What is the "worst shot" in golf? It's the 40-yard wedge, and I have the evidence to prove it.
Let's start with a definition. By "worst shot," I mean the one consistently executed with the least amount of success or accuracy. In my research over the years, I have measured the "error" for every shot in golf, with error being the distance the ball finishes from the pin divided by the shot's original length. That means if a golfer hits a 9-iron from 100 yards and it finishes 20 feet (almost seven yards) from the hole, the Percent Error (PE) for that shot is about 7 percent. Hit 40 9-irons, average the PEs, and you come up with a Percent Error Index (PEI) for that shot and that player.
Admittedly, those are the extremes, but on average no other shot comes close to matching the errors I see in 40-yard wedge shots, which is why it's the worst shot in golf. The average PEIs for the 40-yard wedge, measured over at least 40 shots, are pretty bad for all groups. Pros average about 15 percent error, 10-handicappers about 25 percent error, and 25-handicappers an incredible 50 percent error (where the ball finishes either halfway to the hole or halfway past).
What causes this horrendous performance? It starts with seeing bad results -- a few chunks followed by a few skulled shots -- which leads to the expectation of bad results (having faced this shot before and hit it badly, you expect to hit it badly again), which produces fear. And once fear enters the equation, the worst swings and shots result.
And why do golfers chunk and skull their 40-yard wedges so frequently? Poor technique, caused principally by bad ball position.
Next month, I'll show you three ways to hit the 40-yard wedge, as well as explain which one is best for you.
But since you may have to hit this scary little shot between now and next month, here's a hint to help you hit it better: Move the ball back into the middle of your stance. This is what a "fat" 40-yard shot looks like..If the ball begins forward in the stance, the swing has to flatten out to reach it, so the club hits the ground first. After a few of these, expect to hit a "skull" over the green.