Those Pesky Half Wedges
One of the more difficult aspects of golf, in my opinion, is learning the "touch" shots, those less-than-full swings that you need to score. It seems the vast majority of golfers are challenged by these, more than they are by the full swings, in fact. This topic was brought back to the front of my mind by an email from Paul A., who related his frustration with this part of the game:
"I've been playing golf about 4 years and I have a question about how you control the distance of your wedge shots when you are more than a chip out but less than a full swing of your lob wedge? In one camp you have the people that say to use the same club all the time and just learn to feel the distance. In the other are the advocates of using three different swings for all your wedges and then learning the distances of each different swing for each club. I haven't had much consistency with either method. I would sure appreciate you addressing this."Well, Paul, first of all, congratulations on being this week's winner. I hope getting your new EIDOLON wedge will be a step in the right direction as you work to improve your short game. Now, let's get on with how to help you build a scoring system that will help you with those partial wedge shots.
To begin, you do have to realize that this part of the game takes as much practice, or more, to develop as the full swing shots. In order to have touch and feel, you have to have a “database” of shots you’ve successfully executed to draw from. The more good ones you have in that database, the more likely you are to be able to pull one out of your arsenal with confidence. But that all starts with having a technique you can rely on, so let’s build that.
I’m a believer that the closer you get to the green, the slower you work. I compare the short game to the house painter. Painting walls allows full and powerful strokes with a large brush or roller, but as you get to the trim work, you work slower and more deliberately. Wedge play is a lot like that. It’s easier to make a longer, slower swing, than a short “jabby” one. I’m also a proponent of controlling your swing power with the rotation speed of your body core. To hit the ball further/harder, you rotate through faster. To hit the soft touch shots, you rotate through a little slower. The key to that is to keep the hands “quiet”, so that you are not flipping the clubhead, and let the upper body, arms and hands work in perfect unison.
I’ll add that I’m not a proponent of learning “three different swings”, but rather of just allowing your feel to determine swing length, and focusing more on learning multiple “paces of rotation”. If your hands (and therefore the clubhead) are always coordinated with the pace of your body core rotation, you’ll quickly learn how to manage the pace of that rotation to produce various distances.
I suggest you spend time with your gap and sand wedges, and practice this core-driven approach. Learn how the ball will fly with various swing lengths and core speeds, with each of the two clubs. You can further vary the ball flight by gripping down on the club to different points on the grips – the shorter the club, the lower and shorter the ball will fly.
This is a very large topic for such a short forum, but see if that doesn’t get you on the right track. And chime back in to let me/us know how it’s working out for you.
Thanks for sending in your question, Paul, and congrats on the new EIDOLON wedge.
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 ]
If only I could master these half-shots...
If only I could hit my wedges at all. I hit them full fairly well but I get to much trajectory on them. I hit the 3/4 swing lower and has more spin. I may be going to far back in my back swing. Keeping the hands quiet is a good thing to do. I notice to many people sweeping at the ball and using to much wrist to slap it. I will have to work on rotating my core more and at different speeds.
Great Topic WG
I like the keys: gripping down, quite hands and slower tempo. Learning tempo really helped me create my pace of ball-to-green speed. It's not always perfect, but it's definitely more consistent!
I dont like taking full swings with L wedge so i always and have been getting pretty good at choking down and hitting a Gap or sand wedge with a 3/4 or 1/2 shot, which produces lower trajectory and generates good amount of spin. I also will move the ball back a bit further in my stance.
It seems for me and my game, that no matter what I do or try, I cannot produce consistent short game shots from one day to the next. Some days I can up and down all day with pure confidence, and the next day it can take six strokes to get that blessed finesse shot on the putting surface from 20 yards out. Drives me crazy!!! It's to the point lately that after each round I am thinking of just setting the clubs aside and only play in scrambles once or twice a year. And this is after making much progress, only to lose most of what I gained. Frustrating!!
A drill that my golf pro at my club had me do (and one I see him use on the range himself) is to put a towel across your chest and keep it in place by putting the ends underneath your armpits and swinging. This helps keep your arms "connected." It helps me a lot when I feel I'm getting too "handsy." My "handsiness" often comes into play with less-than-full swings and the towel helps to reconnect things and use my trunk rotation to make these shots. Hope it can help you out too.
I think you have to find something that works, either through suggestion or practice. There are a lot of ways to look at it. Personally I like a 100% technical swing, same tempo from 30-90 yards but take the club back further in the backswing as the distance from the landing area increases. I have worked on 3 club face angles (closed/neutral/open) and 2 different release points (hinge/no hinge).
For what its worth, I suggest that a high bounce wedge is the easiest for us amateurs to hit at these distances.
Dave Pelz has a very good book on this subject (Dave Pelz's Short Game Bible) and breaks down the approach shots, based upon analysis of tons of data generated by professional golfers. The principal of the book is all around shots from 100 yards to the edge of the green. I am just over 1/2 way through it, but the principals of it have helped me on the finesse shots while on the course.
Carry different wedges for what they do on the full shot... the 1/2 shots are all about comfort and carry v. roll.
Hardest part of my game. I keep flying balls to pin and they all roll out past. Which wedge lofts do you prefer from green side rough?
The key is acceleration - it is CRITICAL!!! You must accelerate the club no matter how far you take it back!!!
