Want Lower Scores? Start with Better Wedge Play
By Keith Stewart, PGA
Cameron Smith plays his third shot on the par 4, 14th hole during the final round of THE PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass.Getty Images
Cam Smith won the PLAYERS Championship with his putter and wedges. The crafty Australian who’s known for his mane, has some serious game when he’s in scoring territory around the hole. By watching Cam use those wedges, we all can learn a couple things to help improve our own scorecard.
Fact is in most amateur rounds, the wedges get used twice as much as any other club in the bag. Consider a bogey golfer who shoots 90. 18 tee shots, 14 approach shots, 4 more for the Par 5’s, 32 putts and that’s 68 shots. There are still 22 shots needed to get the score up to 90. Those shots happen with our wedges 90% of the time. Improving your wedge game is the quickest way to reaching your scoring goals in golf.
A good wedge shot isn’t hard. The club has tons of loft and plenty of bounce. Both of those elements are working in your favor. Make sure you use them to your advantage like Cam Smith does right here on his approach to the 10th green in final round.
Many times, amateur players try to help elevate the ball. Our wedges already start with a great deal of loft. Let the club do the work. A great wedge approach training exercise everyone can do is called the pause drill. Start on the range with a pitching or sand wedge. Take your normal setup and start your backswing. Stop about two-thirds of the way back and pause your swing. Count to one in your head and then swing back and hit the ball.
If you use your hands, you will swing early and most likely hit the ground behind the ball. If you turn your body rather than release your wrists, the result will look like Cam’s in the video. Vary the length of your pause between one or two seconds. Don’t work on timing, this is a drill for your sequence. By turning through the shot and not just swinging the club you will use the loft of the wedge to get the ball airborne and control the trajectory.
Wedges work in all different ways. Another wonderful wedge attribute is bounce. When facing a tough lie around the green make sure you use the bottom of the club. Whether it is a tight lie on the fairway or rough surrounding the green, follow Cam’s wonderful wedge control.
Too many times when faced with a short shot using a wedge, we try to scoop the ball from the lie. Notice how much Cam’s handle went around his body? It is almost as if the handle was connected to his belt buckle. Watch it go all the way around. By doing this, the club head will stay stable and strike the grass/ground with the bottom of the club. This employs the bounce and allows for a much better result. The bounce helps us in the rough, sand or tightly mown areas. Keep that shaft moving along with you and smack the ground with the bottom of the club just like Cam.
Each of these wedge principles will develop conviction in your wedge game. They’ll allow you to hit better scoring shots from all types of lies and distances. The instant affect will not only improve your score but increase your confidence. With some consistent wedge work you’ll soon start taking dead aim like the PLAYERS Champion.