You’re 55 yards from the pin, over a bunker. Do you have a good plan? Are your ‘scoring clubs’ your go-to clubs, or do you often miss the green with these shots?
One of the most neglected parts of playing golf is partial wedge shots, and though some players try to avoid them the chances are you’re going to have one somewhere on the course. What seems as if it should be a relatively easy shot can strike great fear into some players.
Some call these ‘feel’ shots, and insist that players need to practice hard to develop that feel. But, if you really don’t know what the shot should look like, feel like, and what the end result is you’ll probably have trouble with these from the start.
So the challenge is to develop a ‘partial wedge game’, and here are some of the key elements to focus on:
- Effective face position at impact
- Grip position
- Swing length
- Swing effort or power
- Club selection
- Actual results
Effective face position at impact: What may seem obvious, isn’t! You want your club to be soled level with the surface, right? Maybe. Any time you’re hitting a partial power shot you’ll want the club either soled level or slightly toe-down at address and impact vs slightly heel-down for a full power address position. The last thing you want is a heel-down position on these shots because you’ll more likely strike the ball lower on the face. By moving closer to the ball and standing taller, the shaft will be more vertical. A more vertical shaft and toe-down face position may actually be the ticket – give it a try!
Grip position: Hitting a partial shot? You might want a partial club. Grip full for some shots and choke down on your club to a verifiable position for others – even to the point where your fingers are just above the shaft. Choking down will also make the shaft more vertical and the toe down, so this is a benefit.
Swing length: Because you have a partial length club and a partial length yardage, you need a partial length swing. Try to swing to a verifiable length. Some call it 3/4 or 4/5, some shoulder high with the hands, but pick a length in that neighborhood and make it comfortable.
Swing effort or power: Take the power out of the swing! These shots generally don’t require power, so don’t use any. Swing at a comfortable speed that works with the club and doesn’t fight it. A good analogy is that there is a bucket of water on the end of the club and if you apply power at the wrong time or wrong amount you’ll spill the water. The ‘feel’ is very soft and smooth – not wristy or fast.
Club selection: I have 4 wedges – a pitching wedge (46 degree), gap wedge (51 degree), lob wedge (58 degree), and a flop wedge (64 degree). I know what each does at full grip and full power (though I don’t generally hit the 58 or 64 at full power), I know what each does at full grip no power shoulder-high, and I know what each does at short grip no power shoulder-high. This gives 4 distances at full grip/power, 4 at full grip no power shoulder-high, and 4 at short grip no power shoulder-high. That’s 12 verifiable yardages inside of 120 yards!
Actual results: Stop trying to hit partial wedges a specific distance and start finding out what distance they go when you strike them well. When you position and swing partially, and take the power out, how far does each go? We want actual, verifiable results. Everyone is different, and will get different results. Many ranges don’t have short yardages measured, and it can be difficult to verify. If on-course, try hitting 1 club 6 or 8 times on a given hole and see how far it goes, but be sure NOT to pick a target. Hit the shot and if it doesn’t get to the green, move closer to the green until you can verify how far the shot goes.
Now armed with a baseline for your partial shots, you can choose the club, club length, swing length, and power option that will produce the yardage you need. And now, you have a partial wedge game!
Bob Duncan is a PGA Life Member, a Master Clubfitter, and developer of the Golfer Positioning System (GPS).