I often watch my playing partner select the same club for a variety of shots around the green. They generally used their pitching or gap wedge by manipulating their stance, hand position and ball position. They feel the most confident when playing their favourite club and think they are mastering their short game. I would suggest that they are introducing too many variables into each shot and as such will produce the consistent, quality shots around the green needed for low golf scores.
Using the same club for a variety of required shots is something I stopped doing about 20 years ago. I decided that I needed to use the different clubs in my bag because I wanted to use the same type of stroke during each situation. This need for consistency removed the ‘guess work’ out of my short game because by limiting the number of changes employed depending on the shot.
I stopped making adjustments to the angle of my hands, my foot position, my follow through, and grip position, just to name a few. I tried, and successfully I might add, to develop a standard swing that helped limit unknown variables in my stroke caused me grief. To compliment my new philosophy, I also adopted a three club process that helped reduce my error count. Here is how the system works:
For 90% of my shots around the green, I use my sand wedge, pitching wedge and 7 iron. Theses three clubs provide the best solutions for most shots around the green for my game. They help my play a variety of shots by using the same swing, yet producing different results.
As you can see from the infographic, the three primary shots (chip, pitch and bump and run) can all be performed with the same stroke just by changing the loft of our club. This concept of using three different clubs to garner the same results is not new. But, it something that players should practice to understand how the ball reacts to each club.
I will admit that chip shot is my favourite shot and I use my sand wedge (56°) about half of the time. However, situations do present themselves where I will need to employ my pitching wedge or 7 iron because I want to have a lower trajectory with more of a roll out. Hitting the ball on the green that has a downhill slope to the pin is a perfect example of wanting the roll the ball more than to trying to fly it there. I have more control on the distance.
I would be remiss to offer a word of caution. Not all shots around the green fit into those three clubs. Sometimes I need to flop a ball and my lob wedge comes in handy. Another time, I might want a ball flight between my sand and pitching wedge, so I will use my gap wedge. My point is that I need to examine each shot for their merits and not to eliminate other clubs because I rely on my 3 club system. A point of note, my swing remains basically the same regardless of what club I select.
The goal of adopting the three club process is to improve our short game. At first, I was looking for the 80% solution to improving my up and down statistic and this process accomplished my goal. As I became more familiar with hitting these three clubs, I was able to expand my usage of other clubs, which dramatically improved my up and down statistic. Now, I feel confident that regardless of what shot I need to make around the green, I will select the proper club for the job. And ultimately, this really the goal of any golfer.
Improving your short game is really about finding the processes that work for you. I have confidence that the three club system offers the consistency and builds confidence for mid to high handicap players. Of course, some practice is required to master this system, but once you do you will be on your way to lower golf scores.
I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!
4 thoughts on “Selecting The Right Club Around The Green”
Jim, great system. Should be in play for the vast majority of amateur players. I use a similar setup with my LW, PW, and 8 iron, although lately, it’s becoming more of a two shot system using the LW and PW. So far this season, I’ve been playing on tightly mowed greens that are running out and require more spin and hold. Been leaning on a variety of plays with my lob wedge. As you mention, the three club system allows you to make the same swing with all clubs. If you are going to deviate and make different swings with the same club, you’d better practice it. . . A LOT!
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We are on the same page for sure. I really enjoy using the 3 wedge system because it gives me confidence that I know what is going to happen to my ball, thus better decisions on my chipping. It is all connected and practice is a definite!
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The only thing I can’t agree with is the same swing idea. That doesn’t compute for me. I might want a pitch to run out or I might want it to check up. That requires two unique swing approaches. The same can be said about how high I need the ball to fly. I can change that by club selection of course, but I can also change it by where I position the ball in my stance, the amount of loft I expose, and by swing speed too. Maybe I’m misunderstanding, but it seems you’ve limited yourself still.
In todays round, I used all 4 wedges and my hybrid around the green. I used different ball positions in my stance. Different swing speeds. I changed how much loft I presented and I changed swing path as well. I hit with the club’s leading edge flat to the ground, I hit using the bounce, and I hit with the toe down. Creativity is especially useful around the greens. I am no longer the golfer who automatically grabs his gap wedge (that was my choice). That worked ok as a beginner I guess, but creativity brings the magic out. I’ve actually practiced Phil’s backward flop shot. I can’t imagine anyone who saw it not trying it in fact. BTW I found the shot easier than staying on my feet when trying it. Just a friendly warning.
Hey, I just remembered. The PGA is in town this week over at Innisbrook. I can go watch and be embarrassed by how good the pro’s play Copperhead verses my own sad attempts. Or I can save a dime and watch it on tv and cry alone. lol No…this year I’ll do it right. I’ll stream it on my phone while I’m playing my own course or maybe at the range and try and recreate some of the shots they’re making. That sounds like it might be fun.
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My 3 wedge system is the foundation of my play around the green. Being an advanced player, like yourself, I also adjust many things on when working around the green. But, if I can, I will follow work with my foundation that is proven. I have actually tried the backward shot in a round; it worked great…..haha, just kidding. I skulled it into the air and it stopped in the sand. I hope you get out to Copperhead and see the pros. That sounds like a great time.