Sunday, July 27, 2014

Score With Your Wedge

In the past, I've shared Hank Haney's philosophy on winning.  It is simple and since I heard him say it, it has played out numerous times.  It goes like this:

Every time you 3 putt, miss a green from within 100 yards or take a penalty shot, you add a shot to the number you will need to win a tournament.

Since then, if we have had a player finish top ten, we often look at the mistakes on the card and find Haney's words played out in evidence.  Today's blog is focused on shots within 100 yards and turning them from mistakes into scoring shots.  Forget the missing the green part and think offense!  According to Mark Broadie's recent book, Every Shot Counts, about 20% of all shots on the PGA Tour probably involve a wedge.  That includes all shots within 150 yards and bunker shots within 50 yards.  I included the approach shots from 100-150 yards due to the distance the touring pros hit their wedges, which is about 130-135 yards.  There isn't a breakdown within those distances, so the shots from 135 to 150 got lumped in.  For an average junior or college golfer, the percentage would probably drop to 15%.

To start this discussion, answer these questions:
1.  How far do you hit a full pitching wedge?
2.  How often do you hit a full pitching wedge?
3.  Do/can you control your trajectory with your pitching wedge?
4.  Can you hit your pitching wedge less than full on demand?  In other words, if you hit it 120 yards, can you hit it 115 or 110?
5.  What is the gap between your pitching wedge and your 9 iron?  your gap wedge?

Now go through these questions for each wedge in your bag.  If you don't know the answers, put away your phone or computer and go out to a field or range where you can pick up your balls and figure out the answers.

Today's blog is focused on getting you thinking about your wedges as scoring machines.  Think of yourself as the quarterback and your wedges as talented receivers.  You could go so far as to name your pitching wedge Dez and your sand wedge Prime Time.  You get the idea?  You want to work on your wedge game and use it to play pure offense.  You want to be able to make the ball jump, run, spin, fly low or fly high.  Not only will your wedges not cost you shots, they will be your saviors when you are in trouble.  Did you need to punch out?  Now knock that wedge up close and get your par anyway!

What do great players do with their wedges? Let's hear from them directly.
Jason Dufner: How to Simplify Your Wedges

Greg Chalmers on Hitting 60 Yard Wedge Shots

Nick Faldo - 100 Yard Wedge Shots 

Graeme McDowell: How to Play the 100 Yard Wedge Shot

Freddie Jacobsen - One Hop and Stop

There is a similarity with all of these videos and that is simplicity.  If you listen, the words these guys use will lead you to add concepts to your wedge game.  Shallow, arms in front of chest, get to left side, stay forward, chest on ball, rhythm, simple, "go-to", etc.  Watch all these videos again and get a sense for the length of the swings the best in the world take to produce controlled wedge shots.  Watch their body movement and its relationship to the target.  Is it quiet or active?  Watch the length of the swings.  Are they long or short?  Watch the hands.  Do they have a lot of wrist cock or a little?  Listen again to Graeme McDowell talk about the difference between his 52 degree low control shot vs. his 58 degree high trajectory shot.  Most juniors that I watch have only the second option in the bag.  It's time to develop the low shot that you can name Dez or as Graeme says, that you can hit with your eyes closed.

How?  Here are some things for you to think about before your next practice session.
Great players hit wedge shots with a shallow swing.  Dick Harmon taught me this years ago.  It went against what I was learning in my PGA Training, but Dick knew what great players did and have always done.  He taught it very simply; hit your wedges with low hooks.  That image put in my mind how to work my hands through the shot.

Here is Andrew Rice, one of my favorite teachers who shares his knowledge online, talking about the shallowness of a wedge swing.

What Andrew is talking about and showing in the video is that great pitchers keep the shaft moving through the ball.   If you stop that video at :42, you will see the shaft still at a 90 degree angle, even though the ball has been struck.  The swing delivers the club with hands that players describe as held or firm.  Check out the chart below.  You will notice that the Attack Angle (deg.) for the PW is the lowest number of any at -5.0.  That means the club is working down through the ball and the shaft is leaned forward.  Think of it this way, if you have a 56 degree wedge in your hand and you hit the ball with -5.0 attack angle, the club's effective loft is 51 degrees.  That is a very simple explanation and there is more to effective loft than that one factor, but for our purposes, we will stay simple today.

The purpose of today's blog wasn't to tell you what to do or what to think, but to lead you to practice, experiment and figure out how to accomplish some of the things that the best players in the country do to hit great wedges.  Make your wedges the wide receivers of your offense.  SCORE, SCORE, SCORE!

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