By Kevin Haime, CPGA Professional, www.kevinhaime.com
There’s no question that better players are in the “Birdie Zone” when they have less than a full shot into the green. Unfortunately, the same thing can’t be said for high handicappers or even average players in the same situation. I’ve seen some pretty scary things in pro-ams watching playing partners trying to hit half swing or three quarter swing shots into the green. The problem for most of them is that every swing is a bit of a guess. Most golfers just don’t know how to hit the ball different distances with their wedges. Pros, on the other hand, have no problem with distance control. The reason is pretty simple. Better players have a system and higher handicappers don’t.
What better players do is actually pretty basic. Generally speaking, they vary the distance of their shots by varying the length of their backswings. Higher handicappers usually swing the club back too far (usually close to a full swing length) then try to decelerate through impact to take a little speed off the shot. Arrrgh! Trying to vary your rhythm and tempo is a disastrous idea and will never lead to any sort of consistency. Specifically, deceleration is a shot killer. It will lead to a poor weight transfer toward the target resulting in fat shots, or even thin or topped shots. If you’re going to be a good wedge player, you have to swing with consistent rhythm and always swing with confidence to your finish.
To become good with your distance control, you should develop a system you can trust like better players do. Start by practicing with each of your wedges (I have a 46 degree pitching wedge, a 52 degree gap wedge, a 56 degree sand wedge, and a 60 degree lob wedge). Try to gauge your wedge distances with specific length backswings. For example, work on four specific length backswings including a full swing with each of your wedges. For me, I have four wedges so four different length backswings will give me 16 different length shots all with different trajectories (4 wedges x 4 swing lengths).
In the photos, take note of the length of my swings I use to produce various yardages with each wedge. The photos demonstrate my three longest swings. With just these three alone, using four wedges, I can create twelve different shot yardages. Enough of an arsenal by itself to allow me to score very effectively from short distances.
In no time at all, with a little careful practice and a reasonable swing motion, you will be hitting consistent wedge shots to specific target distances and you’ll see your scores start to drop.