How do you save strokes around the green? I asked that question of a few new students during golf instruction sessions last week. Few knew what I meant, but they’re beginners. The truth is, you have countless ways to save strokes around the green. These wedge secrets can help you break 80 and lower your golf handicap.
The best way to save strokes near the green is to hit pinpoint, soft-landing wedges. You know the kind of shots I mean. They land softly on the green with little roll, leaving you with a highly makeable putt. These shots are a challenge to hit—especially when you’re about 20 yards from the green. When you’re that close, you don’t have much room for error.
Secret To Soft-landing Shots
I always tell my students that the key to hitting soft-landing wedges in close is using a short-to-long swing. As the name suggests, you hit this shot by using a short backswing and a long follow-through. Everything else in the shot stays the same: your setup, your tempo, your swing keys—all stay the same except for the swing.
Going short to long creates more loft on your shots. That, in turn, results in softer landing shots. Going short to long also boosts accuracy and control. The key with this approach is that it forces you to control distance using the length of your backswing, which is easier to do than trying to control distance using the speed of your swing.
If you’re like most players, you do just the opposite when hitting wedges. You use a long backswing and a short through swing, finishing with your hands about parallel to your knees. You’ve probably hit hundreds of wedges this way over the years.
This approach doesn’t work well when it comes to hitting shots closer to the green. The two biggest problems with this approach are swing speed and accuracy. This approach is also prone to mishits, not something you want to do when in close. It’s easy to see why–one mishit can put you in a place where you’re facing a wall of sand (and a heap of trouble).
To hit accurate wedges using this method you must manipulate your swing speed. In other words, you must swing faster or slower, depending on the distance. To hit a short wedge, you must decelerate your swing. Anytime you decelerate your swing, you open yourself up to hitting the ball fat or thin, so let’s talk about how to do it properly.
Challenge of Going Short-To-Long
The challenge when using the short-to-long swing is knowing how far back to take your club. If you’re executing the fundamentals correctly, your eyes will be focused on the ball and not the length of your swing. So it’s a challenge to learn how to know where the various swing length “checkpoints” are.
But practicing the short-to-long swing at the range helps you develop a feel for just how far back you have to take the club to hit a specific distance. Going short to long takes a little bit of time to learn.
Having a friend watch your swing can help speed the process up, though. He or she can tell you just how far back and how far through you went on your swing, letting you know when you’ve done it right. Nothing accelerates improvement like good feedback.
The Clock System Drill
To help you learn to hit pinpoint soft-landing wedges, we’ve provided a drill below that teaches accuracy with the short-to-long swing. It’s a drill that Tiger’s dad taught him years ago:
First, step off some short yardages—20, 25, 30 yards. Then address the ball with a wedge. Now imagine a clock behind you, with 6 o’clock at the bottom of your swing and 12 o’clock at the top. To control distance, you want to take your arms back to specific numbers on the clock. For example, to hit a short wedge shot, take your arms back to 7 o’clock. To hit a longer wedge shot, take your arms back to 9 o’clock. Now practice hitting balls the distances you’ve stepped off.
Practice this drill as often as you can. It teaches you how to hit pinpoint soft-landing shots in close. Doing that consistently not only shaves strokes off your scores but also helps you break 80 consistently and lowers your golf handicap.