Think I'll eventually get a scope, which I think can only help my handicap.
DougE says:
Rangefinder will change your game Beef. Particularly with wedges, from 100 and in. It is so helpful for practice sessions too.

And you are correct. As much as knowing your numbers with various wedges/shots, you also need to have the right feel/touch. But with all the practice using the above method, feel is something that just becomes an added benefit of all the practice. At least that is what happened for me.

When my shoulders were bad, before and even after the surgery, banging 100s of balls was not an option. So all my practice time went in to working on 100 yards and in. I would chip, chipitch, pitchip and pitch hundreds of balls each session. It paid huge dividends. (I also did not have to pay for range balls which made this practice more feasible.)
birdieXris says:
@ Beef - If you have a christmas request, i would say rangefinder. As an aside, i hear a lot of people say "oh i'm not good enough to need a rangefinder that precise". My response usually is "you're not good enough to need one because you don't HAVE one". DougE is right on the nose. It's great for practice and even before rounds where you're not allowed to use a laser - you do your practice round and write your distances down. Keeps the guy measuring the "150" stake honest.
GBogey says:
I would triple the rangefinder recommendation. Extremely useful 100 yards and in, but I also find that pin position and par 3 tee positions often change yardage much more than I ever think possible.
joe jones says:
I use a Izzo Swami which is very affordable. About $80 to $90. Reads front ,center and back yardage only and offers 19,000 courses at no charge. No download required. Just turn it on and it seeks a signal. I play with people who have $400 units that measure everything and mine is always within 1 or 2 yards every time.
onedollarwed says:
You guys keep talking about rangefinders, but aren't they not allowed in golf? I still don't understand how and when to use them. OK, yes for practice, yes for mapping a course to put into a book. But rounds that count towards your handicap?
I mean, I see people using GPS and other devices regularly, but they're not playing practice rounds. I don't get it.
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