The Formula Of
Winning Wedge Play
Q and A with Marc Solomon,
Director of The Hampton Golf School
in Jacksonville, Fla.
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 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
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
Marc Solomon, PGA, is the Director of The Hampton Golf School
in Florida – www.Golfmadesimple.com 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
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