I've come up with countless ways to save strokes around the greens over the years. If I had to pick the most effective, I'd take the short-to-long pitch.
As the name suggests, you hit it by making a short backswing and a much longer through-swing. The combination produces extra loft and softer-landing shots, and who doesn't want that in their short game? Better yet, it gives you more-consistent yardages, because it makes you control distance with the length of your backswing, not by swinging faster or slower. Manipulating swing speed is a sure way to catch the shot fat or thin and leave it miles from the pin.
When hitting a wedge, weekend players tend to make the opposite of the short-to-long swing, as you can see here:
Here, I'm attempting a 20-yard pitch over a bunker. Like high-handicappers tend to do, I've taken a long backswing (mostly habit from practicing full swings). But since I want to hit the ball only 20 yards, I'm forced to decelerate on my downswing, which cuts my follow-through ridiculously short. I end up in a classic "long-to-short" finish. Neither the image—nor the resulting shot—is very pretty.
For the correct technique, look at this sequence:
Here, my short backswing gives me the confidence to properly accelerate through impact and produce a longer follow-through. My finish makes it look like I've hit the ball a long way, but because I paired it with a short backswing, it flew only 20 yards.
This is easy stuff, folks. The only challenge is knowing how far you're taking the club back, because your eyes are focused on the ball, not your backswing. So have a buddy watch you. Ask him to compare the length of your backswing to the length of your through-swing, and check that the former is shorter than the latter. A simple "yes" or "no" will do. If you don't get this right, you'll struggle, which is why most Tour players ask their caddies to watch them hit balls on the range. Even for elite players, the difference between feel and real can be massive. Nothing accelerates improvement like good feedback.
In terms of hitting less-than-full-swing wedges, you may be wondering, "Should I ever swing long to short?" Yes—when the ball is buried in a bunker. Stay tuned. We'll talk about that in another lesson.