One of the keys to solid course management is leaving yourself as many full yardages as possible. When you leave your ball in a position that lets you make a full swing for your next shot, you will be improving your odds at success.
Why? Simple – playing half shots is tough. Really tough.
When you need to take yardage off of a shot by altering your swing in some way, you are going to have to call on all of your talent and preparation to get the job done.
Unfortunately, it simply isn’t possible to leave yourself with full wedge shots on all occasions. From time to time, you are going to wind up with a half shot that you need to play into the green.
Most often, these shots are going to be played with wedges. The half wedge is one of the trickiest shots in golf, and countless amateurs have lost shots in this situation over the years.
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
So, what can you do to deal successfully with this challenge? Let’s explore a bit deeper…
To get started, we can cover some basic tips that will help you produce solid wedge shots. These tips alone won’t get you all the way to the point of ‘mastering’ this part of the game, but they are a great platform on which to build more skills.
Choke Down Slightly
This is a common tip, but one that many golfers actually take too far. Yes, it is probably a good idea to choke down on the grip a bit for control, but you don’t want to move your hands all the way down the handle.
Try choking down just an inch or two, and feel free to experiment until you find a hand position that seems to work for you. If you move your hands too far down the grip, the club is going to feel very light and you may have trouble controlling the club head through impact.
Narrow Your Stance
The swing you are going to make when hitting a half wedge will be completely largely with your arms, so you don’t need to stand as wide as you would for a full shot.
By bringing your feet in slightly closer together, you can make it easier to produce a rhythmic, flowing swing back and through.
Sweden’s Jesper Parnevik plays a wedge shot to the 12th green on the first day of the Nordea Scandinavian Golf Masters at the Bro Hof golf club on July 21, 2011 in Stockholm. Get premium, high resolution news photos at Getty Images
Stand Open to the Target Line
You may not think to include this adjustment at first, but it is actually a great way to position yourself for success. When you stand slightly open to the line, you will be inclined to make an outside-in swing. That isn’t great news when hitting a full-length shot, but it’s just fine on a half wedge. You should have an easier time making clean contact this way, and you may even get a bit of extra backspin, as well.
If you can check those three boxes when you hit a half wedge shot – choked down slightly, narrow stance, open to the target line – you will be in great shape.
During your next visit to the range, spend a little time practicing these valuable shots with the help of the tips above. Hopefully, you will see progress almost immediately.
Manipulate Your Ball Position
One of the first things most people do when they are playing a half wedge shot is to move the ball back in their stance. They think this adjustment is necessary on any kind of shot that is being hit with less than full power. However, that is simply not the case.
While it will work out to hit your half wedge shots with the ball back in your stance from time to time, that should not be a default adjustment.
The decision here comes down to the type of shot you want to hit. Do you want to bring the ball in low, letting it bounce a couple times on the green before it comes to rest? Or do you want to hit a higher, softer shot?
Moving the ball back is great if you need that low shot, but it won’t work at all when you need to bring the ball in softly from a high trajectory. For that, you will want to play the ball up closer to your left foot (for righties).
During your practice sessions, experiment with different ball positions to see how they impact your results.
Pick a Landing Spot, Get a Number
It’s hard to hit the ball the right distance when you don’t actually know how far you are trying to hit the ball. That might sound obvious, but many golfers never bother to get a number for their half wedge shots.
They will figure they are around 60 yards to the hole, for example, so they might need to hit the shot 55 yards in the air before it bounces up to the cup. But they don’t get any more specific than that.
Don’t settle for generalizations when you can do better. Get an exact number to the target and then pick a precise landing point for the shot.
Are you going to hit that point every time? Of course not – but you should get better and better with experience. As time goes by, you should be able to dial in your wedges with greater and greater accuracy, and you will set up more short putts as a result.
July 29th, Royal Porthcawl, Wales; The European Senior Open Championship presented by Rolex, Round 3; André Bossert SUI plays a lofted wedge into the 13th green Get premium, high resolution news photos at Getty Images
We can’t promise that half wedge shots are ever going to become a strength of your game. Most likely, this will never be the kind of shot you look forward to playing.
Hitting a full shot is much simpler than hitting a half wedge, so those will always be preferred. However, with a good plan and plenty of practice, you can at least take this part of the game out of the ‘weakness’ category. And who knows – maybe over time, you will come to love showing off your ability to hit a half wedge beautifully right up next to the cup.
This is a rare skill in the amateur game, so mastering it would be a great way to stand out from the competition at your local club.
Cover Photo via Flickr