@rochgolfer: how about using less club so it will roll out to the hole. I use my 60* lob wedge from greenside rough, or anywhere greenside for that matter (unless putter is the easiest route)
Terry's advice on here and reading Dave Pelz here has been a big plus in my game. Now I carry 4 wedges and have 4 simple but different feel swings that I can go to - basic pitch, 1/4 swing, 1/2 swing and a full swing. I also vary that by gripping either the end of the club or down the shaft and sometimes half way. That gives me 4 wedges by 4 swings by 3 grips which is 48 different carries for distance and trajectory from 100 metres in. Over time I have pretty much got those 4 swings down pat and I just need to measure the distance I need to play and pick the club and swing for the shot. I have written down all the distances and have a table of them on my buggy for easy reference. I am an accountant by trade so maybe this approach suits me better than just relying on feel!!!
But the key it has added to my game is that I now have a plan. Before I used to stand over the ball and not really know how I was going to play the shot. I have stuck to my plan and over time I have got better at execution.
Let me guess... half shots are played better with an EIDOLON wedge. Right?
I appreciate all the helpful advice from the Wedge Guy, but is the ability to play consistant bogey golf a skill learnable with reasonable practice and the right equiptment, or is there a component of natural ability one has to be born with needed to routinely break 90?
aaronm04, I tried that towel technique last night and it worked well. I didn't have a towel, but I remained conscious of what my arms were doing and I was pitching the ball straight and most were pin high. Now if I can remain consistent in doing this, I should see my scores dropping again. Thanks Wedge Guy for the great articles, and everyone else for the input.
@tripleace - I think natural ability has very little to do with golf, maybe some disagree. I view it the same as writing, riding a bike, typing, learning a new language or any other effort. Proper equipment helps a little, but not nearly as much as proper practice. Just as with any activity more practice will lead to more consistency.
@trip... When I first got into the low 90's, the one thing that helped me the most was proper course management. I took away the "big" numbers (7+) that usually show up when I would attempt the "hero" shot after a wayward drive. A pitch back to the fairway will usually result in a 6 at most, as opposed to 3 punch shots to get out of the woods, an iron shot, a chip and 2 putts.
Kurt the Knife says:
I just began to understand that.
A pitch back into decent play beats trying to thread a 3-iron between trees (2 or 3 times).
tripleace. Breaking 90 regularly is in anyone and everyone's potential. Refer to the article from last week about the basics and work on those.
I just broke 90 for the first time yesterday.
There are three main reasons I was able to do this:
2. Course Management
3. More practice (especially chipping and putting)
I do not consider myself to be especially skilled athletically.
I would agree that just about everyone out there has the enough natural ability to break 90. It is a matter of developing your skills through practice and applying those skills on the course using the best judgement.
Breaking 90 is not about playing excellent golf. It is about playing decent golf consistently. I think I am a good example of this. I just broke 90 for the first time and I have never made a birdie on any hole.
I see no reason why I cannot improve my consistentcy even more with some additional practice so that I can continue to break 90 in the future.
Tim Horan says:
Course management,the management of expectation and practice will save more shots than any new equipment. Our club pro has thrown down a challenge to all over 18 hadicappers in the club. One £75 ($120)playing lesson on course management with him over 18 holes and if you don't shave 6 shots off your handicap using his course mapping and using his directive (basically getting yourself back on the short stuff)in six months you can have the £75 back. We could all manage our way around the course better if only we weren't so gung-ho about tiger lines and recovery shots.
Matt F says:
@Tim Horan - I'd take that lesson any time. I might have to talk to one of my Pro's about that.
@Wegeguy - Confused about faster body core rotation and length of backswing. I'm having a difficult time equating length of backswing to the length of the shot-this even translates into full swings with other clubs; i.e.driver. irons, etc. There are many folks and pros that take a 3/4 swing and hit the ball as far or farther, e.g Camillo and JB holmes seem to have limited backswings but are two of the longest on tour. This would seem to support your advice that core speed rotaion is the key. For me it seems the longer I take the club back the higher the chances I get off plane and mis-hit. Length of backswing doesn't necessarily translate into higher acceleration at impact, does it? So which is it; length of backswing, or length of club (gripping down, or core speed rotation that determines distance?
clubhead speed determines distance. The longer the backswing the more potential energy can be created but if you mishit it then longer is not better. A quicker core speed rotation will also create clubhead speed. Accelerating right before impact and continue right after will create distance as well. I believe Ernie Els (the big easy) does this well. He looks like he is swinging easy but it's accelerating at the right time that creates his distance. So I'm told. I too suffer from lack of distance.
I think natural talent is 25% of breaking 90 regularly. My Father in law plays 3-4 times a week and will never break 90 legitimetlly (he is notorious for using mulligans, i call it cheating). Some on the other hand break 90 there first time out.
@steve: shorter backswings help you control club more, more club on ball contact the farther it goes.
If you have a local par 3 course, or pitch and putt, near your home, that is where I suggest anyone play to learn the touch needed on a short wedge shot. I play the par 3 course near my house as often as possible and it really has help improve my game!
@SteveS - You can see this difference in distance by exaggerating these actions - try taking your club back only 18-24" and then accelerating. Next take the club back to a 1/2 or 3/4 swing and accelerate. There is a definite max that you can accelerate the clubhead from 18" if all other parts of the swing are similar, ESPECIALLY TEMPO. It takes some practice to find your distances in there but precision can be had by doing this.
The one major benefit that I like in using this method is that even if you aren't perfect it's never going to be that far off, maybe a few feet or yards.
@ aaronm84; WG; bducharm. Thank you for the article, training tip, and stress on acceleration. I practiced on a good practice green for two hours chipping 9 balls within 3 feet of the whole at my problem spots (15 yds/25 yds). The results were an increase in 1 put opportunities and improved consistency of them (from none to 33-55% of the time). This is my second season of play under the wing of a great tutor, though he has yet to explain this tricky aspect of the game. This will keep my game in mid 90 range and might even slip under 90!
I feel incredibly lucky to have stumbled onto a blog with such great content and insightful followers.
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