Understanding Face Angle
As I watch many mid- to high-handicap golfers have trouble with their wedges, I typically see that their problems begin with the face angle at address. So let me get into this in a little detail to see if I can’t shed some light on what a “square” face angle is, and how to properly “lay it open” when you are in the bunkers or otherwise looking for more height and/or spin. I’m going to explain these two most common errors, and show you how to use a doorway in your home or office as a guide to a proper set-up.

The first glaring mistake I see in higher handicap player is that they hood the clubface on their wedges at address, reducing the loft to as little as a 9- or even 8-iron, and negating all the loft benefits of having a wedge in their hands in the first place. Typically, this is combined with a pronounced forward press of the hands to further de-loft the club, and make it practically un-functional.

In a normal address position, the face should be perfectly square to the target line, and the shaft should be leaned forward only enough to put the bottom of the grip about even with the wedge’s leading edge. You can practice what this looks like by setting up with your wedge in a doorway in your home or office. With your body square to the doorway, “address” the baseboard and lean your shaft forward so that it touches the door frame about 4-6” below the grip. That is proper club position for a standard full wedge shot. Does it feel much different from your norm? If it does, then practice this to make it feel natural to you – your game will benefit.

From this understanding of a normal set-up, let me address the concept of “laying the face open” for a bunker shot or flop from thicker rough.

Again, the main error I see most golfers make is that they don’t understand what this really means. When we talk about “laying it open”, we mean actually gripping the club with the grip rotated to the right (for right hand players), so that the leading edge is pointing off to the right considerably. This allows the bounce of the club to work to its highest effectiveness.

Again, you can use the doorway as a guide. This time, as you put the leading edge of the wedge against the baseboard, lean the shaft back as shown in the photo. From there, take your stance at right angles to the shaft, so that you are standing mostly in the room, with your body aligned diagonally to the doorway. The grip will be rotated in your hands. This is the proper setup for most bunker shots. If it feels dramatically different from what you are used to, that explains your sand play difficulty.

Left:Face Open using doorway.
Right: Face Square using doorway.

Hopefully this explanation of the “geometry” of face angle is helpful. And as always, I’d appreciate your feedback and questions.
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[ comments ]
klangdon says:
using the door approach to align everything, where should your feet be?

I assume with picture on left that left foot is almost in line with the clubface/doorway where on the right the doorway is in the middle of your stance?
William Charles Ni says:
In the right picture it looks like the heel is farther from the baseboard than the toe. Isn't that slightly closed? I always try to square the bottom of my club to the target line.
wedgeguy says:
Klangdon, you are right in that assessment. And William, that is a photo error on our part. The idea is that the face of the wedge should be square to the baseboard, and the shaft leaning forward to where it contacts the door frame a few inches below the grip. This is general, of course, but this little drill will show you how close you are to a good sound setup with your wedges.

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