To make plenty of birdies, you need to hit good tee shots all day long. You also need to make your fair share of putts, since that is how you are going to finish the deal once on the green.
So, great drives and great putts mean piles of birdies, right? Not so fast!
There is a shot in the middle that we are missing, and it is usually an approach shot played with a wedge.
Unless you are playing a particularly long set of tee boxes, you are probably going to have plenty of wedge approaches throughout the average round. It is what you do with those opportunities that is going to go a long way toward determining your success or failure on the day.
If you can hit good wedge shots which set up short putts, your score is likely to be a low one. On the other hand, if you keep wasting these chances and hitting your wedge shots into poor positions, the round could get away from you.
If you would like to start hitting more wedge shots in tight to the hole, consider these tips:
Cover Plenty of Yardages
One of the challenges that comes along with hitting wedge shots is the fact that you are often going to need to make something less than a full swing. For instance, you may have 100-yards to the hole, but your sand wedge goes 90-yards and your pitching wedge goes 115.
What do you do?
Your only real option is to hit a pitching wedge at less than 100% effort. This is a shot many amateur golfers don’t have in the bag, and that’s a problem.
Professional golfer Nicholas Lindheim hits his approach shot to the 18th green during the 3rd round of The Valero Texas Open on April 22, 2017 at TPC San Antonio in San Antonio, TX. Get premium, high resolution news photos at Getty Images
Make it a goal to have three distances that you are comfortable covering with each of your wedges. So, if you carry three wedges, that is nine total yardages that you’ll be able to handle with confidence.
By having nine numbers dialed in, you’ll always have one which is quite close to the actual number you have remaining to the hole for a given approach shot.
During each visit to the range, spend at least some of your time working on your ability to produce shots of varying distances with each of your wedges.
Play the Slopes
Did you know you don’t need to have a putter in your hands in order to read the greens? Even when back in the fairway playing a wedge approach, you can read the slope of the green and use it to your advantage.
This is particularly helpful when playing into a green that is either sloped into or away from your position in the fairway.
If the green is running away, land the ball a bit short and allow for a bounce and some roll to get you close. Or, if the green is sloped back toward the fairway (as is often the case), consider playing a lower shot that bounces once or twice and then stops quickly.
If you can use the slope of the golf course to your advantage, you will be able to make wedge approach shots just a little bit easier.
There is no room for error when it comes to the way you aim your wedge shots. If you get a bit sloppy with your aim, you are going to be punished for it.
Since you probably aren’t going to produce too much sidespin on a wedge shot, you’ll want to aim directly at the target as successfully as possible. This is another thing you can work on during your visits to the driving range.
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays a shot with a wedge on the fourth green during the first round of the U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club on June 16, 2016 in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. Get premium, high resolution news photos at Getty Images
Pick out a target on the range, take time to aim accurately, and then make your swing. Evaluate your performance after each shot and keep working on it.
Many golfers just swing away on the range, paying little attention to how accurately they are aiming. You can do better, and if you do better, you’ll be rewarded when it comes to your wedge game.
Read Your Lie Carefully
It is amazing how many golfers seem to completely ignore the lie of the ball when getting ready to play a shot. This is true of any shot not played from a tee, and that certainly includes wedge approaches.
Whether you are playing from the fairway or the rough, understanding what your lie means to the way the ball is going to fly through the air is crucial.
A clean fairway lie is pretty easy to read, of course, but what if the ball is sitting in a divot? Or what if you are in some medium rough?
South Africa’s Marc Warren studies the lie of his ball beside the 6th green during his first round on the opening day of the 2014 British Open Golf Championship at Royal Liverpool Golf Course in… Get premium, high resolution news photos at Getty Images
Pay attention to how your shots react when you face these situations and make mental notes, so you are better prepared next time. You’ll never be able to perfectly predict the influence of the lie 100% of the time, but your ability to guess correctly should improve as you gain experience.
Use the Lowest Available Path
We’ve saved perhaps the best tip for last. When planning your wedge approach shots, always look for low options before thinking about sending the ball up high into the air.
It won’t always be possible to play a low wedge, depending on the design of the course, but this should always be your preferred method.
Low wedge shots are easier to control than high ones, and there is less that can go wrong.
Playing lower wedges might feel a little awkward at first, but you will quickly get used to it when you see how many shots you are able to place right next to the cup.
Your golf game can be taken to an entirely new level when you learn how to hit precise wedge approach shots on a regular basis. Suddenly, instead of trying to two-putt from long range – or get up and down from off the green – you are staring at makeable birdie putts on a regular basis.
You aren’t going to make all of those putts, but chances are at least a few of them will fall in.
We hope this article helps you achieve better wedge play in the near future – here’s to making tons of birdies!