Anytime you find yourself within 100 yards of the hole you should train yourself to have a make mentality. In order to do that you need to control your distance, trajectory, and spin. Phil Mickelson, one of the best wedge players in the game at worst expects to be 5 feet from the hole. Now that’s confidence.
Practice these 10 rules and start sticking your wedge shots tight.
1. Never let the number scare you.
Sometimes those 30,40,60 yards shots can be awkward. Don’t let any number scare you. With your new wedge game you are the master from any distance. Don’t just say it but believe it and back it up with practice. You can use towels, cones, head covers, or anything that will give you visible landing target in 5 yard increments. Give your friend a baseball mitt and hit shots to him while he counts and calls off different numbers. Instant feedback is the best way to learn you are hitting the right distances.
Good course strategy says to only layup to your comfortable yardages. Sometimes obstacles on the course force a change in strategy. Even if you attempt to layup to a perfect yardage you still might be left with a number you weren’t expecting.
2. Pressure forms Diamonds.
Its always a good idea to practice technique while alone without distractions. However, at a certain point you need to challenge yourself in a pressure situation to gain the confidence in your newly acquired skills. I think people just assume on morning they will wake up “ready” enter a tournament and win.
Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way, at least not in my experience. The only way to become truly “ready” is to make practice challenging and always have something on the line. You can play a closest to the pin contest from many different locations and distances for lunch, money, or even push-ups.
The best game for pressure putting practice.
3. Work on different trajectories.
However you accomplish this is totally up to you. The short game requires a lot of imagination and must be executed with a lot of confidence. For that reason you have to determine what techniques work best for you and try to strengthen them even more.
That could mean using a variety of different lofted clubs or sticking to just your most lofted wedge. Whatever you decide will be your unique strength. I’ve seen it work both ways for different players but just remember to work some variety into your wedges by practicing both high and low shots.
4. Use the entire club to your advantage.
Earlier we talked about those awkward yardages that can be made a lot easier by choking down on the club. There is no rule set in stone that says you have to hit golf shots at the end of your grip. During your practice, make sure to work the club in several different locations along the grip. Go all the way down until your right hand is touching the steel part of the shaft.
5. Strong wrist and grip.
Ben Hogan in his book Power Golf talked about the importance of keeping your hands as strong as possible. During travel he would exercise his hands so they never lost strength. This will increase your ability to raise your club head speed with your driver as well as control your wedges through the turf.
6. Keep Your Grooves Clean.
PGA Tour players are so serious about this they will replace their wedges every 3 months at the latest. The whole idea here is consistency. Since the grooves are responsible for gripping the ball the spin is largely affected if the grooves are dirty or worn. Remember, one of the three skills for a rock solid wedge game was controlling spin and with dirty grooves that’s not possible. That means even when you are practicing you should stop in between shots to clean the grooves before the next shot. That way you will get the best feedback possible.
7. One Handed Drills.
This is where you get to have a little fun. John Daly is the master of the left handed wedge. Swinging with just your left hand is a great way to force yourself to maintain the angle in the left wrist. If you are doing anything completely wrong in your golf swing this drill will quickly let you know and fix it.
Using just your hand had to swing will feel much more natural and help to work on your rhythm and tempo. After a couple swings with each arm you will feel unstoppable with both.
8. Swing Within Yourself.
You may want to consider practicing with a metronome to keep your timing sharp. There is no reason to be swinging too forcefully with a wedge in your hand. Just remember to take a few deep breaths to relax your muscles and let the club head do the work. This also goes for your grip pressure as well. Keep smooth consistent pressure throughout the entire swing.
9. Keep your weight forward.
Start with at least 60% of your weight on your left foot. Your goal at impact is to squeeze the club into the ball. The tendency with wedge shots is to help lift the ball into the air. By keeping the weight forward and the hands ahead you can maintain the angle in the left wrist and just turn through to a full finish. Also, don’t be afraid to fool around with different ball position to find what works best for each trajectory.
10. Keep it simple.
The more delicate and simple you keep the motion the more consistent the results. On the course try not to complicate the shot. Just maintain a positive attitude, visualize the shot, and see it going in. Find the drive to propel yourself to the next level. Set performance goal for yourself and don’t forget to practice with pressure. Emulate the best wedge players and reward yourself for positive improvements.