You probably feel pretty good when you’re at the perfect yardage for the club in your hands. But what about those annoying yardages, like when a full 7-iron is going to be too much, and a full 8-iron might not get there? Or when you’re 45 yards from the green and your full lob wedge flies 60? I’ve seen many golfers struggle in these situations because they swing too hard or decelerate the club to try to control distance, and neither really works. If you want to hit more shots pin-high, give the methods I’ve used on the PGA Tour a try. Let’s start with in-between yardages. Here I’m swinging a 7-iron. I normally hit it 185 yards, so if I have 175 to the pin, I stand slightly closer to the ball and narrow my stance a few inches.
I also grip down an inch or so. When I swing, the only adjustment is to stop my backswing just short of my usual top position. Then I make my normal through-swing. I don’t change my speed coming through the ball. That’s key.
Swing speed also is important when you have less than a full wedge into a green. This is the area of the course where I’ve noticed amateurs struggle the most. Part of the reason is because they don’t have a consistent plan for how to handle these short shots. If you don’t have a strategy, it’s hard to know what to practice. And without practice, you’re going to struggle on the course.
The way I handle these shots is to regulate the length of the backswing depending on the length of the shot—shorter distances mean shorter backswings. But the thing to remember is, just like with in-between yardages on longer shots, you have to swing through the ball at the same pace no matter the distance.
I practice three swing lengths with my sand wedge that are less than full, so I have three distances locked in when I’m on the course. If I stop my backswing when the shaft is around the height of my hips (above), I know the ball will go 35 yards. When my forearms are parallel to the ground, it’s going 60 yards. And when my hands stop at my shoulders, it’s going to go 80 yards. Again, I can’t stress enough that you never want to slow down as you come through. It leads to inconsistent strikes.
“Keep your swing speed up on shorter shots.”
For even better results, add this to your range sessions: Hit 10 balls each with your backswing stopping at three different lengths. Make note of how far the ball goes with each, and rely on those swings to produce the right yardages when you get on the course. You’ll be a lot more confident in hitting half-wedge shots pin-high.—with Keely Levins
JOAQUIN NIEMANN, 20, of Chile, had four top 10s playing in PGA Tour events on sponsors’ exemptions in 2018, gaining
full-time status this season.