Tour players knock wedge shots taken from 50 to 100 yards in the fairway to within 17 feet of the cup on average, and the best in the world can stick it to within 10 feet without batting an eye. Call me partial to the short game, but for my money, there’s no better feeling in golf than catching a wedge right in the middle of the sweet spot and watching it fly high and stop next to the pin. Pulling this off is both athleticism and art. What’s more, an accurate wedge player has the ability to set up easier scoring chances and to keep big, card-wrecking numbers at bay.
The “secrets” to catching wedges crisp and knocking them close are anything but secrets. Here (in no particular order) are the three most important basics for hitting your wedges flush:
1. Play the ball in the middle of your stance. This will encourage you to strike the ball with a descending blow so you get less grass between the ball and the clubface.
2. Make your follow-through longer than your backswing. This will help you accelerate into and through impact.
3. Clean the grooves on your club-face after every shot and opt for a higher-spinning, urethane-covered ball. These gear adjustments will ensure a Tour-style “one-hop-and-stop” landing with limited rollout.
There’s a point to pairing a long follow-through with a short backswing: It encourages you to remain aggressive between these endpoints. Otherwise, your contact will turn to mush. I see everyday players of all skill levels become hesitant, handsy or indecisive as they swing their wedges into impact. Let me be clear: Impact is no time to think about…well, anything! Impact is “Go!” time. If you must think about something as you approach the ball, make it simple and helpful: “Accelerate and extend.” Acceleration and extension give you shot-stopping backspin and centered contact on the clubface. Ideally, you want your left arm to “snap” straight as you strike the ball (see photo, below).
Here’s your new wedge plan. First, find the backswing length that matches the distance you need to carry the ball to the pin. Next, make a few rehearsal swings, using these motions to flush out any doubt or hesitation. Then immediately settle into your stance and swing, thinking only about accelerating into impact and extending your left arm. With some practice, you’ll be throwing darts at the green—and looking like a pro while doing it.