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Why you need acceleration When you pull, or accelerate, your clubhead through impact, it remains much more stable (and produces more consistent shot results) compared to when you slow down or decelerate. This applies to all swings, but especially short pitches and chips, where deceleration can mean fluffed shots and extra strokes. By no means, however, should you try to speed up at impact or "hit" with your hands to create acceleration. These efforts will ruin your rhythm and produce bad shots.
How to get it
To achieve the kind of smooth acceleration evident in highlevel swings, follow this simple principle: Center your swing motion about two feet past impact. In other words, imagine producing maximum clubhead speed (and maximum extension) two feet past the ball. This will give you a backswing that is shorter than your follow-through, and automatically produce smooth acceleration through impact. This is good, since smooth acceleration is what you need to hit the consistently solid shots you desire.
Open face? Accelerate!
Now consider a totally different shot to the same flagstick position. To produce a high-lofted cut shot that will fly to the hole and stop, use a three-quarter backswing and a full finish (with an open stance and clubface). For any open-face shot like this, it's absolutely essential for the clubhead to accelerate through impact. A shorter backswing and longer followthrough willguarantee that happens.
Research & Data
Plan your greenside attacks ahead of time
Choosing the right shot around the green depends not only on how well you execute, but also on where the ball lands. For example, never pitch to the top of a mound that's on or around the putting surface, because it will magnify any error you make in landing long or short of perfect. A valley or swale, on the other hand, has the opposite effect (see graphic below). When you're lucky enough to encounter a swale, choose the shot that will land at the swale's deepest point and roll perfectly to the hole. Then, even if you land slightly short or long, the ball will still end up in a good place.
Question: A friend tells me I can measure the length of my backswing to guarantee the distance shots will travel. I know you've done all kinds of tests in your research. Do you have a chart of backswing measurements? I know there will be variables (firmness, speed of green), but a general idea for reference would be great.
Nigel T., Carlisle, England
Answer: The word guarantee is too strong, but I do have a generic metric. Imagine your left shoulder as the center of a clock and your left arm as the hour hand. A backswing that stops at 9 o'clock (left arm horizontal) will fly the ball three quarters (75 percent) of your full-swing distance with that wedge. A 7:30 backswing will fly the ball about one-half the full-swing distance. This holds for all your wedges if you swing them with constant rhythm to a full finish.
Question: I've never been able to get my ball close to the flagstick from ultra-short distances (say, 30 yards and in). Please help!
Gary E., Troy, N.Y.
Answer: My advice for controlling distance with backswing length (above) only works from 30 yards out because you can't make full finishes on shots from inside that distance without hitting them too far. The trick for shorter shots is to grip down to the grip midpoint, stop your backswing when the shaft is horizontal, and swing through until the shaft is pointing straight up from the ground. The horizontal-tovertical swing will consistently fly about 15 yards, and make your up-and-downs easier.