Trajectory Is The Key To Shotmaking
Being raised in Ben Hogan country of South Texas, and having been the Marketing Director at Hogan in the mid-1990s, I am a strong disciple of Mr. Hogan’s. One of his proclaimed beliefs about the golf swing was that the key to shotmaking was controlling the trajectory of your shots, particularly with your irons. If you didn’t know the flight path of the ball, Mr. Hogan reasoned, then you had no idea how far it was going to go.

Tiger Woods is one of the masters in this area now. With his re-tooled swing, he knows exactly how the ball is going to leave the club almost all the time. There was a TV commercial where he was hitting balls through windows on different floors of an office building – and he was really doing it!!! That’s trajectory control!

I also read a quote from one of the Champions Tour players a few months ago – wish I’d saved it – where in response to a question about hitting good iron shots, he replied, “Hit your short irons and wedges low, everything else high”. A simplification for sure, but if you watch the tour players, you rarely see them hitting these towering short irons and wedges. Their shots take off like a bullet on a very controlled trajectory – not too high, not too low.

Amateurs I watch, however, tend to hit their short irons and wedges into the stratosphere, where the wind can do anything to the ball and where they have little distance control. One key to hitting your scoring clubs on a more controllable trajectory is to take my earlier advice and hit them “softer”, taking 10-15 yards off what you think is a “full” 8-iron or pitching wedge. Try that for a while and see if your shotmaking and distance control doesn’t get better.

One of the best tips for hitting those more piercing trajectories is also to lighten up your grip and relax your arms – a lot! Feel the rotation of your body core lead everything through impact, so that the hands are ahead of the clubhead as you go through the ball. Try this on very short half swing pitches on the range – very relaxed arms and grip, with a smooth move through the ball – NOT AT IT! Feel the clubhead trailing the grip, hands, arms and body core. As you get comfortable with this nice piercing trajectory, gradually lengthen the swing and speed up the body core rotation with successive groups of shots, and watch the ball fly further, but still with the same piercing trajectory. When you get to a point where it starts flying higher and higher, back off. You’ve gone beyond a “full” swing with a short iron or wedge.

If you know how to control your trajectory, your shotmaking with the scoring clubs will become awesome. I’ll have more on the equipment side of this in a few days.

photo source

(originally written 4/3/2007)
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 ]
Banker85 says:
I love hitting low wedges. I rarely hit a full swing becasue the ball flies so high it is hard to conrtol distance. also with the lowers shots they seem to have more spin and check up pretty quick.
TeT says:
SD Charlie says:
Great column! One of things that burns me the most is hitting a nice drive, only to miss the green - especially when I have an 8-iron or less in my hands! I'm definitely going to work on this next time on the practice tee!
Bryan K says:
I spent a lot of time working on trajectory over the latter half of the summer, but the results didn't really start paying off until after the season had officially ended. It sure does make a difference, though, when I'm hitting greens from 150+.

I hate it when my irons balloon on me. That's when they tend to go all over the place in the air before landing who knows where. I've also found that, contrary to common sense, those really high trajectory shots also tend to roll more when they land.

I know the perfect iron shot when I see it. It's the one that slowly rises higher and higher, and just when you think it's at its peak, it rises just a little bit higher before falling straight down at the target. I play a low spin ball currently, and those perfect iron shots still usually end up within 5-10 feet of where they initially land. It's a good feeling.
legitimatebeef says:
Wedgeguy, it was one of your earlier articles that helped me to understand why full wedge shots have a tendency to balloon.
Shallowface says:
"I also read a quote from one of the Champions Tour players a few months ago – wish I’d saved it – where in response to a question about hitting good iron shots, he replied, “Hit your short irons and wedges low, everything else high”."

Terry, I believe it was Allen Doyle who said this.
TravisMiller says:
I agree with the lower trajectory shots give more spin when hit correctly because I was playing a 30 yard pitch off some sand (not a bunker) on to a blind green earlier this year. I hit it so it felt right but when I saw the lower trajectory and speed of the shot I was sure I flew the green. My partner on the green as I am walking up said that the ball hit and checked back about 6 inches leaving me a 7 footer which I cannot remember if I made it or not. I wish I could have seen it from his point of view.....oh yeah that was my eidolon 60*.
dtak84 says:
@bryan I disagree with the high traj shots rolling more. I hit very high iron shots (which I am in the process of changing) that hit and stop where they land.
SweetJazz says:
Sorry, I cannot relate. Just hitting a solid shot is hard enough. I welcome any high short iron shot if I get solid contact.
urbangolflegend says:
Great comments as usual Terry. I have been a PGA Professional for 30 years and strictly in instruction for the last 10 years. I love when people "interview" me before they take a lesson. I gives me an opportunity to demonstrate my knowledge and skill and differentiate myself from other teachers. It also gives me a chance to size up the student and see if they would mesh with my teaching style.
Unfortunately many serious golfers pick a teacher off the internet or by close proximity, both bad ideas
Kip says:
Tiger Woods controls trajectory with his finish. He finishes at either his ribs, his shoulder, or above his head. That determines the height of his golf shot. To hear him explain this go to You Tube, search for "Tiger Woods and Anthony Kim golf clinic part 2 of 8", and skip ahead to 1:40.
cicero says:
@Shallowface It was Dana Quigley.

You know, I'd read about hitting the short irons/wedges low, but never took that thought to the range or course because I was so busy just trying to hit it solid. I'm definitely going to try it next year and see how it works out, 'cause I hit moon shots with my short clubs
[ 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: