"Full Swing" Wedge Shots
I have written a number of times about what it means to hit a shot "full", particularly with the wedges and short irons. If there is anything I observe in golfers who have trouble scoring, it’s that they swing too hard, particularly when they have the shorter clubs in their hands. Today I’m writing about the notion of a "full swing" when it comes to the scoring clubs. And this post is prompted by a question from John P., who asked:
I'm one of those longer hitters, but I have difficulty taking full swings with much more than a 50 degree club. For me, taking a full swing with a high-lofted club leads to inconsistent distances. I've accepted this as reality for wedges, but is it really? I've learned over the last year or so to quit over-swinging my short irons, such that the full swing is no more than 90%, but that's still too much with wedges. Does everybody experience this, or am I potentially missing some full swing shot options?
Well, John, my guess is that your "problem" comes from the notion of just what a “full swing” really is – is it the length of the swing or the applied power to the swing?

Let’s dive right into that starting from the tee. With a driver in your hands, you’ll have your fullest "full swing". The added length of the club and your quest for optimum distance will allow/cause you to take the club all the way back to parallel at the top, or maybe even longer depending on your flexibility, and the developed clubhead speed will take you to a complete follow-through. As you move the hybrids and middle irons, the swing length becomes a slightly shorter, as these are more of control clubs. When you have short iron or wedge in your hands, the length of the backswing is shorter still. That makes sense, right?

But from your inquiry, my guess is that you are more confused about "full" as it applies to swing power, not length of backswing. And golf is a game played best at about 80% of what you THINK your full swing power really is.

I wrote a few weeks ago about the inspiration I took from playing with "the girls" at our NCAA golf tournament College-Am. And I am outspoken that I think the LPGA and Futures Tours put on a much better show that the PGA Tour. At least if you look at it from the perspective of "what can I learn?" The ladies just do not have the strength, particularly in the upper body, as the men. So they have to optimize the strength they do have, and they get there by focusing on rhythm and timing.

If all the body parts are doing what they are supposed to do . . . when they are supposed to do it . . . the golf swing is by design a very powerful action. But being men, most amateur players try to muscle the ball with their upper body strength, and therefore fall waaaay short of optimizing that strength. How else can a 115 lb LPGA tour player average 250-260 off the tee, when most male amateurs of much greater strength cannot hit it past 225? It’s not about muscle power, I can assure you.

John, I suggest you change your thinking about “full swings” to make that about an 80% application of what you think your full swing power really is; and then throttle back from there with the scoring clubs. You will immediately see better trajectories and distance control on your short irons and wedges.

Any bio engineers out there?

In a discussion about this very topic yesterday, I espoused that I thought the LPGA and better collegiate ladies were longer hitters than anyone on the PGA Tour, if you could create a formula for developing a ratio of driving distance/clubhead speed as a factor of "body strength". The men have made working out such a part of the modern golf game, they have tremendous body strength. So, I opined, if a fit 115 lb lady can hit it 250, then an equally fit male player of 1-1/2 times that, or a typical 175 lbs, should be able to hit it 375 right? But that isn’t happening.

In my observation and opinion, the combined power of proper timing, leveraging the golf club and dead solid impact is much more influential on the distance you can hit it, than is body strength.

That should give us plenty to talk about this week, huh? And if you have an idea of how we can quantify this, please contact me directly via the "Ask" button below.

photo source
The Wedge Guy is sponsored by SCOR Golf, where Terry Koehler is President/CEO. He encourages you to submit your questions or topics to be considered for his columns on Tuesdays and Fridays. Each submission automatically enters you to win a SCOR4161 wedge to be given away monthly. Click the button below to submit your question or topic today.

[ comments ]
birdieXris says:
Excellent article, Terry. I think most amateurs out there are more confused by the "full swing" than they realize. My "full swing" wedges are about 10 - 2 o'clock and sometimes i feel even that's a little long, but it allows me more control and i still am able to get the clubhead speed up there. Some of the guys that i meet out there ask me how i "hit a 3/4 sand wedge that far" but stare at me puzzled when i say "it wasn't 3/4." I also used to be a past parallel driver of the golf ball (again, still a LITTLE longer) but since working with my pro and shortening up, i've hit more fairways and actually ADDED 5 yards. I'm definitely recommending this article be read over and over until it's lodged in the brain.
M5 says:
Look at all the Pro Basketball Players that golf. Size, Power, Timing. Golf must have a point of diminishing returns when it comes to the swing. If it didn't these guys would easily be hitting it 375-400 yards.

Those machines that they use to test clubs. I have never seen one.....what happens when you set it for a 250mph swing?
Bryan K says:
Well...Hunter Mahan can sure hit a drive a long ways, and he's a little guy.

I played with a guy last summer who had a 360 yard drive. One thing I noticed about him is that he did not, at any time, look like he was trying to crush the ball. It was all in his mechanics. He claimed to have a swing speed in excess of 150 mph. I didn't argue with him.
Banker85 says:
ya its more about sold contact great ryhthm and timing/mechanics. as far as wedge shots go i am all aboard this train. I never hit a 100% wedge or try to power a wedge. if i do it ends up shooting in the ait and losing distance. more of a shorter back swing with shorter follow thru, keeps it lower and get good spin as long as i hit ball first and keep accelerating thru the swing.
ponderous says:
But, but, but... how am I to advertise the wondrous length and girth of my manhood if not by the length of my golf shots?!? … (kidding)

Thanks for selecting my question, Terry! I’m very much a feel player, so I don’t really pay attention to the length of my swing, but you’re dead on that the 90% I claimed was relative to maximum applied power. Kind of difficult to really know where everyone feels 70%, 80%, or 90%, but for me, 90% = firm and quick but never out of my shoes ,whereas 100% = WSD (Weapon of Snake Destruction).

