If you’re serious about lowering your golf handicap and doing so quickly, master the three scoring clubs—the driver, the wedge, and the putter. These clubs have the greatest impact on your golf game and provide the greatest opportunity for cutting strokes from your scores. Mastering these clubs will improve your game as much as 5 strokes per round.
Specifically though, let’s focus on the wedges. Knowing which wedge to hit in different situations is really the best way to drop shots because if you have the right club selected, it makes it so much easier to pull the intended shot off. While learning to hit a wedge is not difficult, hitting one with confidence comes in handy, especially 40 yards of so from the green. Golfers face this situation two or three times a round, maybe more. Hitting a good shot from 40 yards out often leaves you with just a short putt, as I emphasize in my golf lessons, so you want to hit the shot well.
The most critical decision with the 40-yard pitch shot is which wedge to use—the pitching, the sand, or the lob. These clubs are easy to hit to the green, but landing on the green is one thing and getting the ball to do what you want after it lands is another. Let’s look at three typical 40-yard situations and the type of wedge shots each requires.
In first situation the pin’s up front and there’s little green to work with. Here, you need a high-flying shot with little run—a shot you can easily learn to hit with a some practice. The lob wedge is the club of choice for getting the ball in the air, so it’s recommended in this situation. (If you’re on the fairway with a tight lie, however, you might want to try one of the other wedges.) The lob wedge has from 58 to 60 degrees of loft, so there’s no need to open the clubface. Just square the face to the target and swing. Since the ball will fly high and come to rest softly, you need to be careful about where you land the ball.
In the second situation the hole is in the middle of the green, so you have some green to work with. The sand wedge is the club of choice in this situation whether you’re on the fairway or in the rough. The sand wedge enables you to customize your shot more easily than either the lob or the pitching wedges. You can learn to alter the roll and the trajectory with very little golf instruction. I personally like the sand wedge as my “go-to” club.
If you want a shot with less carry and more roll, square the clubface to the target. If you want a shot with slightly more roll than loft, then close the clubface slightly. If you want to hit the ball higher, just open the clubface more, in which case the shot will resemble a shot from a lob or a pitching wedge. Also, keep in mind that with an open clubface, the shot tends to go right.
In the third situation the pin is back and there’s plenty of room for the ball to roll. The pitching wedge is the club of choice if you’re on the fairway or in some light rough. (If you’re in heavy rough, try one of the other wedges.) Keep in mind that the ball will run lower and hotter, even if you open the clubface a little, so don’t swing as hard as you might with another iron. It’s a mistake I see a lot of when giving golf lessons. The ball is also going to roll more than with the other wedges, so get a good reading on the green, just as if you were going to putt the ball. More often than not you will get closer to the pin with this type of shot than a high-lofted shot.
The mechanics of a wedge shot are easy to learn. The key is choosing the right club at the right time, and making slight adjustments in your shot. That’s something that only experience can teach. At the same time it’s important to practice these three shots as much as you can, so you can master the technique of each shot, develop control of it, and build self-confidence in your ability to execute them. That, in turn, will make shots easier to make.
The wedge is as important the driver or the putter when it comes to minimizing scores. Wedge shots from 40-yeards out may not have the drama of sinking a 30-foot birdie putt or powering a 300-yard drive down the middle of the fairway, but over the course of a round, they’ll save you as many as five strokes or more from your scores. And that result is bound to lower your golf handicap.