WHO: Dustin Johnson
WHAT: 93-yard wedge to 2’5″
WHERE: 427-yard par-4 17th hole at Cog Hill
WHEN: Final round of the BMW Championship
Don’t believe the statistics regarding Johnson’s wedge game. Yes, he ranks low in some short-shot categories, including average distance to the hole from under 125 yards and from under 100 yards. But the statistics are deceiving, because Johnson gets the job done when it counts.
The final round of the BMW was a perfect example. After some mediocre wedges on the back nine, Johnson stood in the 17th fairway 93 yards from the hole and tied for the lead He knew that a birdie would give him a one-shot margin and a great chance at victory. Johnson promptly stiffed his wedge to set up the winning birdie.
The key to being a good wedge player is distance control, and most pros, including Johnson, get that control by keeping the hands out of the shot and focusing on these three things:
1. Swing length: Before hitting, the player will determine how far back and how far through the club should travel.
2. Force of the swing: Every wedge shot might look the same on TV, but there’s a huge variety of force levels for different length wedge shots by the pros.
3. Speed of the turn: This is essential. How you turn your body back and through is the driving force or engine of the swing.
THE DRILL: Taking your hands out of the shot with a wedge is helpful because it allows for more accuracy. This is a modern type of swing. In the past, pros used to focus more on wrist action with wedges, and they’d have lots of release through the hitting area. Now we’ve learned it’s more accurate to let the body rotation (or turn) drive the wedge shot.
A great way to learn to take the hands out of wedge shots is to hit a lot of punch shots. In a punch, you hold off the release so the release either doesn’t happen or is very delayed through impact. While hitting punches, focus on feeling little or no hand action, and try to delay the release — or simply don’t release — the wrists. Start with very small punches (10 yards) and gradually build up until you’re hitting 70-100 yarders.
Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Jim Suttie teaches at Cog Hill Golf & Country Club in Lemont, Ill.