Ballooning Short Iron and Wedge Shots
One of the most common "flaws" I see in amateur golfers is that they hit their high lofted scoring clubs – short irons and wedges – too high. This prevents consistent distance control and doesn't do much for your accuracy, either. I spent Sunday afternoon watching the LPGA ladies play the Evian in France, and was wow'-ed by how accurate they hit their approach shots – at least those in the final few groups. But to a lady, none of them were trying to "pound" their approach shots with lots of power. All they did was knock flags down hole after hole.

This topic is inspired today by a question I received from a reader, who asked:
If I ever need a full wedge shot, it seems that the ball just balloons. I hit it further with a hold-off shot. Is this due to poor technique or the fact that the wedges are S-300s, when all my other clubs are X-flex?
Well, you hit the nail on the head when you realized that you hit the ball further with a "hold-off" shot. The fact is that we are fed a constant stream of drivel from the golf magazines, television announcers, etc. that pound us with the idea that the key is to hit it further. Well, I contend that they are completely wrong, at least when it comes to your irons, specifically your high loft scoring clubs – those from the 8-iron on down to the wedges. Please hear me out and think about this.

When you are in scoring range, it really doesn't matter what iron you hit...only where you hit it. But because we are all being pounded with this distance talk, almost every golfer I meet is trying to hit their irons and wedges further than they should. Besides reducing your consistency of solid contact, a harder swing makes it more difficult to stay "ahead of the club" through impact, so the clubhead passes the hands, adding loft to the face. Even though it's traveling faster, this launches the ball much higher and your distance consistency just isn't there. Does that sound familiar?

But think about all those occasions when you've tried to "just hit it smooth" with a short iron or wedge? You will often find that you make very solid contact, the ball leaves the club on a great (re: lower) trajectory and possibly even flies longer than you expected. Well, that "easy" swing is really what your "full" swings should be like with your scoring clubs!

When you put a wedge or short iron in your hand, your singular goal is to hit the ball the very precise distance it needs to travel to get close to the flag. These four or five clubs are for accuracy and scoring – you have a whole bag full of clubs for distance. So, the real secret to a good short iron and wedge game is the ability to hit each of these clubs a certain distance reliably – every time! And a big part of that process is learning to hit the ball on the same trajectory each time with these scoring clubs. The more fluid and controlled swing you make, the easier it becomes to do just that.

Next time you go to the range or play a round of golf, try hitting "one more club" on all your approach shots. If you are 125 yards and you would normally reach for a 9-iron, pull the 8. Don't think about distance, but focus on making a nice smooth move down and through impact, with the left side leading all the way. Because you are not trying to hit it hard, you will naturally lighten your grip, your muscles will be more relaxed, and your consistency of impact will be much improved. I'll bet you a dollar to a donut that you'll see a lower ball flight, and much more consistent distance control.

Once you see that better shotmaking with your scoring clubs comes from this controlled shorter swing, you can re-adjust your thinking about what a "full" swing is with the scoring clubs, and you will hit many more greens with your wedges and short irons...and your scores will improve dramatically.
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[ comments ]
bobhooe says:
I had this problem and ended up just moving the ball back in my stance and hooding the face a bit. This makes me hit down a little more on the ball and taking a divot where before i would just cut the grass a little. fun to see the ball spin more too.
snuffyword says:
Over a week ago, I played a round with a friend and was hitting the ball badly. It took me 15 holes to realize that I wasn't getting to my left side. My friend said he noticed that I was stopping my swing after impact. Since then, I have been drilling with a 50% swing speed while concentrating on getting to my left side and coming to a full, balanced finish. Lo and behold, I discovered that I was making more consistent contact in the middle of the club and the ball didn't seem to lose too much distance. I think I am controlling the clubface much better at impact and that's the main reason I am more consistent. By swinging slower, I am also staying connected and balanced throughout the swing. All this seems to give me better tempo, which leads to a better turn, better lag, better ballstriking, etc., etc. My next drill is to try to hit 100 yards with all my clubs from gap wedge on up.
dooboo says:
This is so true, but so hard when you see that white round thingy you are staring just want to kill that thing like 500 yards no matter what club you are holding with your hand.
Case in point, 135 yards, par 3, would be right in between my 9 and 8...well, didn't want to hit is really hard with 9, so grabbed 8 and took a very nice flowing easy swing. Ball just took off, flew the green and went about 150 yards or so. I looked at my hands like I had some kinds of super power. Of course, knowing this, next hole, 140 yards to go, took 9, swing as hard as I can, made solid contact, only flew 130 yards. Looked at my hands again like I lost my super power.
So easy when you are taking a practice swing, so hard to do when you are actually hitting the ball.
joe jones says:
For one who grew up watching Lee Trevino and Corey Pavin hit knock down shots that rarely got above 15 feet this is a refreshing subject. Keeping the ball low has gone out of fashion on the tour now but watching all of the links golf lately showed how that style has merit. Being able to hit the shot that is required at any given time will always be useful. Good column.I just hope people are listening.
birdieXris says:
I'm not sure many young players know how to hit the ball low. Every guy i played with in the last couple tournaments hit the most towering golf shots i've ever seen. They were good too, but granted, there was great weather and no wind.
Bryan K says:
One of the things I've been working on is never taking a full swing with a wedge. I seem to be hitting my wedges a LOT better now. I just need to relearn my distances.

Given the fact that most of my rounds in Fargo, I've had to learn to hit low trajectory shots. I have a cousin moving to town in a couple of weeks who is hopeful to play golf for NDSU next year. I've played a couple of rounds with him, and he hits some towering shots. He's pretty good, but that ain't going to work in Fargo.
Virtuaframax says:
this year that I've been playing more and better, I noticed that every time I tried to hit a 56* 100yds, i either end up missing the center of the face, or getting too much spin or hitting not where I am aiming... i finally came to conclusion that a 52 with a 1/2 or 3/4 wing is much more effective and with a much better trajectory! the ballooning term is perfect Terry!
legitimatebeef says:
In this game you want to hit the high lofted clubs low and the low lofted clubs high. WTF
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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