When it's OK to use your wedge on the green

Phil Mickelson
@PGATOUR on Twitter
At the Genesis Open over the weekend, Phil Mickelson decided to chip from the green rather than putt.
By T.J. Auclair
PGA.com
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Published: Monday, February 20, 2017 | 12:05 p.m.

The sixth hole at Riviera Country Club -- host of last week's Genesis Open -- can present a unique set of circumstances if miss your intended target with your tee shot.

The par-3 hole features a pot bunker smack in the middle of its green.

On Saturday, with the hole location cut to the right side of the green, Phil Mickelson pushed his tee shot to the left portion of the green.

That meant putting the ball wasn't an option Mickelson gave much thought.

Instead, Mickelson elected to hit a wedge over the bunker and managed to settle the ball within 5 feet of the hole. He would miss the par putt, but the wedge off the green execution was no less spectacular.

Here's a look if you haven't seen it:

 

 

While you're entitled to hit whatever club you so choose from any spot on the golf course, we highly recommend leaving shots like that one to the pros.

But, if you must use something other than putter from the green's surface, PGA Professional Jeff Martin from Norton Country Club in Norton, Mass., explains how to approach it.

"If you're just a casual player, I would say you had better have a great relationship with your superintendent to even attempt that shot," Martin told us. "It's not for the faint of heart and it certainly isn't something you should even consider in a recreational round."

But a tournament? Martin said that's a different story.

"When there's something -- like money -- riding on every stroke you take, or every additional stroke you can avoid, that's the time to play a shot like the one Mickelson hit if you have to," he said. "I would absolutely attempt it under those circumstances. Thankfully, I can't recall a time in all the tournaments I've played where I've had to hit that shot, but I wouldn't hesitate."

So how do you pull it off?

"A lot of it is your set up," Martin said. "And, more than anything, it's having the confidence in yourself that you can pull off the shot in the first place.

"Watching Phil hit that shot, the technique is flawless. He's hit that shot a hundred times. It's also worth noting that the conditions he and his fellow Tour pros are playing under are night and day compared to the average golfer. It's second nature to Phil to hit a shot from that tight of a lie."

If you find yourself absolutely needing to hit a shot with something other than putter from the green, Martin says to position the ball slightly forward and limit wrist hinge.

"Watch Phil again," Martin said, "his backswing and follow through are pretty much a mirror image. There's very little wrist hinge. The reason for that is because you want to shallow out the club and have it be as wide as possible at the bottom of the swing. Think of it this way -- you want to swing like you're creating a 'U' instead of swinging it steep and creating a 'V.'"

The other key, Martin explained, is to keep your body moving through the swing.

"Phil keeps his body moving and is facing the target when he finishes the mini golf swing even when he holds off the finish," Martin said. "That helps shallow out the club."

Top level golfers pride themselves on practicing every shot they could face on a course so that said shot isn't so foreign should it present itself.

There are ways to prepare for a possible chip off a green without -- ahem -- chipping off a green.

"Practice from a tight bare lie, or one with as thin a grass as you can find," Martin said. "I'm not going to say chip on your putting green. Don't do that. But practice from that thin grass lie. The best short game players practice everything. I step on balls, put them in the worst lies I can. Change your technique to see what works for you."

Most importantly, Martin stressed, "pick your spots with this kind of a shot on the course. It's best not to upset the superintendents of the world. You might find your next hole location in the fringe." 

T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.