How to Control The Wedge Distance

Controlling the distance on your wedges will give your more makeable putts birdie or par and help you avoid three putts and tough chips. It is something almost any player can improve on and will make a bigger difference to your score than adding a few yards to your drive off the tee.

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All of us know that there are amateur golfers and professional golfers. Well, what is the biggest difference between amateur golfers and professional Tour players?

The professional players means the players in PGA tournaments in the US must attend a school to become tour-qualified, and must be members of the PGA or associated world golf organizations. The tournament agreement stipulates a player’s behavior, adherence to the rules, and disposition of their rights for broadcast television appearances. A simple definition of an amateur is a participant who plays for enjoyment and does not receive payment in cash or kind as a reward. Most amateurs will never hit one 320 yards down the fairway or in the case of Rory McIlroy, 325 with a 3 wood. But the real difference is the ability to control their distances with their scoring clubs – in particular, their wedges. Of course the Tour players can bomb it off the tee, that’s the most obvious.

Rickie Fowler take a gap wedge in the first playoff hole and dial it in, leaving him a four foot birdie for his first win on the PGA Tour. I encountered a number of times where the players playing this week, were faced with incredibly precise distance needs – where a little short could mean being in a bunker or the water and being a little long would mean an extremely difficult putt or chip back towards the trouble.

So from a distance that almost all players can hit, and often with the same clubs, what separates the professionals? How can you improve your wedge distance control?

The key is, like many things in golf, practice. I’ve seen Luke Donald – often cited as one of the best wedge players in the world – devout great time and patience into hitting wedge shots at the practice range to designated distances, getting a feel for the mechanics and the sensations needed to know how to hit to those targets. Very deliberately and carefully, he’d find a target at 100 yards, hit a number of shots to that distance, then 90 yards, then 80 yards, and so on. I would say that most Tour players devout well over half of their practice time on the range to these precision shots rather than hitting drivers – a ratio that would probably reverse for most amateur players. And there are three ways to control your distance better on your wedge shots.

First, choke down on the club. This will allow you to take your normal full swing and the shorter swing radius will fly the ball a little less distance.
Second, shorten the backswing: Many teachers recommend a “clock” system, bringing your hands back to nine, ten or eleven o’clock to determine the distance your wedge shot will fly.
Last, slow your tempo down: Obviously, a slower swing will not send the ball as far.

It will be up to you to find which of these methods is most effective for you. I am more of a “feel” player than a “mechanics” player and thus, use a combination of all three at times. But the most important lesson for all of us from this past week is: Controlling the distance on your wedges will give your more makeable putts birdie or par and help you avoid three putts and tough chips. It is something almost any player can improve on and will make a bigger difference to your score than adding a few yards to your drive off the tee.

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