I’ve recently started using what I call a 3/4 shot with my 9I on down to LW with great success. Again, 3/4 for me is not about the length of swing but about the power, and these shots fly two club lengths shorter than my full (90%) swings. The 3/4 swings fly lower and bad shots are always better than the bad full shot equivalent.

I’ve been thinking that I should adopt something closer to what I perceive to be a 3/4 shot as my full shot, and your input just confirms it. Thank you!
legitimatebeef says:
IMO the game doesn't always yield to our tidy little systems and methodologies; it would be nice to feel comfortable over every shot and make a smooth easy swing every time but at times you are faced with a scenario in which you have to take on some risk and put your bollocks on the line. Sometimes you kind of need to muscle a full wedge shot, sometimes its your best chance at getting it close to the pin. For example. If I have about 110 to a front pin, and its downwind, I'll try to get it there with a sand wedge even though its kind of a stretch for me distance wise. Because the alternative-- finessing a 3/4 smoothie pitching wedge-- not exactly a sure bet either.
Bryan K says:
You know...my amps go up to 11. That way, if we're already jamming out on 10 and I need that little extra, I can give it a little extra!

Legitimatebeef: I'm with you. And I believe that, along with Terry's views, is the reason why we should only be swinging 80-90% on our "full" swings. That way, if we need to give it a little bet extra on a unique shot, we have that little extra in the tank.

But I'll be honest...I've done some swinging excercises trying to increase my swing speed (mostly for my driver). I'm not at the point where a full swing for me is more around 50% to 60% because I can swing the club much, much harder. I just can't make contact with a swing like that. And when my game goes into the crapper, the reason why is usually because I'm swinging way too hard.
tennesseeboy says:
This has been my golf games over the last 2 years.

I go to the range and video my swing.
I say "Holy Cow, I can believe how much I'm over swinging"
I shorten my swing.
My score drops 10 points.
My score goes back up.
I start the cycle over again.
ponderous says:
@Bryan K: Hunter Mahan is little? 5-11 and 175 isn't little, and he's barely in the top 100 in driving distance. Are you thinking of someone else? Fowler or maybe Sadlowski (not all that little either) of long-drive fame?
stedar says:
I like the Amp analogy Bryan. To elaborate, an amplifier CAN go a lot higher in output, but did you notice how the sound distorts? A great sounding amp is one that can give you 110db of listening without a hint of distortion - just pure sound (and it can make a cheap pair of speakers sing). However, increase too much to get another 3db of sound level and the distortion ruins the music. The golf swing is exactly the same - keep it at a level that you body can cope with and you will find your distance and accuracy increase. The LPGA is a great example of this. Watch the men give it a little too much and off to the woods they go looking for their ball. The short game is all about finesse. Just like a good amp, it is in the details...
Neo says:
It's not diminishing returns, or some formula. The equipment is "rigged" so that conforming clubs will only perform to a certain level. You can't exceed it, similar to a govener on a car.

A better test would be to use something other than a driver, like a 3-iron blade, and see if the woman can hit that "nearly" or proportionally as far as a strong male PGA Pro. I doubt it.
SD Charlie says:
No wonder I struggle with my short irons to wedges! I try to make these full, firm swings and end up digging up tons of turf, or shanking, you name it. It really becomes difficult to remind yourself to dial it back. That's definitely something I need to keep working on. Tempo, rhythm and timing!
eventHorizon says:
How your club makes contact with the ball at impact is what determines the dynamics of the shot. How you get there is somewhat meaningless as long as you always end up at the correct position at impact. Proper swing mechanics will give an individual a better ability to repeat the swing and have the best opportunity of reaching impact in the correct position. Many amateurs confuse power with swinging hard with your arms. Arm strength doesn't add clubhead speed however a good torque (twisting) around your core will add plenty of power into your swing. The idea is hard to describe so analyze good players at the top of their swing and take note of the torque built into their core... Like a rubber band about to be released.
Bryan K says:
Ponderous: In my book, 5'11" and 175 lbs is a little guy. But the reason I brought him up is because Golf Magazine did some kind of fancy mumbo-jumbo ranking the best long hitters in the game taking fairways, distance, and some other mumbo-jumbo into consideration. Mahan took top prize.
Duffer 83 says:
In my opinion it's all about getting the most out or your swing at impact most amateurs need to dial it back to get the most out of impact. When we swing all out 100% we end up out of control, we swing fast coming out of the top and unhinge to early. We don't make good contact and our timing will put the swing speed at 80% by the time the club gets to the bottom. By dialing it back we have better lag and end up closer being closer to 100% at impact than by going all out. In addition I feel like I need to make better contact when I get in scoring position in order to be more accurate, flight theball and spin the ball. Personally I can't do that swinging as hard as I can.
tripleace says:
Terry, what's the answer to the comment about clubs built to perform only up to certain swing speeds? What would happen if Iron Bryon was cranked up to 150mph?
DoubleDingo says:
No more full swing short iron shots for me. Gained accuracy by doing so but, still dialing in the distance gaps.
wedgeguy says:
While drivers do have limitations regarding size and COR (coefficient of restitution), there is no effective limit on how fast you can swing that clubhead. And clubhead speed is a function of lots of factors. My point was that the ladies generate more clubhead speed in relation to their body strength and size than do the guys. And they hit it more solid . . . IMHO.
[ post comment ]
Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

Click here to learn more about Terry.
Click here to for Terry's blogroll.
    Golf Talk
Most Popular: