Of all the questions I get from this column and a couple of other places where I take questions from listeners, the topic that comes up time and again is the subject of "half wedges" or "3/4 swings". In other words, a common challenge for most of us is hitting those shots that don't quite call for a full swing. Well, take heart in the fact that those are the ones that give tour players the most challenge as well too often.
From my view, there are several reasons why the partial swing shot is so difficult for most golfers. First of all, most don't practice these at all when we are on the range. For some reason, too many golfers feel like it is a "waste" of good range balls to not hit them full out. A shame, really, as you'll likely have nearly as many shots in a round of golf that are not a "full swing" as you will have those that are. To not practice these is shorting yourself.
The other major reason is that when facing a shot that calls for less than a full swing, most tend to get too quick and "hand-sy" on the shot. They limit their body turn and weight shift and rely on the small muscles in the hands and forearms to try to yield the right distance.
The 3 keys to hitting partial swing shots is to have a technique that is reliable and repeatable, practice it enough to know it, and learn how to use different clubs to produce different results with that learned partial swing. Let's break it down:
The most reliable technique for partial shots is to quiet your hands and control the swing with the turn of the body core, particularly the shoulders. I always advocate watching videos of Steve Stricker to see what this simple one-piece swing looks like so that you can have that picture in your mind when you are hitting these shots.
What I recommend is that you learn a repeatable half swing – that is taking the club back only so far that your left arm is parallel to the ground. Grip the club down at least an inch for this shot, and "get a little closer to your work" by flexing a little more at the knees and bending a little more from the hips. Practice deliberately to get the feel for this end-of-swing position, and focus on feeling that spot as you take the club back. Then, make a deliberate transition to the forward swing and into the follow-through.
Once you feel like you are really learning this, and can hit shots the same distance with a given club, move to the third key – club selection. Begin experimenting with different high-lofted clubs to see what changing clubs does to your distance. You'll find that your new half-swing will yield 4-7 yard distance increments as you move down from your lob wedge to sand wedge, to gap wedge to pitching wedge to 9-iron. Though ball flight will be lower with the lower lofts, you'll likely find that you still get enough spin with the lower lofts to give you adequate control over the spin and stopping of the ball.
Once you have invested just a little time into learning this shot, you will wonder how you ever got along without it, as now you can dissect the golf course into 4-7 yard increments from 100 yards and in like a surgeon.
The Wedge Guy is sponsored by SCOR Golf, where Terry Koehler is President/CEO. He encourages you to submit your questions or topics to be considered for his columns on Tuesdays and Fridays. Each submission automatically enters you to win a SCOR4161 wedge to be given away monthly. Click the button below to submit your question or topic today.
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