Pitching Wedge Tips

By Contributing Writer

Your short game is pivotal to improving your score--the stroke used to hit that 90-yard approach shot counts the same as the one that sent the ball 235 yards down the fairway. To improve your game you must take the time to periodically practice with your wedge.
A critical component to practicing is to determine your typical yardage. You need to know how far a pitching wedge will go when you make consistent contact, and you must have a sense of that yardage when hitting from a variety of lies.
In addition, you must take some time to experiment--80 yards from the deep rough may mean you need to put the pitching wedge away and grab an eight-iron instead.

Wedge Tips

To make consistent contact, check your ball position. Place the ball slightly back in your stance. Also, there can be a tendency to stand too close to the ball. You need to be able to give yourself room to swing through the ball--standing too close often results in a deeper, early divot. The result is a classic chunk.

Take the club back low to the ground. Getting too vertical will cause you to tend to scoop the ball, a technique that reduces distance yet creates a shot that lands heavy. The lack of bite with a scooped shot causes the ball to roll much farther than you anticipate.

Use a firm downward stroke, and keep your head on your contact point. Swing through the ball using a crisp, firm stroke, and be sure to emphasize your follow through. Resist the urge to decelerate the club as you approach impact, stay firm through the ball and take a divot after striking the ball.

Short Stroke

To eliminate the tendency to decelerate the club, be sure to use the shortest stroke possible to execute the shot. Remember to shorten the back swing for shorter yardages instead of using a long, softer swing.

One key aspect of a shorter swing is that it will help you keep the club on line, ensuring more consistent contact and a ball flight in the direction of the target. Remember, at all times, to use a crisp, firm swing and follow through toward the target.

Additional Tips

When practicing, experiment with using different clubs to see what transpires. For example, try a three-quarter swing, remaining crisp and firm, with a seven-, eight- or nine-iron, and then a pitching, gap, lob or sand wedge.

If there is an opening in front of the green or a lot of green to work with, you may want to use a lower-lofted club with a shorter swing to ensure firm contact and more consistent results. Getting the ball up in the air and hitting it the right distance takes great skill and practice, and the pros make it look fairly easy because they practice each shot from a variety of lies.

Most players with little time to practice find that they can obtain more consistent results by using a certain swing technique again and again. That helps them better develop that technique, and they can instead use different clubs to vary the distance and the type of shot they are hitting.

Many players find greater success with a half- or three-quarter swing when it comes to using the shorter clubs. So instead of a full swing to hit that 90-yard shot with a pitching wedge, some players opt to hit that shot with a half eight-iron and use that same technique at 60 yards with their wedge.

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