Getting Your Distance Right
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I’ve always been surprised when pro golfers airmail a green, or come up way short. You would think that they would know their distances to the minute level. On the other hand, you see these guys nail it to the flag from all distances and wonder how they manage that kind of precision?

So today, I’m addressing a question that I get quite often about how to gauge distance with your wedges. This particular one comes from Curtis, who asked:
“What is the best way to gauge distance while on the course? I have a hard time gauging. I usually hit it too hard & go way past the hole.”
Well, Curtis, I have a multi-part answer for you today, but let’s start with developing a feel for distance and a method to repeat it.

There are several elements of controlling distance, but it mostly boils down to clubhead speed. I was taught a long time ago to grip down on the club to shorten it, which takes some clubhead speed off, and produces less than full swing distance. A couple of years ago I compiled all that learning into a book I wrote called “The SCoR Method”, (which is complimentary with each EIDOLON order, but also available for purchase). The SCoR Method outlines a systematic approach to getting 3-6 distances with each wedge through nothing more than varying your hand position on the grip, and not changing your swing. Once you have that, you can then learn a single “half swing” which gives you another 3-6 distances with each wedge. It’s really not that difficult to learn what you can do in this area.

But beyond that, I also am a big fan of keeping the hands quiet and learning to control your wedge swing pace with the rotation speed of your body core. My own approach is to envision my body rotation at three speeds:

Highway speed – my normal full swing body rotation speed (but with wedges and short irons, I think of it more in the old 55-mph days, not the autobahn, OK?)

City driving – A slower, more deliberate rotation which produces much less clubhead speed

School Zone – A very slow, precision swing pace for short shots around the greens.

These serve me well when combined with the SCoR Method of placing my hands precisely on the grip to measure out club length and the amount of face opening.

But to address another part of Curtis’ question, I think there are two reasons why he, and many other golfers, very often find themselves hitting it long on their pitches and chips.

First of all, we’re “amped up” a bit when we face these shots and tend to get quick. That translates to increased clubhead speed, which in turn produces a shot that is more powerful than we intended.

But secondly, we tend to look at the flag . . . when we actually have a target point where the ball must land that is much closer to us. I am a big believer in eye/hand/body coordination – we all have it, and it works all the time. If you look where you want the ball to land, your eyes will communicate to your body that feedback, and your natural skills will take over. But if you look at the flag, you send the image to your hands and body that this is the speed it needs to generate.

Next time you play or practice, focus intensely on the spot where you want the ball to land and see if it doesn’t improve your results. Just figure out the shot – the balance of carry and roll – then focus on that landing spot. Take your practice swings while looking at that precise spot, and then execute the shot at hand.

And let me know how that works for you, OK?
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[ comments ]
Tim Horan says:
Great post Terry but... Envisioning a spot or area in front of the pin can only work when you can see all of the pin or firing in from a reasonable distance. If you are below the hole and can only see the top half of the stick; most times you will be trying to lob it in from height; sand and lob wedge shots generally get left short and so the old adage "make the flag your target and land it right on it" has to be the way. I find walking the distance often helps or at least getting out to the side of it so you can see the shot required.
dampfire says:
Its all about envisioning the shot period, what you have to do to achieve what you want...then just doing it.
bducharm says:
The absolute key is PRACTICE! Tom Kite has always been noted as one of the best wedge players of all time, as well as Zach Johnson. Both are noted wedge practioners! They hit hundreds of balls to specific yardages so they absolutely know the shot. I took a 2 day golf school with Chuck Cook, who has been one of Kite's instructors. He related a great story about how Tom would lay out towels from 10 - 100 yards in 10 yard increments and hit 100 shots to each towel. That's 1000 practice shots. I'm sure we all don't have that time however practice, practice, practice!!!
skinnejo says:
For those with less practice time I like to vary the top of the backswing but keep the feel through impact smooth with the following approach: using your pitching wedge vary the swing length so that at the top of the backswing the clubhead is level with several parts of the body: Knees = 20 yards, Waist = 40 yards, Shoulders = 60 yards, Top of head = 80 yards, Full swing = whatever your PW normally hits. In each case then swing smoothly but with acceleration from the top of the backswing through the ball. I do this during a round once you've estimated the distance from the pin by looking at the first 1-2 practice swings to set the height at the top. This takes away the temptation to adjust the power through impact so promotes a solid contact. I use this layups: I prefer to lay up as close as is safe rather than always hitting 100-100 yards as it's a lot easier to get a 40 yard shot close to the pin than a 100 yard shot IMHO.

Definitely practice as well though!
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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