The Formula Of
Winning Wedge Play

Q and A with Marc Solomon,
Director of The Hampton Golf School
in Jacksonville, Fla.

Hi Marc

I've been hitting the golf ball really well (for me), but when I get to a par 5, I mess up. When I get to about 40 yards from the green, I usually hit a bad shot. Most of the time I even miss the green. How can I get better at this shot?

Ray S. Miami, Fl.


It is great to hear you are hitting the ball better. One of the cool things about golf is that hitting a great tee shot is worth as many strokes as a bad wedge shot - they are both worth 1-shot. Although, if you hit a bad wedge shot and it lands in the sand bunker, it may be worth more than 1-stroke.

Here's the scenario: You are on a par 5 that is 510-yards long. You hit the best tee shot you ever hit. It is a 260-yard drive that splits the fairway. Your next shot you take your 5-wood and hit a great shot 210-yards straight down the middle. Now you have a 40-yard shot to a green that has sand in front and on the sides. There is also a stream of water about 20 yards behind the green.

You take out your pitching wedge and hit 2 inches behind the ball. The divot goes higher and farther than the ball. You try to regroup for the next shot. Then you hit a slightly better shot, but the ball rolls into the sand bunker on the right. Your first sand shot, you leave in the sand and then your next shot you finally get on the green. You make it in the hole after 2 putts and curse yourself for that catastrophe.

Now after hitting your first 2 shots 470 yards, it takes you 6 more shots to go 40 yards. Some people might say that this scenario is a little extreme. I don't think it's too far fetched, I see people playing like this everyday. Sometimes the same person will do it a couple of times during a single round of golf.

What caused this agonizing wedge play? Deceleration! The number 1 factor for bad wedge shots is deceleration. What causes you to put the "D-word" into play? Answer - "A back swing that is too long." Most people would answer that the reason for bad wedge play is picking up your head. That is not the cause. When standing over the ball with this shot to the green, you see the water behind the green. So you say to yourself "Ok, I need to swing easier on this shot so I don't over-shoot the green".

Unknowingly, most players will take the wedge as far back as they would with their driver and then try to adjust by slowing down on the downswing. That slowing down is deceleration; you are putting the brakes on your swing. It throws off the timing of your swing and you hit a bad shot.

The same thing can happen when you are in the sand bunker. You are trying to get the ball out of the sand, but you see another bunker on the other side of the green. The last thing you tell yourself is "don't hit it over the green into the other bunker!" So as you make your downswing, after a backswing that was too long, you decelerate and hit far behind and underneath the ball.

The secret to great wedge play is the backswing. The shorter the backswing the better. Contrary to a lot of what you may have heard, the length of the backswing controls how far you hit your wedge shot. If you need help with this shot, you need to try the practice drill below. This drill has helped a countless number of my students to improve their scores on the golf course.

Take some practice swings so that your club head goes as high as your right hip (right handed player). Then swing through to your left hip. That swing is used for a 40-yard shot. Take some practice swings where your club head goes as high as your right shoulder. Then swing through to your left shoulder. That swing is used for a 60-yard shot. Make sure on both swings you swing just as hard. Don't try to swing harder on the 60-yard shot.

After you have practiced feeling the difference between the 2 swings - by actually checking to see how far back you swung - hit some balls. You will see and feel the difference in you wedge shots. After you have become proficient with these two shots, try to take some shots - knee to knee. That will produce a 20-yard shot.

While using this brilliant method the next time you are facing a daunting 40-yard shot, all you have to tell yourself is to swing hip to hip. You will never decelerate again. You also will never make an 8 on a Par 5 after going 470 yards on 2 shots! Good luck and keep practicing.

"Do you have the desire to improve your golf game?"

Marc Solomon, PGA, is the Director of The Hampton Golf School in Florida – He has been named as a “Top 10 Instructor under 40 in America” and is regarded as the “Top Instructor in North Florida.” The Hampton Golf School provides golf instruction that is more beneficial than your ordinary golf lesson. If you have the desire to improve, checkout his web site at

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Comments Leave a comment
  • Wedge play

    Denny wrote on: Feb 20, 2012

    The short game is key to better golf scores. That means that you need to be able to control distance on chips and More »


  • Slow Play

    Dave Keely wrote on: May 19, 2008

    I am a 57 year old athlete that picked up golf 7 years ago. I am now a 10 hadicap but always walk the courses with my More »


  • Wedge Play

    Bill Roberts wrote on: Feb 29, 2008

    Marc's tips on club head position are great! Many wedge tips discuss lead arm position during the swing, but few talk More »


  • Marc Solomon is spot on

    Poovi, SA wrote on: Sep 14, 2007

    When I first played the game, I had an unbelievable chip & pitch shot for a beginner having stumbled upon the principles More »


      • R help

        tom connell wrote on: Apr 15, 2008

        what is the cost for a half day traning
        thanks Tom


  • par 3's

    rick wrote on: Jul 8, 2005



      • RE: par 3's

        Mike wrote on: Jul 7, 2006

        On par 3's you typically use an iron, right? When using an iron instead of a wood, the shaft is shorter. You should More »


  • Short game

    johann wrote on: Apr 13, 2005

    I have a problem when using my pitiching wedge for shots shorter then 80 yards. When i try this, the toe of my clup hits More »


      • RE: Short game

        Ed Ferrari wrote on: Dec 24, 2005

        When faced with short shot of approximately 20 yards to the green I sometimes shank the ball. I usually use an 8 iron More »


  • wedge practice.

    Keith Hatcher wrote on: Nov 9, 2004

    The problem I get with all quarter or half shot tips is wrist cock. For later wrist breakers, having the club head at More »


  • Easy to understand method

    Zippy from Thailand wrote on: Sep 17, 2004

    Thanks to Mark Solomon.
    I have experienced what Mark has been stated on long to short on wedge play.
    I always have More »


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