Smart Golf Lesson #1: Manage Your Lay Ups
As you probably know, I recently began a weekly Short Game podcast series on, where each week we discuss an aspect of the short game, and answer questions from listeners. If you haven’t tuned in yet, please do, and send me your short game questions to be considered on the show.

One question that has come up already a few times is something like this:

“When I lay up on par fives and have a 30-50 yard pitch shot, I have a problem spinning the ball enough to make it stop”, or “I have a problem controlling my distance. What can I do ?"

My answer to these is always the same, and it’s kind of like the old joke where the guy goes to the doctor and says, “Hey Doc, it hurts when I do this”, to which the doctor replies, “Then stop doing it.”

The mid-range or “half wedge” is one of the hardest shots in all of golf to hit to your expectations. You can practice and practice all you want, but each one is slightly different so it will be hard to groove it to the precision you expect. I strongly suggest the alternative – playing to your full swing wedge distances when you are facing a short par four or hitting your second on a par five.

Last year I wrote about Zach Johnson’s strategy coming into The Masters, where he determined beforehand he would not try to hit any of the par fives in two.

But did he hit his second shots as close to the green as he could ? No.

He laid up precisely to his full lob or sand wedge distance so that he could hit full swing shots, achieving maximum distance control and optimum spin. That let him play the par fives better than any other golfer in the field, and win the green jacket.

For each of us, we should have our “comfort zone” swing with each of our wedges, which produces pretty reliable yardage nearly every time. And with my SCoR (Shot Control Routine) Method for hitting the in-between shots, we should be able to “dial in” the correct yardage by gripping down on the club a precise amount.

That’s why I’m a fan of carrying a full complement of scoring clubs. In my own game, for example, from anywhere between 70 and 117 yards, I know that I can make a comfortable full swing and hit most of my shots within 4-5 yards (only 15 feet or so) of my desired distance, by choosing the right wedge and gripping it precisely in the right place on the grip. And it only took me a couple of hours one day to build my wedge distance chart.

112 yards to the flag ? Grip down the PW ½” and swing away.

101 yards ? Full swing Gap Wedge.

80 yards ? Sand Wedge gripped down 1 inch.

You can build your short game the same way. First, develop your “comfort swing” with your wedges. I suggest that is about an 80% power swing to produce consistent distance and trajectory.

Then learn how many yards it takes off when you grip down ½” and 1”. That gives you three precise distances with each wedge.

If you carry four, like I do, that means I can hit the ball – with reasonable confidence – twelve different distances with the same swing !

I go into this process in great detail in my book, The SCoR Method – A Simple Way to Achieve Precision in Your Short Game.” We include a complimentary copy with each EIDOLON order and sell the book on our website. Click here to read more about The SCoR Method.

Sorry, I didn’t intend this to be a sales pitch for my book, only a suggestion that the best way to master the dreaded “half wedge” is to not give yourself any more of them than you have to. Learn your comfortable full-swing distances with your wedges, dissect them even more with precise hand placement, and play to those yardages. You’ll see immediate results.
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 ]
Steve S says:
Terry, Wouldn't it make more sense to have a wider loft gap between clubs in the long irons and a smaller loft gap in the scoring clubs ; i.e. 18*, 24*, 30*,36*, 40*, 43*,46*,49*,52*,55*, 58*-this leaves 3 clubs for Putter, Driver, and FW/HY less than 18* if needed? This actually would give you 5 wedges if you count the 46*.

wedgeguy says:

That could certainly make some sense. I think it's only a matter of time before we are buying irons by loft numbers rather than club numbers, since the major manufacturers have clouded those beyond recognition anyway. On the market today, you can find sets of irons with a #9 ranging from 39-44*!
Tim Horan says:
As you may have picked up along the way I recently purchased 48, 52,56 and 60 degree Eidolon wedges. They are great! I played them in Scotland last week for the first time ( I Haven't spent time with them alone to get the cheat sheets sorted, they play a very similar distance to my Kane wedges so it is not a big deal at the moment). The spin produced by the wedges though is amazing. The reason I am commenting here is that last night I played a three club and putter competition over nine holes off the competition tees and the results were really unexpected. Using a 2 wood (strong 3), six iron and 52 degree wedge plus putter I scored a creditable 20 points off 10 hcp. Limiting the clubs in the bag really hones your shotmaking skills- example Par 5 520yds, usual game plan - Driver, 21 degree rescue wood, chip and two putt. Last night 2/3wood, 6iron, full 52 degree wedge from 105yds and single putt. In the nine holes I packed in 5 full wedge shots 95 - 105 yds by managing not only lay-ups but also club selection from the tee (450 yds - 2 x 6 iron to leave a full wedge).

I really enjoyed your recent post on "Quest for Distance", combining the easy swing and the planned lay-up is really making a difference to my game. It has not completely cured me of taking the odd risk here and there but it really has allowed me to assess the reward and target certain holes as potential match winning opportunities without card wrecking results. Nice one Terry!

One other thought on distance control that may assist all of you out there - On the range take your sand wedge and spank one shot as far as you can and then hit every other ball in the basket to that distance working your way through your bag hitting 4/5 balls with each club. This really does coordinate your hands through the impact area. Any aberations in the swing path will be shown up here and the benefits to your short game being able to vary club selection from 100 yds or so will pay off especially if coming out of the woods or from under overhanging branches.
wedgeguy says:
Thanks for the kudos, Tim, and the suggestion for a fun practice drill. Anything that makes practice fun and exciting is a good thing in my book. We all could use more of both -- practice and fun!
Rick.Surratt2 says:
Makes perfect since. Smart golf is easy for me to understand, it's the application portion of it I struggle with. HA
Rick.Surratt2 says:
Sorry, I was typing and not thinking......Sense
[ post comment ]
Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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