Controlling your wedge game is the secret to scoring
By Andrew Park
Keys to making yourself a better wedge player
It’s very easy to make the argument that the wedges are the most important clubs in the bag. Some might say the putter, others the driver. But when you do your homework the message is pretty clear: the better you are at controlling distance and trajectory with the wedges the more often you are able to take advantage of scoring opportunities and build a strategy around your precision from whatever your ‘best’ distance is with a favourite wedge.
And that’s the key here: you have to develop a technique that enables you to identify a ‘best’ distance, whether that’s with a relatively full, compact swing, or with a controlled half-to three-quarter swing. We all have our preferences – and you have to establish yours.
As a coach, the wedge game is one of the most satisfying areas to teach because you know that improvement here is translated immediately into lower scoring out on the course. And the most important element of the work that I do in this department revolves around distance control. That’s where your focus has to be. To ‘dial in’ your wedge game, you need to know precisely how far you land the ball with your most consistent swing – and the only way to find that out is head to the range and put in some time. As a starting point I suggest working on two different type of swing – (1) a relatively ‘full’ wedge swing that in reality would see the arms swing to about 11 o’clock (top) and then a compact, half-swing with a shorter grip (right & inset) to give you that ‘inbetween’ yardage that is so important.
When you factor in the number of wedges in your bag you quickly appreciate how these two distinct swings will reward you with a good span of landing distances. Most tour players carry a PW (typically 46-48 degrees), a Gap wedge (54-56) and then a SW or Lob Wedge (58- 60). The key to a controlled short game system is that you balance the increments – i.e. PW 48 degrees, Gap 54 degrees and the LW 60. And when you then apply the two distinct wedge swings that I’m demonstrating on the opening page you establish a matrix of landing distances that you must then use out on the course to plot your strategy from tee to green.
So, for example, I know that a ‘full’ swing with my 54 degrees gives me a landing distance of 85 yards – that’s a comfortable, controlled swing. And the 54 degree wedge is my favourite club – that’s the one I would work on the most and then go looking for that yardage on the course (that’s my ‘lay-up’ number).
The best way of measuring your distances is to get hold of a laser and use it to measure precisely how far you land the ball with your different wedges, perfecting the two swings I have suggested before then fine-tuning your technique and experimenting with grip, ball position, check the accuracy of these distances regularly After you have measured the average distance for each wedge, either write it down somewhere or on the label of your club. For example, LW 75 yards SW 95 and PW 115. Having that distance knowledge will give you a great confidence boost.
Keys to making yourself a better, more consistent wedge player
Joburg Open R3
During your measuring of each shot with each of your wedges make sure that you are doing the following:
Narrow your stance to the width of your hips and try to keep at least 60% of your weight on the front foot throughout
Controlled wedge play is essentially an arms-and-upper body motion, so you do not want weight shift
Commit to a natural and full release of the club for solid contact and that satisfying ball-turf strike that generates controlling spin
Rotate to a full follow-through on each shot, chest facing left of target